I was sharing a “trip from hell” with a business consultant from London yesterday. He lives in London and travels all over the world consulting the very top corporations (Gerber, Unilever, Frito-Lay, the UN, etc). We met here in Beirut, where he has given generously of his time the past three days to help guide Near East Initiative. I mentioned that I had flown into Heathrow a few years ago, traveling on to Cobham. But missing my exit, which is 15 minutes from the airport, I drove on for six hours on ring roads around London that never let you off. This included a 125 dollar ticket for cramming six of us in a five seat car. It was anything but heaven.
Today we traveled to the Beka Valley, and though it did not take six hours, it was its own hell. Scattered throughout the valley are refugee camps set up to accommodate Syrian refugees. Many Syrians are spilling over the borders in the hopes of escaping the civil war. It is heart breaking to see people who have left homes and careers, existing in 8×8 structures made of cardboard and whatever scraps one can find. Most have planted their families on dirt roads criss-crossing farmers’ fields.
For just a few moments, I joined Heart for Lebanon to help distribute soap and oil and other basic supplies in one of the camps. The truck brings supplies to four other camps. These are mini tent cities that are not under the radar of UN or other major relief agencies. These are the poorest of the poor, rural peoples from Syria who have no connections and have little hope. Fathers are sometimes so desperate they sell their kids. It’s heart breaking.
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Tragically, the other part of the hell here is that Heart for Lebanon has to deal with, of all obstacles, the church. Some area pastors are not so willing to help with warehousing the supplies, providing space for workers. It all impedes space, not to mention it can be messy and noisy and upsetting. Crazy, huh?
I can’t be too judgmental. What would I do if all of this was on my door step? But in one sense, it is. I don’t have to cross the ocean to find human need. And suburban churches can be good at avoiding the messiness of urban centers. I wonder how all of this will play out in the Beka. What will happen in Syria? What has happened to the brothers and sisters I have spent time with in Damascus and Sweda and Aleppo? I know this. We have to be in this together–on our knees daily, calling for justice, linking arms, being compassionate, and being more passionate to share the gospel.