Thanks for answering all our questions. I have an opportunity to work with Syrian refugees for 6 - 12 months with a secular non-profit. God has given me a burden for the Syrian people and especially for the people who this NGO serves on the Syrian side of the Turkish border, the most vulnerable of the vulnerable. Despite this burden, I also feel that going alone and going with a secular rather than Christian organization may limit my long-term effectiveness (who will carry on the Gospel after I return?) and spiritual health. I would love any insight you have to offer on discernment, working with secular organizations in the short to mid-term, and going alone rather than with a team (or anything else you'd like to share!)
Thanks so much!
Thanks, Cody, for your question. Forgive me for taking so long to answer. My wife suffered a heart attack about the time you write which is understandably consumed most of my time since then. Fortunately, she seems to be responding well, and we trust she will fully recover.
Now to your question: I applaud you for your concern for the suffering which has led you to work in a very dangerous and insecure part of the world.
• You mention that God has given you a burden for the Syrian people. Does this include a sense of call or direction to serve them in this way at this time? I think this is an important question. We can have a burden for many needy people without this burden necessarily being a call from God to serve them in the way you have mentioned. I am not questioning your going; I am only asking if you feel this is a direct call from God and how you arrived at this conclusion.
• You point out several limitations in your going, as you think about this activity from a spiritual point of view:
o Your going alone
o The long time effectiveness
o The influence on your spiritual health
• It is interesting that the New Testament indicates that ministry is seemingly most effective in a team context.
o Jesus sent out his disciples two by two.
o Paul and Parnabas were called as a two-some.
o Paul never seemed to work alone, even when he and Barnabas divided. Note Acts 20 - the large group of individuals Paul travelled with, seemingly a training experience/
o Priscilla ministered with her husband, Aquila.
• However, your activity is not principally an evangelistic or spiritually focused activity.
o Your focus will be on helping refugees survive physically.
o You may not even find many who speak English.
o Most will probably be Muslims, though you may meet the odd Christian (probably not Protestant).
o If called to go, your major task will be to carry out effectively what you are told to do. In the process I'm sure you will seek to spend private time with the Lord, seek to show patience and love in trying circumstances, and if possible, in the odd occasion, share a quiet work of testimony.
• You will only be there six months to a year - basically enough time to get acclimated. Before you know it you'll be on the way home.
• My suggestions:
o Ask the Lord to confirm your call to this ministry.
o Learn all you can about Turkey and Syria before you go: their history, languages, religions, food, customs, etc.
o Ask a group of friends to commit to pray for you: for your wisdom, strength, health, patience, sensitivity, opportunities to give a quiet witness, spiritual protection, etc.
o Look for opportunities to find fellowship with any kind of Christians.
o Ask the Lord to give you one or two friends who speak English and whom you can really get to know.
o Ask the Lord to teach you all He wants you to learn about that part of the world. Look at this as a learning experience, part of your basic training. That is, a situation where you will probably learn more than you will be able to give.
May the Lord guide you as you seek Him and seek to serve Him and others in His Name.