The Key to It All


I met my Syrian friend, Amena*, almost three years ago. I was working at an English-language center, teaching English and cooking classes. She was hired to be my kitchen teaching assistant. Because of her facility in the language, she soon began helping with several of our team’s English classes.

I hadn’t known Amena long before I learned that she was a believer. She told a moving story of growing up in a very strict religious home and coming to know the Truth during the Syrian war, when an Iraqi Christian friend persistently shared the gospel with her.

God’s Kingdom Came to Me

“One day it was as if God’s Kingdom just came to me,” Amena explained. “And I knew without a shadow of doubt that everything my friend had been telling me was true.”

Soon after she accepted the Truth—and witnessed several horrific war atrocities—Amena and her family fled to the African continent. She found a church in their new community and secretly attended when she could, concerned about the consequences if her family learned of her newfound faith.

Despite challenging circumstances, Amena’s faith grew as she studied the Word and connected with other believers in the congregation.

After a couple of years, circumstances made it necessary for her to leave that country, and she moved to the nation where I live. My friend bravely traveled here alone, with little money and few connections. Over time she met people in our city and found places to stay. She learned the local dialect and became familiar with the transportation system. She even met a pastor and got to know some local believers.

However, coping with the circumstances of her new life was not easy. And it wasn’t long before Amena found herself struggling, feeling as though she had little hope. She began to associate with others who also battled hopelessness, and she adopted many of their empty methods for coping with her pain.   

Powerful Prayer

As I got to know Amena better, she began to share some of her struggles with me. One day as we sat together, she blurted out, “I know that I need to give all of this to Jesus, but I’m just not ready yet. I can’t do it.”

A small group of us on the team prayed together with her, asking God to enable my friend to surrender to Him. We sensed the Lord’s presence as we interceded for her. We had two more spontaneous prayer meetings with Amena over the next two days. The following day I didn’t see my friend. But that night I had a vivid dream.

My Dream

It began as I entered a hospital, wearing the apron I often wore while cooking at our center. I walked over to some lockers, opened one, and picked up a key.

I knew that I was to take the key downstairs where there was a prison and set the inmates free. So I entered an elevator and went down into the prison.

When the elevator doors opened, I saw that the prison was filled with Syrian women—one in each cell. I took my key, and as I opened each door, the women left their cells and followed me.

We walked out of the prison with no opposition. But when we were outside, I saw my picture displayed on a “wanted” poster. In the photo I was smiling and wearing my apron. The poster labeled me as someone who was a part of a “holy war.” I went back into the hospital, changed my clothes, and quietly left.

I abruptly woke up from my dream. As I lay in bed, I became keenly aware that a spiritual battle was taking place, and I began to pray that God would set Amena free.


Later that evening Amena visited me. She was smiling when she asked, “The other day, when we prayed together, did you feel something?”

“What do you think God did?” I asked.

“I don’t know, but I’m completely free now from my fears and some other things!” she replied.

We then prayed together—this time praising and thanking Him for what He had done.

A couple of weeks later Amena sent me a message. She asked me if I would pray for her, explaining that she was experiencing frequent violent dreams so real and terrifying that she was afraid to go to sleep. I said I would gladly pray for her.

Amena then told me about a reoccurring dream that she’d had for a long time. “In this dream,” she explained, “I am locked in a prison, I’m being tortured, and I can’t get out. It’s awful!

“However, I know I shouldn’t be afraid of this dream, because a couple weeks ago when it was especially intense, for the first time someone in the dream opened the prison door!”

A Shared Dream

As I asked her some questions, we discovered that our dreams matched perfectly—even down to the descriptions of the rooms and the colors on the prison wall. We’d had the same dream at the same time!

Later when we met, I placed a pretend key into Amena’s hand, “You have the key. The key is Jesus. He is the One who sets us free.”

My friend’s life soon changed dramatically. She became eager to grow in Christ. Most of our conversations were about Him, and we often looked at Scripture and prayed together. Amena loved to pick up my Bible and read the verses that caught her eye.

I Accept the Cost

One day she looked at me and said, “I will lose my friends over this; I will probably lose my family as well, but I accept this cost.” Amena was learning to trust in our loving God, who goes before her. She had a new hope and was learning how to cling to His promises.

Although life for her was still often challenging and the intense emotional pain from her war experience remained, no one could deny God’s hand in her life. Amena could see Him at work too and shared her story when opportunities arose. We often went for walks in the streets, interceding for the city, for friends, and for family.

The Alliance Thread

About a year later Amena came to me excited, explaining that she had met a lawyer who knew contacts that could help her be sponsored as a refugee in Canada. She 

wanted to go because of concerns about persecution and our country’s instability. This wasn’t something I had encouraged Amena to pursue, but she had felt led to do so.

A couple of weeks later she announced that a church wanted to sponsor her. When I asked her the church’s name, she said, “Have you ever heard of The Christian and Missionary Alliance?” (Since I work in a creative-access country, I had never talked about The Alliance.)

I told her that I attend a C&MA church in the United States. We talked some about the denomination and then looked up the church in Canada on Google-Earth so she could see the building.

A few days later Amena said, “You know the logo on the Alliance church? I’ve seen it before. I first saw it in Syria during the war. When my Iraqi Christian friend was sharing Christ with me, she would take me to an office that had that symbol. She and her church friends were the first ones to share Christ with me. I’ll never forget that symbol. It was so different from the crosses I’d seen other places.

“Later, when my family fled to Africa,” Amena recalled, “I saw that logo again on the church that I went to secretly whenever I could.”

As we reflected on her journey and the way in which God had connected Amena to Alliance people around the world, she asked me, “Do you know who founded this thing?”

“His name was A. B. Simpson,” I told her.

“Where was he from?” she inquired.

“Canada,” I replied.

“Did it happen in the 1800s?” she asked.   


“I thought so,” Amena replied with an excited smile.

Connecting the Dots

Syria, Africa, the United States, the creative-access country where Amena and I met, and now the Canadian C&MA—all have been a part of my friend’s journey of faith. God connected the dots for her from one place to the next.   

Amena arrived in Canada last summer, almost five years after leaving Syria. A few months ago, I had the opportunity to visit her. I attended her sponsoring church and met people who have been a part of her refugee settlement program.

One day when we were out together, she said, “You remember when I asked you those questions about who founded The Christian and Missionary Alliance? That’s because when I found out I was going to be sponsored by an Alliance church in Canada and I saw their logo, I had a vision.

“In my vision I saw an older man, from the 1800s, in a room on his knees praying fervently. As he prayed, bright arrows of light went out from him to nations all over the world, and a movement was started.

“Churches began to appear in countries all over the map. One of those arrows of light went out from that man straight to the city where I lived in Syria. At that moment, I had an overwhelming feeling that whoever that man was from the 1800s had been praying for me, because I was someone from a strict religious family in the Middle East who would have been impossible to reach with the gospel.”

Birthed in Prayer

The Christian and Missionary Alliance movement was birthed in prayer. Our founder, A. B. Simpson, had compassion for outsiders and refugees. He devoted himself to interceding for the world’s unreached peoples. In praying for God to raise up “a great missionary movement that would reach the neglected fields of the world,” he referenced a vision given to him “of souls not yet born like the stars of heaven and the sands upon the seashore.”**

Today we see glimpses of this vision fulfilled as Alliance churches worldwide continue in fervent prayer and faithful obedience to carry the good news to the neglected and unreached peoples of the world—people like my friend, Amena.

*Name changed

**”The Man, the Movement, & the Mission: A Documentary History of The Christian and Missionary Alliance.” compiled by Dr. Charles Nienkirchen, Canadian Theological Seminary, May 1987

3 responses to The Key to It All

  1. Amazing story. It shouldn’t be surprising and yet how rare it is to see definite evidence of the impact of prayers and work on future generations.

  2. Thank you so much for the “rest of the story.” What an encouragement it is to me, and a message that I need to pray more than I do, and with fervor.

    Bless you in your work.

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