In her final post from the Bekaa Valley, Jennifer gives tribute to the local organizations caring for refugees, and how we can best partner with them.
“Once there was someone who said such amazing things and did such wonderful things that people began to follow him. As they followed, he told them about a kingdom: the Kingdom of Heaven. But they did not understand. They had never been to such a place. And they didn’t know anyone who had. They didn’t even know where it was. So one day, they simply had to ask him, ‘What is the Kingdom of Heaven like?'”
Three days in the Bekaa Valley with 50 Syrian refugee children is not quite enough. The bus-full of seated & standing children drove away at 3:00 PM on Sunday, after a full day of music and games and crafts, many hugs, and lots of high-fives.
To be honest, this model of ministry would not feel comfortable were it not for the partnership with a local organization. The full-time staff and summer university students are with the children week after week. Both full- and part-time staff are Lebanese, speak Arabic (in addition to English and French), and spend time each week at the Kids’ Camp, as well as on home visits with their families. In partnership with local churches, the organization manages the needs of over 6,000 families of the 1.5-2 million Syrian refugees, including:
- milk distribution for the children,
- diaper distribution for the littlest,
- education centers at the churches,
- education centers in the tent settlements, conducted in shipping containers,
- vouchers for food purchases, and
- home visits that could be described as case management, continuing to assess, categorize, and prioritize family needs.
In this multi-service and collaborative context, our local partner focuses on the whole person — body, mind, and spirit. And in this context, visiting for 1 week makes sense. Evangelistic and pastoral ministry best fits in the context of relationship. We don’t have that here on a long-term basis, though we formed short-term relationships this past week. But our partner organization does.
Exodus’ mission is to mobilize the Christian community to welcome and befriend refugees. In Lebanon, Exodus is doing that through our partner organization, which is connecting us with local churches.
At All Souls, our children aged 2 through 5th grade hear God’s stories through Sonja Stewart’s Young Children & Worship and Following Jesus stories. Most of the stories we tell the children are stories that really happened: narrative stories from the Old and New Testaments. However, a handful of the stories are true, but not real. Can you imagine which stories those are?
Parables! We tell the children that parables are stories that Jesus told to teach something. On Sunday, at the Kids’ Camp, we told the Parable of the Ungrateful Servant as a lesson in forgiveness, our theme for the Camp. We began with the words that introduce our parables at All Souls:
“Once there was someone who said such amazing things and did such wonderful things that people began to follow him . . . .”
I am grateful for our children at All Souls. They help me hear God’s stories in new ways.
I am hopeful that the Syrian children on Sunday in Lebanon also heard God’s stories in new ways.
Please pray for the churches in Lebanon. Many do not welcome and befriend refugees, but some do.
Please pray with me that the churches that welcome refugees will do so with wisdom, compassion, and persistence. And please pray that those churches that do not welcome refugees will begin to see those seeking refugee the way God sees them.