Recently, you gave specifically to support the many Syrian refugees who are spread all over the Middle East. But what does Open Doors do with that money? Some months ago we were able to visit Lebanon to see how this money is spent. Let me take you with us on this visit.
In a big car, we drive in the direction of one of the places where the refugees stay. Soon, the car leaves the paved roads and takes a bumpy, sandy road. We pass some grape yards before we arrive at a huge grey building with no windows. “This is it,” the driver says and we all jump out of the car. Children hang around in front of the building. I count at least fifteen, some in flip flops and others with bare feet.
“This is one of the camps where we frequently visit,” says our guide and translator. The man is working for Heart for Lebanon, one of the partners of Open Doors in Lebanon. We enter the door that gives access to a long and dark hallway. Coming from outside, where the spring sun lights up the world, my eyes need to get used to the darkness in here. On both sides of the hallway are iron doors, all closed. We pass some ten of those before the man knocks on one black door.
Inside the one room ‘apartment’ it’s a little lighter. Sham, in her blue dress with her black veil, is the one who talks. Her husband, a traumatized man, stays mainly silent when she answers our questions. She points me to a mattress on the floor to sit on. The husband and children sit around her on the floor.
“We fled Syria in 2012,” she says. “We were living in Homs with our four children. Because of the fighting we had to flee. We lived in different places in Lebanon. It is hard. In Syria, we had a small piece of land, we worked in agriculture. We had a good life, we lived in peace. Life was very cheap for us. We never expected we would stay here for so long.”
Now, they live in this one room in an old stable. The building they share with a dozen other families from Syria. During these five years in Lebanon, another child was born to this family. The little girl isn’t in the room now, she’s with the other children playing outside. “When we still were in another place in Lebanon, our daughter got sick. She was 2-years-old then. She became sick and all her muscles got stressed because of that. She didn’t eat anymore, we could only give her sips of water. We went to see doctors, but they couldn’t help. They couldn’t find what was wrong with her. We then took her to a Sheikh (an Islamic leader). He thought that the sickness had to do with demons. He put something in a bottle of water that we should give her to drink. We did so, but it didn’t work out a thing. There were some Christians living close to the place we stayed. They came and prayed for her. While they were praying our daughter fell into a deep sleep. She slept very long. When she woke up, she said: ‘Jesus.’ She was healed. From that time on, she is good.”
We’re surprised. This family witnessed a miracle! What did this do to them? Did they convert to Jesus, I ask. “No, they didn’t,” our translator tells us. As so many Muslim families, the step to follow Jesus is a big step. In many cases God has to speak in different ways and on different moments to bring Muslims to their knees before Jesus.
One of the things God uses is the practical love they witness through the Christians who visit and/or help them. We ask what difference the visits and the food makes for the family. “We praise God for the work you are doing and the food you bring. This enables our family to survive.” We’re impressed how a small donation helps a family survive.
“Lord, you know this family, you know what they need. Please bless the family, help Father Khaled find work again.” After a short prayer, we leave the family behind in their room. Outside, we see the little girl who was healed because of a Christian prayer. The small girl walks around with a doll in her green leggings with black dots and red sweater. “Lord, please give her and all these other children here the chance to know you, to follow you.” This is our prayer.
I get to see much more this day. I visit a school for about a hundred Syrian refugee children of our partner organization. I can even help while the food distribution is on its way to another location. Today, some 150 families get their monthly package. It’s amazing what is done with the donations Open Doors receives.
Later, we meet with Roger*, the man responsible for Open Doors’ work in Syria. We ask him if he thinks that people are staying in Syria because of your support. “Of course it’s difficult to measure what part we played in that. But it was of huge encouragement for the churches that they could help, reach out. They were strengthened in what they were doing already. Yes, it will have had influence difficult to measure. The support has encouraged the Christians for sure.”
“It is so great that you stood alongside your brothers and sisters in Syria in prayer, and also in financially supporting the work. Many of you have sent cards. With your help we were able to bring in Bibles and books, and with your help we have been able to help many IDP families in a very practical way with food and other relief items. You have done this faithfully for more than six years now. That is amazing. Let us pray that the Lord will give a lasting peace for Syria and that many Christians will return to build up this beautiful country and community again.”
*Names changed for security reasons