Last month I had the opportunity to travel to Lebanon and serve alongside our local partner in hosting a 3-day camp for Syrian refugee children. Before departing for the camp we spent some time hearing about the children we would be working with. The statistics were alarming and revealed that these children were hurting (79% have lost a family member to the violence/persecution; 60% have seen someone inflicted with the violence/persecution with their own eyes; 30% have personally experienced it). The church in Lebanon has a daunting task in front of them as 1 in every 4 people in Lebanon is a Syrian refugee. What encouraged me was that our partners recognize it is not so much a daunting task but an incredible opportunity!
Their approach is not to preach, but to serve them. Despite the history between their countries, our brothers and sisters recognize the call to love those who hate you (Luke 6:27) and they are seeing the gospel change peoples’ hearts and lives. Hearing the stories of how God has been moving through the love of His people reminded our team what we were there to do: love the children.
After the first day of camp, our team was given the opportunity to visit with some of the families living in the nearby refugee camps. The gracious hospitality we received from these families was incredible. They lived in makeshift structures that hardly qualified as a home, and yet, their gratitude for their current conditions was evident as they shared with us. When we asked about their story and how we could pray, the first thing out of their mouths was gratitude for no longer living in a war zone. Despite their impoverished conditions, they expressed gratitude that their children no longer heard the bombs and gunfire like they once did. To the answer of how to pray: they asked for peace to reign in their country.
In the second home we entered I recognized a young girl I had seen earlier that morning at camp. While we did not speak the same language, I was reminded that smiles break through language barriers and can express the love of Christ without a single word spoken. Young Amira* helped me remember this as we had one of those connections in which we both experienced such joy to be in each other’s presence.
We spent the next three days playing, dancing, laughing, singing, coloring with and simply loving children who had seen more death and experienced more trauma than any of us could imagine. Did our presence make a difference? Honestly, I don’t know if my flying over six thousand miles made an impact on the children’s live, but I know it certainly impacted mine.
Each time I look at the picture of me walking hand in hand with Amira I will pray for peace to return to Syria. Will you join me?
* Not her real name