A few months before Islamist militants killed him, a father in Iraq had told his son, “Go where they believe in Christ.”
The young man, Sami*, and his father were descended from multiple generations of historic Christians, but during recent occupation by Islamist militants they had been forcibly converted to Islam.
Such converts have trouble showing loyalty to a new caliphate, often refusing to join the fight to establish and expand it. Showing little commitment to Islam, both Sami and his father were subjected to torture. Sami said his father died trying to save him from the militants.
Looking for both God and a place where people believed in Christ, Sami went to the only source he knew – the internet. He found a lot of information on Christianity and discovered there were a lot of churches in Greece. His life as a refugee began.
“When he finally came to Greece, he didn’t know where to go,” the co-leader of a ministry based in the country said. “He contacted a pastor in Morocco, who in an effort to find someone in Greece, spoke with another pastor from Israel.”
The pastor from Israel contacted someone in the United States, and that person referred him to the native ministry in Greece, she said.
“He is a very vibrant and smiling young man, and when you first see him, you cannot imagine how much torture he has endured in his life,” the leader said.
They helped meet his basic needs, gave him legal orientation and immediately began studying the Bible with him. A few days later, they led him to put his trust in Christ as Lord and Savior, she said.
“He felt that after us praying for him, when he gave his heart to Jesus, he had been set free, and he could sense this feeling of freedom, peace and joy,” the leader said.
Sami recently returned to their offices to tell them about a dream, she said.
“In his dream, he saw Jesus, and behind Jesus he saw us, but he couldn’t see us very clearly – he could only see the smiles,” the leader said. “He saw himself kneeling before Jesus, who told him that He knew about his faith and that He had called him, and that now he has come to the light.”
During an interview with an organization to determine whether he will be officially recognized as a victim of torture as part of his legal process, Sami was asked what he wanted to do for a living, she said.
“He said, I now want to study and become a minister who will speak about the Good News of Jesus,” the leader said. “We’re praying for his future.”
The aid, counseling and practical orientation that local missionaries provide are more important than ever as the government began reducing financial and housing assistance to refugees in 2019. A European Union program that housed 6,500 legal refugees has been dissolved, and a new law prohibits them from living in migrant camps.
While the local ministry cannot provide housing, it has guided some refugees in emergency situations to temporary accommodation and has met initial, critical needs for food, clothing and other items. In the course of providing such aid, the opportunities to share the gospel can also result in spiritual companionship for those homeless and alone – the Lord’s presence on the street, and the fellowship of the believers.
Such companionship came to a man from Lebanon who spends nights in a sleeping bag in a park. Years before, Ahmad* had lost an eye in attacks by his brother, who is a mosque leader, and his brothers’ Muslim friends, who were upset by his marriage to a Christian woman from the Philippines. Isolated from his wife and all other family, he had tried taking refuge in Turkey before coming to Greece.
When the ministry leaders in Greece first spoke with him, Ahmad vowed never to return to a Muslim country but said traditional churches in both Lebanon and Greece had turned him away because of his Islamic background.
“This gave us the opportunity to explain to him about what church is,” the ministry leader said. “After we finished our description, he said, ‘This is exactly what I am looking for, but I cannot find it.’”
They explained how God sent the Messiah to become like man so that His suffering and resurrection would be effective to save those who trust in Him. Ahmad said that what they were describing was what he had always sought, but that wherever he went, church people sent him away. He prayed to receive Christ’s salvation.
“We asked if he would be interested in participating in our Bible studies,” the leader said. “He accepted with great joy.”
Local missionaries are bringing the love of Christ to refugees in various parts of Europe. Please consider a donation today to equip and encourage them.
*Names changed for security reasons