Audrey Chism’s prayer was simple — a brief blessing over the meal their Syrian friend Amira had prepared. But when she finished, Amira was wiping tears from her face.
“It was the first time we had met her, so … we just sat and ate together,” Audrey said.
“Afterward, I was in the kitchen helping with the dishes, and she looked at me and said, ‘Can God forgive me?’ It was clear she was just ready to hear the gospel. God was working on her; it was nothing we had done, no effort of ours.”
And the path that had brought them both to that kitchen in Europe — that was God’s doing too, Audrey said. She and her husband, Matt, had moved to Syria more than a decade ago in hopes of meeting people like Amira — people whose hearts were soft to the gospel. But as they opened a business, built a life and began to share their faith, what they found instead was hard ground.
“We didn’t see a single person become interested in Jesus in the years we were there,” Matt said.
Then in early 2011, things began to shift. Some Syrians started protesting the government, which turned into a brutal civil war. And as the violence escalated, the Chisms had to leave, first to a neighboring country.
Matt thought, “we might never see any Syrians again.” But a few months later, he started hearing that Syrians were turning up in their country too.
Over the years that followed, Syrians spilled out of their homeland by the hundreds, then thousands, then millions. Today, more than 5.6 million Syrian refugees are registered with UNHCR.
Many Syrian refugees share a common story — sudden poverty, loss, violence, trauma and a harrowing escape that not everyone survives.
So Matt and a few other Christ-followers in the region decided to trace the “refugee highway” many were traveling. A local pastor in one part of Europe invited Syrians to gather at his church and tell their stories, and at the end, Matt stood up and shared the gospel message.
Not too long after that night, the Chisms packed their bags, took their Arabic skills and moved their family to Europe.
“We are talking about an unprecedented opportunity for the gospel,” Matt said, including meeting Amira. It was about a month after that initial meal that Amira became a Christ follower.
And she’s not the only one. Others are coming.
“We’ve heard them say, ‘I lost everything in Syria, but I gained Jesus in Europe,’” Matt said. “God’s Word is advancing, and His plan never fails.”
EDITOR’S NOTE — Names have been changed.