June 2023 | Edited by Steve Moberg
Greg and Elizabeth are missionaries to Lebanon as members of a church planting team working with World Outreach, part of the EPC denomination. Greg recently interviewed Ali and Enas, who are young leaders (in their mid-20s) of the church with which Greg and Elizabeth partner. The church is a previously-existing church plant among Muslim Background Believers from Syria. They are currently receiving more focused leadership training, including a theological training program. This interview has been translated from Arabic, condensed, and edited for clarity.
Greg: Tell us a little about yourselves.
Ali: We are from Syria. I’m from the Aleppo area and Enas is from a town near the Golan Heights. We were born in Muslim families. I’m from a big clan and Enas is from a smaller family.
Enas: We met about eight years ago when Ali texted my number by mistake. We got married about a year and a half later.
G: How and when did you come to Lebanon?
A: I came over by myself in 2013 because of the civil war. My family joined later in the same year.
E: I came in 2016, by myself, to come see my sister and to meet Ali in person.
G: How did you meet Jesus?
A: There was a Christian organization giving refugee aid. My mother went to see what they were doing and heard them speak about Jesus. Due to our circumstances she was very tired, and she heard the verse “come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” At around the same time my dad was very sick. We spent all our money trying to heal him and he wasn’t getting better. At one point they said he would probably die in a day or two and sent him home. At that point a believer came and prayed for him to be healed. My mother said if Jesus was really God and was able to heal him, she would believe. My father was healed and she believed. The rest of our family followed in faith one after the other.
E: I didn’t know they were believers when we met and got married, but it wouldn’t have bothered me. I’ve always been a skeptic with a lot of questions, but I’ve always respected people from all faiths. In fact, I used to joke to Ali that it was obvious I wouldn’t remain a Muslim. After we got married, Ali’s mom was teaching her kids from the Bible and had me do some of the readings. About four years ago, I became a believer after I understood that God loves us through Jesus and doesn’t want to punish us. He wants us to give our lives to him.
G: In what ways do you see God using your church community and our team?
A: We see God working in a lot of ways. People are still coming to know the Lord. Your team has blessed a lot of people by loving them, standing with them, encouraging them, and giving material support. You’ve stood by people in both joy and difficulty. The most important thing is that you always remind us of God’s strength, what his Word says, and how we should do what it says. The church has a lot of people attending who are in difficult circumstances. Some are believers and some aren’t. The church is showing people that God is with them and cares for them.
E: One great thing about the church is that it doesn’t discriminate. It’s a church for people from all countries and backgrounds—like the Bible says, from every “tribe, tongue, and nation.” With regards to your team, a lot of Syrians think that American Christians are like people we see on TV and they do bad things. We learned from foreigners like you that you can be modest and respectful of our culture. You also visit us a lot, which is important to us. You also have stuff like the crochet project that helps women make money. It’s not just one thing, but a lot of things.
G: How is God working in your community, and what are you excited for in the future that you see the Lord doing?
E: A lot of refugees are hopeless and some are even killing themselves because of the difficulties they face here. I’m excited though because I think the church community is growing and people are finding hope. I’m also excited because there are a lot of young people in the church, and God will use their faith to grow the church like a flower blossoming.
A: The situation here is like a storm at sea with high waves, but the church community is like a boat that saves the people. So many people are without hope, but the church shows people that God loves us and has a plan for us.
G: How can the church in America pray for you and your community here?
E: It would help to have a building of our own. We’re currently sharing a building with another church, and we could do more discipleship programs, fellowship, and children’s ministries if we had a different building. Right now, Lebanon is also deporting a lot of Syrians back to Syria despite the danger that awaits for us to return. Also, the economic situation is very hard. Many of us live a life, but it doesn’t feel like a real life because of the difficulties we face and lack of opportunities.
A: That God would give the leaders of the country wisdom and that everyone in this country would love each other and get along. It’s true that we can’t return to Syria, so pray that the deportations would stop. But pray that God would be present in this place and work even more in our community and show the Glory of his Name.
Note: After the interview, Ali and Enas asked us to pray for her family, who mostly aren’t believers. They also asked for good work for Ali and for them to be able to have a baby.