Everywhere she looked in her homeland of Syria, Rasha saw turmoil.
Where does one find hope amid unending civil war, where hundreds of thousands have died and millions have lost their homes or have fled the country? Where hundreds of deadly chemical-weapon attacks have been reported and fighting has been so intense in several areas that aerial photos detect few signs of human activity?
For someone like Rasha* facing this tumult, finding hate was easy, along with fear, pain and despair. But hope? That was the purpose of TWR’s Hope for Syria radio program when it went on the air about seven years ago. Its small production team working within the war-torn country told listeners about a Father in heaven who cared about each of his children and would heal their broken lives and give them eternal peace and safety.
“I heard your program about how to deal with abuse,” Rasha wrote to the team. “In such times as we have now in Syria, how can I forgive those who hurt my beloved ones and my own people? Through your episode, something has touched my heart and soul. I now have peace and trust that the Lord is capable of handling our pain and hurt and that his will is above all situations and above all evil. I surrender to him and trust him.”
Practical and spiritual
Episodes of Hope for Syria combine spiritual nurturing and practical lessons for life. They emphasize God’s love and the hope, peace and security found in Jesus Christ while offering helpful information for those who have been uprooted from their homes and communities. Even medical needs have been addressed as have the effects of emotional trauma.
Feedback from listeners provides evidence of the program’s positive impact. In the latter half of 2019, for example, an apparently agitated listener wrote clearly wondering if what he was hearing could be true. “I’m fed up with this life, and yet you say there is still hope? Where and how? I’m tired.” When the response team sent back a message of encouragement and assurance that Jesus reigns, he answered, “I want this Jesus. Tell me more. Pray for me.”
For a program so obviously focused on a specific country and its special circumstances, Hope for Syria has had a surprisingly international circulation. As more than 5 million Syrians left their native land, many discovered the program on social media and on media players distributed among refugees as far away as countries in Europe.
“You took me through my tough Syrian teenagehood, and I became a daughter of the Lord because of you!!” a woman wrote. “I am now an adult and living in Germany, and I pray that I would be a source of encouragement to others like you were to me!”
Other responses to the program have come from listeners in Sudan, Algeria and Saudi Arabia. And then from Yemen came a desperate plea: We’re suffering, too, and need your good news.
Yemen needs hope, too
“Yemen is being destroyed like Syria,” a man wrote. “Help us see hope like you say. Where is God, and why is he allowing this to happen?”
TWR’s Arabic Ministry recognized the need in Yemen, too, and developed a similar program specifically for the roughly 28 million people in this splintered and impoverished country at the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. The five-year civil war has resulted in more than 100,000 deaths and spurred a famine that has killed tens of thousands. Now concerns have been raised that COVID-19 could run rampant amid the war-ravaged conditions.
In February 2020, Hope for Yemen began cutting through the violent upheaval engulfing this nation and sharing the Word of God in a friendly, compassionate voice complemented by uplifting, Christian instrumental music. The new program is being distributed digitally via online radio, phone apps, social media and SD cards.
“The Hope for Yemen radio program is born to share with Yemenis, youth and adults, the message of hope that can give them a better future through their reconciliation with a sovereign God who can provide peace amidst storms,” the director of TWR Arabic Ministry said.
Peace amid the man-made storms of Syria and Yemen is what these programs proclaim to their listeners. For those who hear the messages and call on Jesus, despite the fact that many come from a religious background hostile to Christianity, the promised hope is assured.
“Fear is the daily emotion we encounter,” a Syrian man wrote, “but when you remind us of how we should live and depend on the Lord, we feel safe in him! Pray for us.”
* Rasha is a pseudonym used to protect our listener’s identity.