“God heard our prayers,” the Lebanese pastor shared, dressed in a grey suit and tie in stark contrast to our more casual attire—having just walked through a muddy informal tent settlement (ITS) of over 600 Syrian refugees. “We have long asked the Lord to give us Syrians so that we could show them His love, and we are drowning in them today.” To illustrate, he moved his open palm to mark a spot just below his nose to show a make-believe waterline.
In the last five years, the Beqaa Valley region of Lebanon—the Middle East’s bread basket and place of ministry for this particular church leader—has become home to over 300,000 bedraggled Syrians in the last five years. The valley itself serves as a verdant border between the eastern mountains of Syria and the green hills of Lebanon to the west.
The sad displacements are victims of a vicious conflict that has enveloped their homes and cities across the border. Each victim of the fighting has seen some level of atrocity, has a direct link to an untimely death of a loved one or friend. In the majority of people that we interviewed, those surviving the journey from the conflict did so with little to no personal accessories; some arrived with just the clothes they were wearing.
Focused and quietly intense, the Lebanese pastor waved off our personal concern that enemy combatants were a mere 30 minutes down a road we had just been traveling on. “Let me know when it is 5 minutes away,” he stated in a matter-of-fact tone, absent of bravado. “This is our reality, an opportunity God has given us to show God’s love and serve these broken people with what little we have.”
After a quick 30 minutes of interview time, the clergyman excused himself as he had refugee service pressures he needed to respond to. I couldn’t help but consider the seriousness with which he took his mission. God had responded to his heartfelt prayer, and even the possibility of better positioning himself into the warm embrace of organizations with resources would not stay him from his divinely appointed rounds of compassion.
Later the following evening, at a private home gathering of Christian organization leadership, wholly apart from the harsh reality of the Syrian refugee tent encampment, the pastor’s words were given a bold underline. For our benefit, each of the leaders attending were given a few minutes to share of their ministry efforts with the 1.1 million Syrian refugees that have inundated Lebanon, a country of 4.4 million citizens.
Each participant outlined an impressive array of personal and corporate outreach, from feeding stations and counseling to childcare and rent assistance. Our small group, sent from the U.S. to better understand the Syrian refugee crisis, made note of the significant leadership power that was resident in our dinner party. One of the last national guests to share was a Lebanese female judge, who occupies an honored position as a member of the World Vision Lebanon board.
Like our meeting with the pastor earlier in the day, this energetic woman dispensed with the social pleasantries and doubled down on the message we had heard over lunch earlier. “The Church is in trouble here! We are being gradually silenced, and the world seems not to care,” she weighed in forcefully. “Here in Lebanon, we are giving our lives away in serving those who arrive on our doorstep with little or nothing. Where is the Church, where is your church in America? Do you care about your family here?”
In light of the greatest migration of refugee people in our lifetime, the Church is standing in a critical gap, showing the love and compassion of Christ to their neighbor. Given the reticence of the world to take notice of victims of a senseless and bloody conflict, the question posed to each of us continues to have weight:
Where is the Church indeed? Do we care?
3 Simple Things You Can Do Right Now To Help
Here are 3 simple things that you can do to get involved in the refugee crisis:
1) Get educated: watch this video
Watch this video of the stories of Syrian refugees in Lebanon that our team visited on this trip:
2) Download this free guide
This free guide, Understanding the Syria Crisis and the Role of the Church by Rich Stearns is an incredibly helpful introduction into what many have called the greatest refugee crisis in history. With challenging stats and hopeful stories, Rich takes you behind the scenes on the humanitarian crisis and how you can get involved:
Refugee Sunday is a service that will educate, inform and inspire your church to get engaged in the refugee crisis.
Jesus was born into poverty; into oppression; into the margins. And soon after His birth, His family was threatened by violence, and He became a refugee. We believe Jesus is calling His Church to help with the millions of child refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
Our Refugee Sunday kit has tools for your church’s weekend services to tell the stories of families fleeing, to understand God’s heart for the most vulnerable, and tangible ways to make a difference.