By Mark Ellis
The nightly news may present disturbing images and a bleak outlook for the Middle East. Yet behind the horror of war, God is touching hearts in powerful ways, unleashing His Spirit among refugees, their families, and into surrounding communities and nations.
“There is something happening right now that is unprecedented,” says Brother Thomas*, a Middle East coordinator for All Nations. “The spiritual openness is incredible.”
On a recent trip into a refugee camp he met with a Muslim family inside their tent. The father – the patriarch of the family – started to tell him about his son Yusuf, who sat next to him. (Yusuf is the Arabic equivalent of the biblical name Joseph)
“Do you know about the prophet Joseph?” Thomas inquired.
“Yes, he’s one of my favorites; he’s the dreamer,” the man replied.
“Have you had any dreams of significance?” Thomas asked the son.
“No, but my mother has…”
His mother excitedly broke in: “Ever since he was a child I’ve had dreams of a man in glowing white hugging my son. In the last dream he was crying, and his tears were coming down his beard and on to my son’s head.
“I have such a warmth for this prophet,” she continued. “I know he is a prophet.”
“I know who that person is in your dream,” Thomas said with assurance.
The woman’s eyes widened with intense interest. “Who is it?”
“It is Jesus.”
Then Brother Thomas told them the story of Jesus’ love for children, when He said, “Let the little children come to Me.”
The woman began to cry. “It was so moving for her to hear someone loves her family so much He would give her dreams demonstrating His love.”
As he toured the ramshackle refugee camp with structures composed of cardboard, wood slats, and plastic tarps, he found many who had similar encounters with God. “Almost every family we visited had some kind of experience, either through dreams or someone had given them a New Testament in the medical clinic or prayed for them,” he noted.
Brother Thomas observed a feeling of desperation that pervaded the camps. “There was a lot of fear and uncertainty about the future,” he discovered. “Every family has lost people through warfare or has a story of pain. Because the war is Muslim against Muslim they have a feeling there has to be something better. They are looking for answers.”
“Over and over we saw people who have questions, who want to know more about Jesus.”
Brother Thomas knows other Christian workers equally amazed. “I have friends who have been here 17-20 years and it’s mind boggling for them,” he says. “Previously they shared with someone for seven or eight years before they came to know Jesus. Now it happens in two or three months and they bring others with them.”
While this move of God seems to have originated in the refugee camps, it is not contained there. “It’s happening everywhere, but mostly around the refugees,” Thomas notes. “There is something happening in the spiritual atmosphere because these refugees are so open and so hungry.
“As they respond, the neighboring countries are responding in the same way. Something is being stirred up. People are coming into the kingdom practically without us – we get to be the midwives.”
Brother Thomas is struck by the contrast between the grim news portrayed on television and the reality of God’s work behind the scenes. “When I watch the news, it seems like things are getting worse,” he observes. “But when I talk to my friends in the area I see the Kingdom is coming – people are coming to the Lord. Whole families are coming to Christ, communities are changing, I can see the Kingdom expanding.”
*name changed for security reasons
All Nations is an international leadership training and church-planting network. All Nations partners with local churches to send short term and long-term church planting teams to more than 30 different countries. All Nations provides specialized leadership and discipleship schools located at Africa House, located in Cape Town, South Africa.