A Chronicle of Renewal and Revival

Syria: ‘If there are no men to lead the church, I will do it!’

Mathild Sabbagh (26) returns to her hometown. She is the first female minister in Syria. Her town in northern Syria is surrounded by ISIS. Last year, her cousin was killed by Muslim extremists. Her brother who is also a pastor was kidnapped. In the middle of a war zone, she will lead the church. “I am not afraid, because I know I have a mission.”

Mathild is ready to leave for Syria. Her large black suitcase contains her whole life. It’s her last day in the Lebanese capital Beirut. This summer Mathild completed her master’s degree in theology. “Look, I received this official appointment from the synod yesterday, one day before my departure. Exactly on time”. Her nails are painted bright red. She is the first female minister in Syria. Her predecessor fled 2.5 years ago with his family to Sweden, as well as many other fellow citizens.

‘I believe in the mysterious growth of the Kingdom of God, even against the odds.’

“If there are no men who can lead the church at this time, I’ll do it!” Her voice sounds firm. Before the war her church still had almost 200 members, but today only 30 or 40 people have remained. ISIS has decimated the number of believers. “Some were killed, others fled. From my primary school friends no one stayed. Everybody’s gone. The war left our city shot to pieces and our entire community beaten apart.”

But it doesn’t keep Mathild from going back. She is more determined than ever, and feels a great sense of urgency. “I believe in the mysterious growth of the Kingdom of God, even against the odds. I go back to my church because I know I’m needed there. The church is like my own family. I’ve learned all my life that I can bring my talents to the church. So now I’ll bring what I have. Because if everyone leaves, then there is no church anymore in Syria!”

Mathild Sabbagh
She plans to preach every Sunday. There was no pastor who could do that in the past 2.5 years. “In addition, I want to focus on trauma counseling, especially for women and children. This particular group has been enormously hit, they hardly had time to breathe and recover. I want to pull them out of their homes and into counselling and support groups.”

‘The biggest challenge will be to not give hate a chance in my heart.’

Mathild’s uncle who is a headmaster in the same town, warned her to not be shocked when she comes back. “He says that all buildings have ruined, there is total chaos. There is no running water and no more electricity. Food is scarce, prices are sky high.” Mathild knows what she’s talking about, because in the past two years, she has been back in Syria regularly to preach the gospel in Sunday services.

“The biggest challenge will be to not give hate a chance in my heart. I am angry for all the wrongs that I have seen.” But she is not worried that something will happen to her. “My cousin was killed last year, her throat was cut by ISIS. Because she was a Christian, they carved a cross in her neck with a knife.”

Mathild wants to live in the place where she belongs. “Life is like a coin: you can spend it only once. That’s why I go back. The consequence that I will lose my life is real. But this is the city where I was born, here I belong. For anyone who wants to chase me away from here, I will be like a fish bone in the throat. I will ensure that ISIS cannot swallow me up.”

Source: Mathild Sabbagh, Church in Action
Joel News International 1009, Septembver 27, 2016







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