Arabic speaking Swiss church

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The Rev. Anna Shammas shares the story of how an invitation to worship led to the formation of the Arabic-Speaking United Methodist Church in Aarau, Switzerland. Photo by Annette Spence, UMNS.
By Annette Spence
Sept. 10, 2018 | AARAU, Switzerland (UMNS)

Anna Shammas was homesick and lonely on a subway in Switzerland in 2002. As a migrant from Aleppo, Syria, she was wary when another passenger began to draw pictures and talk to her 2-year-old daughter.
When the Swiss woman learned that Shammas was a Christian, she invited her to worship, drawing a map to the United Methodist church in Aarau. 

“I didn’t want to go in a false way,” Shammas says, explaining her fear of the local people who might reject her as an immigrant. Yet the invitation to worship intrigued her at a time when she was “without a friend, without language skills, without security, and most of all without God.” …
Shammas says she was initially afraid, but her first visit to the United Methodist church in Aarau was life-changing. “I felt it was my home,” Shammas says. Even though she was not yet fluent in Swiss German (one of the nation’s four official languages), church members “looked to me with love, with eyes of love. Indescribable was this experience.”
Shammas and her husband wanted to be at church every Sunday, but jobs were hard to get for migrants and they could not afford more than one bus ticket at once. So the couple decided to take turns attending church, each without the other.
Her faith flourished through the church, Shammas says. In Syria, Christianity was “my heritage, not a friendship with God.” In the Aarau church, she learned that “[God] can talk to me and he can change the situation. He does, every moment in my life. I want to hear his voice, to live together with God.”