September 26, 2014

​Pastors Who Stay in War-torn Middle East Find Great Harvest

BY MARK ELLIS ©2014 Assist News Service

When Islamic State
overruns a village in Syria or Iraq, or even a city of two million people such
as Mosul, many will flee, creating a huge flow of refugees to surrounding

But a few
Christian pastors have made the courageous decision to stay behind and minister
to Christians and Muslims. “They all know they’re at risk, especially if
they’re a visible leader,” says Steve Vanvalkenburg, Middle East director for
Christian Aid Mission.

He recently
received a heartbreaking report from Aleppo, Syria that underscores the danger.
Pastor Imad, who chose to remain for the purpose of sharing Christ, was shot in
the head by extremists two weeks ago. His wife has disappeared, likely
kidnapped. They both came to Christ from Muslim backgrounds.

“That man could
have left the country if he’d wanted to,” Vanvalkenburg notes. “Like other
Syrian pastors and Christian workers, he had connections and could have found a
safe way out.”

doesn’t begrudge those who leave, often to protect their families, but he has
great esteem for those who make the conscious decision to remain behind.

“They stay because
they have an opportunity to share Christ like never before. For years they’ve
prayed for a spiritual breakthrough and now they are seeing it. Their friends
and neighbors have never been so open to the gospel.”

Vanvalkenburg has
received remarkable reports from Mosul, which was captured by IS on June 10th.
Over 150,000 people fled the city in advance of the marauders. “I thought all
the (Christian ministries) left, but there are still workers there,” he notes.
“They say this is the greatest time ever, because there is such a great harvest
there now.”