(Peace be upon you!) I recently returned from an eye-opening trip to the Jordan/Syria border. It was great to return in the spring of 2013 after my initial visit in the fall of 2012 and to see how the work among the Syrian refugees is going full speed ahead.
The first refugee family I visited on this trip was a family I had spent time with during my previous trip to al Malfraq. The mother had lost her husband in April 2012 when a Syrian soldier cut off his head and stuck it in a toilet while she and her 12 children escaped from their home. I was struck by how joyful this woman was this time. Jordanian believers have been faithfully visiting this widow and her family over the past year. I brought an “art missionary” with me on this trip. Paula taught this refugee family to make some decorative art for the wall of their home. It is the only thing of life and color in their home.
I visited another family where a man’s brother and sister were both killed in Syria last year. His wife was eight months pregnant with a boy and they will name the baby after her husband’s brother.
In another one of the families I met, a four-year-old boy had been so traumatized by what he has seen that he has not smiled at all since his family escaped from Syria. His 14-year-old brother has also had terrible periodic headaches after being shot in the head as he was crawling beneath barbed wire during the escape. After doing artwork with this family, we prayed for them and they were deeply moved.
In many countries, it is no big deal to draw or color or create some artwork. Nevertheless it is a REALLY BIG DEAL to refugee families to have something to smile about. Their laughter and smiles told the story of how they much they appreciate the opportunity to express their creativity.
Initially we thought only the children would want to do artwork, but inevitably the adults wanted to jump in as well. Here a father creates a landscape using chalk. The rug and the mattress he was sitting on and the clothes he was wearing were quite colorful. Note the glass of hot tea in this picture. We were always given steaming hot sweet tea by every family we visited. Even when they have so little, the Syrian refugees always offer tea to their guests as a way to demonstrate hospitality.
MercyWorks continues working alongside a strong Jordanian church that has been tirelessly reaching out to the Syrian refugees ever since the crisis began. The church is now well into a building project to complete a full-scale Community Center to serve the entire city. A year ago, the population of al Mafraq was 60,000. Today it is over 100,000 plus another 150,000 in the al Zaatari Refugee Camp.
Inside the church, we held art classes for many of the traumatized Syrian refugee children. The children couldn’t get enough of the activities and fun. To see them, you would never guess the horrors these children have witnessed firsthand. I sensed the pleasure of the Lord as we played with the children and showed them the love of God.
In addition to the visitation ministry, the church has been reaching out to the refugees by distributing packages to help the families make it through the long, cold winter. After registering at the church, each refugee family received a $600 package consisting of five blankets, five winter coats, two mattresses, a heater, a full propane tank and a coupon book for propane refills. The distribution of the packages is possible because of the Jordanian church volunteers.
Doing distribution runs involves a lot of work. First the trucks are fully loaded with everything that will be distributed to the refugee families. Then, the inventory paperwork must be completed before we set out. With addresses on file of where we will go throughout the city, the evening distribution run begins. Typically, the evening distribution starts around 5 pm and goes until well after 1 a.m.
With each family, paperwork is signed for the items they receive. The refugees are grateful for their packages. Some of them have now become followers of Jesus and are studying the Bible in their homes.
The next step is to bring the Jordanian Christian pastor to the USA to share in Arabic churches about the great things God is doing among the Syrian refugees. MercyWorks is working on putting together an itinerary for the last half of July 2013. If you are interested in hearing firsthand about what God is doing among the Syrian refugees, let us know.