A few days I ago I was in Jordan visting Syrian refugees in the cities of Amman and Mafraq (close to the Syrian border). This is a huge joy to me any time I am in Jordan. In fact, it is one of the main reasons I go there when I am in the Middle East.
I am blessed to work with Christians in Jordan who have a humanitarian relief organization that is well thought of by the government of Jordan because of the incredible work they do for the poor of the country – including refugees from Palestine, Iraq, Libya, and now Syria. As a bridge-builder, I love to see this kind of Christian-Muslim cooperation and warm relationship.
In the few days that I helped this organization, we gave out three things: 50 pound food bags (rice, flour, salt, cooking oil, cheese, pasta, soup, etc.), blankets for the coming winter, and small washing machines (the women love these – it saves their hands a lot of hard work).
But the greatest part of the time with the Syrian refugees was just being with them – sitting on the thin mats in their humble, sparse apartments, drinking tea with them, and most of all LISTENING TO THEIR STORIES.
I want you to hear in their own words what they experienced in coming to Jordan across the border with Syria:
* We traveled from Homs to Idlib to Damascus and finally to Jordan.
* We traveled at night to keep from being shot by the Syrian government soldiers.
* This travel took hours because we had to walk.
* To keep our children quiet, we needed to give them valium or something to help them sleep as we carried them.
* When we arrived in Jordan, the Jordanian army helped us and put us in a refugee camp.
* Now we are in this apartment but we cannot find work.
* We want desperately to go back to our homes in Syria but they have been looted and burned or bombed. Still, we want to go back and rebuild.
* Please pray for our children because of the memories they have of seeing dead bodies.
* Pray that our government in Syria will change.
* I was shot by a sniper in the leg. I was able to keep two of my grandchildren under me while they were shooting into my house (these are the words of an old woman who was in a bed recovering).
* Our family is scattered. Some fled to Turkey and some to other places.
* I am here with my four children. One is in the hospital here. I do not know what has happened to my husband. I cannot contact him. I do not know if he is dead or alive.
These stories touched our hearts. The people we work with do not just see these families as numbers. They spend time with them, getting to know them, showing genuine interest. They do not just rush in, hand them a bag of food and a blanket and rush on to the next needy person. No, they truly care and these refugees know it because our Christian friends go back and help these Sunni Muslim refugees again and again.
It is not a matter of what faith a person has when it comes to helping someone, is it? No, it is a matter of love and obeying the Word of God:
Leviticus 19:34 – “The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.”
James 1:27 – “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress. . .”
Giving a blanket for the coming winter was much appreciated by these refugees. One woman took it out of the plastic bag and she and her little girl just ran their hands over it the whole time we talked. It was a new treasure for them because they have virtually nothing.
They appreciated the blankets. . .and the food. . .and the washing machines. But listen to what they most were thankful for (again in their own words):
“Thank you for listening to our pain.”
There was no greater privilege.
A simple act of love can have a big impact.