Loving Syrian War Refugees in Jesus’ name
Our ministry partner Esther* and her team, care for and counsel hundreds of Syrian refugee families and traumatised children and teenagers each week, leading many (including Muslims) to a personal relationship with Jesus. The team supplies food, medication, and care to a growing roll of babies and their mothers who have fled Syria with absolutely nothing.
On any given day Esther could be killed for the ministry she does. Read her story
Meet the Kiwi bloke who visited refugees in the Beqaa Valley and came back changed.
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Post-natal care for mothers and babies – Monthly home visits, and the provision of milk, medicines, clothes, education and support.
Teenage Trauma Counselling – A week long camp ministering to teenagers who have experienced war atrocities, followed by in-home care and support over several months.
Women’s Healing Retreats – A ministry and counselling retreat for women who have lost husbands, or other loved ones and personally experienced wartime violence.
Girls’ Conferences – A day of encouraging and educating girls, many of whom have never been to school or even left the family tent for fear of abduction.
Winter Packs – The provision of blankets, and children’s clothes and shoes to get through the cold months.
Sewing Training Schools & Businesses – Two sewing schools where young woman whose education has been disrupted receive training in design and sewing skills, as well as small business start-up.
A brief description of some of the realities
More than four years since the start of the civil war in Syria, over two million Syrian refugees are still camped throughout the Beqaa Valley and other parts of Lebanon, unable to return home. In Kiwi terms: With 4.25 million Syrians displaced, that is equivalent to the whole population of New Zealand being without a home. ISIS forces are camped on the border with Syria, with the Lebanese army, along with Hezbollah keeping them out of the country.
Every 15 minutes of every day another family is displaced, running for their lives from the terror of ISIS. Most families have children and many have infants. They leave with just the clothes they are wearing. Weak and vulnerable, heavily pregnant women cannot stay in the hope of a safe delivery in a familiar community, but must deliver on the run, newborns arriving in tents and shacks of the refugee camps.
There is immense suffering in every camp: hunger, disease, abuse, and extreme need. Even now, girls disappear from the Lebanese camps, taken by ISIS forces during cross-border raids. Some of the camps closer to the Syrian border are not safe for aid workers to visit as the risk of abduction for ransom is so high.
Escaping from the terrors within Syria is just the beginning of the suffering and tragedy for most families. Lebanon has a population of 4.5m people, and the economy is reliant on tourism. Even before the refugees arrived, unemployment was 15 – 20% as border violence and instability had turned away visitors.
Now 2 million Syrian refugees are competing with the Lebanese for low-paid jobs in order to survive. Around 500,000 of the refugees in Lebanon are young children, and most of them have no access to education. With very little money, support, or options, hope is a rare commodity in the refugee settlements. There is widespread prejudice towards the refugees; they know they are not wanted in Lebanon, and are left to scavenge out an existence on the streets, foraging and begging for whatever they can lay their hands on.
In the Beqaa Valley, young refugee mothers, children and babies live in tents in winter temperatures below zero, obliged to pay a ‘ground rent’; whilst other families pay extortionate rents to farmers to live in animal pens with makeshift roofs. In Lebanon, Syrian refugees are ostracised; local farmers have stopped breeding animals, because it is more lucrative to let their facilities – one refugee family per chicken coop. To survive, many households comprise more than one mother and many children, often without husbands, fathers or brothers who are dead or fighting.
All the essentials – food, water, sanitation, clothes, blankets, education and money – are scarce. And as if basic physical survival was not enough of a struggle, there is the grief and worry of dead and missing loved ones, and trying to overcome the personal atrocities that have been experienced.
Recently a huge fire swept through the white tents, makeshift but homes to hundreds of people.
“I was so sad and shocked when I saw about 80 tents burned to the ground without knowing the reasons,” said Esther. Six people, including a child died. I went there to comfort the families and try to help. There are very great needs, pain and fear all over the place. ‘My hope to live in peace and security no longer exists,’ said one refugee woman to me.”
Esther and her team specifically minister to the weakest and most vulnerable: young mothers and new-born babies. For the first year of a newborn’s life, they give support, mother-care education, milk, nappies, medicines and clothes.
At the end of 2016, Esther and her ministry were supporting 90 babies like Maria, Omar and Jessy below. Visiting mums and bubs, gives her an opportunity to also speak of the love of Jesus with the families. They are open because of the practical love they are experiencing. Whole families have invited Jesus into their lives and been baptised.
Maria* is two weeks old and an only child to newlywed parents. They are part of a group that escaped from North Syria about two months ago. They were a very wealthy family in Syria but they left everything to the terrorists who surrounded the town, and feel lucky to have their lives. Maria lives with her father, mother, three aunts, grandmother and grandfather.
Omar* is two weeks old and has a sister and two brothers. His parents escaped from Damascus. His father currently works as a driver for a construction company and his maximum salary is $420 per month. The family live in a farm stall, and when they escaped from Syria, they left behind neighbours, friends and family who are currently in an area surrounded by terrorists.
Jessy* is six month old girl. Jessy’s mother lives with her three siblings in a tent and they have no income. Her mother’s brother is currently doing what he can to help in any small way possible. Jessy’s father was kidnapped and his whereabouts are unknown.
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