Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Matthew 2:13
Whenever I hear of refugees, I remember that Jesus, too, fled as a refugee to Egypt as a young child. Surely He can relate to the path that many Syrians currently find themselves on.
The plight of Syrian refugees has largely dropped out of the news cycle, but for most the painful road continues. On Friday evening, I attended “Faith Rising,” an event sponsored by Partners International, highlighting the work being done by Arab Christians to bring help and hope to those still trapped in refugee camps in Lebanon. While the protests of the Arab Spring in late 2010 and early 2011 seemed like they might freedom to many living under corrupt and oppressive dictatorships, in Syria they led to a civil war that has claimed nearly 200,000 lives. While Canada tries to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees, Lebanon with a population of 4.5 million is trying to cope with over one million refugees. This has led to over-crowding, animosity and a strain on the infrastructure of what was already a struggling economy.
National workers with whom we partner have worked to mobilize their churches to serve these refugees, who are often discriminated against by local Lebanese. While the compassionate outreach initially began providing basic necessities, it has now evolved and is making a long-term impact through vocational training and trauma counselling. The Oasis Project they have developed involves renting a nearby school to run a weekly program with volunteer staff offering classes in music, computer, English, Arabic and sewing. Why are they offering Arabic classes to Arabs you ask? Because the women who attend have been denied basic education in Syria and in many cases have now been abandoned by their husbands or widowed through war and now need skills to support themselves and their family. During the week, pastors, workers and church members visit the homes of refugees to provide counselling and support, and as they share the good news about Jesus, many are turning to Him in faith.
The Faith Rising event presented a three-year vision to provide basic care to an additional 1,250 families, fund transportation, training and warehouse and school rentals, and hire an additional twenty-five Arab pastors and evangelists to coordinate the volunteer ministries and mobilize field staff for outreach in the refugee camps. It was an exciting presentation and a bold vision of hope for the region and for the spread of the gospel in the Middle East.
As I and other members of our missions’ team consider this project, our youth are in the final stages of preparation for “Love on Lebanon” their charity drama in support of the Beit el Safa Girls’ Home in Lebanon. Situated in the mountains outside of Beirut near the famed Cedars of Lebanon, Beit el Safa means “House of Serenity” and is home to up to nineteen girls ages five to thirteen who have either lost parents or are at risk from abusive or drug-addicted family members. Our youth have been hard at work, rehearsing over the last two months and this Sunday will present an unforgettable evening of drama and music. Admission is free but we hope everyone will give generously toward the girls’ home. Invite a friend and join us 6:30 pm on Sunday June 5!
In awe of Him,