In this part of the world, there are pockets of beauty—beaches on the aqua blue Mediterranean, mountain overlooks that refresh the soul, and green groves of banana plants. The hospitality and food choices are to die for. But there is the darker side to–the Syrian refugee tents and Palestinian camps. Here is a region where 5% of the world’s population contains over 57% of the world’s displaced people. And just over the hills, unspeakable brutality. In the camps, young daughters are sometimes passed on to older men for marriage.
Yesterday, we had the privilege to help distribute food in one of the camps. I have been to this valley numerous times, and though there are changes, much is the same. This never-ending war has created a huge, displaced populace. In this one camp, over 150 stood in line to get their monthly allotment of lentils and eggs and cooking oil. If I could speak their language and inquire about their background, I would find they are a mix of architects and engineers and teachers and truck drivers and salespeople, plumbers, and carpet sellers. War is the great leveler. Henri Nouwen said it well–“All men are one at the well-spring of pain and joy.”
I fear too many in my culture—especially in my evangelical culture—are oblivious to the plight. This is the greatest humanitarian crisis since World War II. Are we aware? Do we pray? Are we generous? I wonder how many are cognizant of the number of Arab Christians who feel forgotten by the church in the West. Forgotten? That would assume we once knew.
Here’s what I do know. These I have met who work in this environment are the heroes. My little two-day stay in the valley is so token. Nonetheless, we are told numerous times that our visits matter. It is a spring of refreshment in this arid environment. More of us need to come and pray and shoulder a bit of the work and expand our outlook.
Riding back to the warehouse yesterday, I sat next to an extraordinary young woman in her 20’s who lives here and comes to the camps each day. She helps desperate women know that our Lord God is the One whose heart weeps for the hurting. He is the God of Hannah and Mary, the woman at the well and the Syro-Phoenician woman. Unlike a culture that sometimes looks at women as property, our God honors them.
She is working on her M.A. in theology and counseling in her spare time. I asked her if she ever gets away. She looked at me puzzled. “I have this ministry to these women.” I asked her what she planned to do when she completes her degree. Without hesitation, she replied, “I plan to do what I am already doing. Getting up and bringing the love of Jesus into these tents—only now I will do it more effectively.” Heroes.