Revival in Refugee Camps
The skies opened and the rain fell tenderly from the sky above, dancing tip-toed onto the ground below as if it was sorry to have to come. The thoughts of Idomeni trickled all the same into my mind as I imagined the mire that these people that have become so dear to my heart are now forced to trod. My taxi dropped me off at the gates of Diavata, the camp I am working in. The Lord has given good report with the police and army officers, so they let me in without any trouble. Normally, nobody is allowed to enter into the camps unless they are with a registered NGO. The fact that I am allowed to work there is beyond belief to me—such an honor. Before arriving, I knew that the rain would drive the majority of the families to be tucked away in the faux comfort of their tents. Only a few stragglers remained outside in the rain as they waited for medical help. I made my way straight to the humble abode of my Syrian friends from the day before. I saw several Syrian and Afghan refugees on my way to the tent, all people that I’d met in the previous days. Capacious smiles stretched wide across their faces as we met eyes with one another.
That’s it. That moment, a snapshot in time of how my heart truly feels. Deep-rooted, undeserved connection with these people. Not just a connection made from fickle glee at the thought of sitting with people that are plastered on world news, but more of a familial resonation with the white-fisted joy and the achy-bone pain. An empathy rather then an apathy. A care rather than a concern. A realization somewhere in the caverns of my 8 ounce heart that this…this is what I was made for.
I continued on, hoping that my new friends would be in their tent. Indeed they were. As I peered in, I was greeted with resounding Arabic cheers. The women made room for me, giving me the best spot in that tightly hemmed in tent. It was like coming home, it was like being greeted by family. Unexplainable, really. The hours that followed held within them countless laughs, stories that stung as the graphic picture was painted as they were told, and questions that rang of their desperate plea, “what will happen to us now?”
Here I was in a refugee tent on a rainy day with nobody other then 14 Syrian’s for hours. They didn’t speak any English. I spoke very little Arabic. Somehow, however, our hearts managed to become one. I was utterly accepted by them. “We really love you”, “You are family to us now”, and “You have the kindest heart” fell from their lips in the best English they could muster. The women continually stroked my hair, delicately touched my arm, and smiled certainty my way. They shared everything they had with me: their food, their humble living quarters, their time, but most importantly, they shared their painful stories and their broken hearts. I shared polaroids and taught the children to use my camera. I hugged them and braided their hair and dared to share the same eating utensils as them—anything I could possibly do to convey my care. The trust that had for me was so undeserved. The consideration and true care they expressed for me is unimaginable in average sociological circumstance. This was all by the grace of God alone!
These people, just like you and I, now in a situation that they cannot control. They miss their homes, which are now obliterated by shrapnel. They miss their friends. They miss even the ability to work. Two of these precious women even experienced the beheadings of their husbands and several of the women had lost feet or hands as a result of bombs. Raw Reality. Their ability to love, however, still intact.
“To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”
- 1 Corinthians 9:22-23
One of the most beautiful things of all was the last 25 minutes of my time with them today. The husband of one of the women opened up to me; accepted me. This is a very big deal in terms of Muslim culture. If I win over the husbands acceptance, then I have the trust of the entire family. He sat beside me on the small floor cot, conversing with me back and forth via Google Translator. He let me know that he appreciates me more than I’ll ever know. He told me that he and the family don’t want me to leave, even to the point of offering me one of their cots to sleep on if only i’d stay! He wondered why I dared to care so much. This question led to me being able to share about Jesus!! As I typed the gospel, it was translated into Arabic and thus shared aloud with the entire family. A major breakthrough happened! Hallelujah.