“And I came unto the captives at Telabib, that dwelt by the river of Chebar, and I sat where they sat, and remained there disheartened among them seven days.” Ezekiel 3:17(Jubilee Bible 2000)
From March 3-8, 2015, the Shepherd Society, the humanitarian arm of Bethlehem Bible College sent two teams to Jordan to serve among Syrian Refuges. A team of 12 volunteers served in Amman and a team of 10 volunteers served in Mafraq near the Syrian borders. This is Bethlehem Bible College’s 7th mission trip to Mafraq and the 3rd to Amman.
The conditions of the refugees that we visited are appalling. The UN’s support for these refugees is minimal due to diminishing funding. Meanwhile, Syrians are not allowed to work in Jordan. This is bringing a lot of frustrations to the refugees and especially to the men. If they are caught working they face imprisonment or deportation. While the majority of Jordanians are hospitable and welcoming to refugees, some are annoyed by their presence and they express their irritation through verbal or physical abuse.
Our mission continues to be 5-fold:
(1) To bring emergency relief items to the refugees.
(2) To bring comfort and trauma counseling.
(3) To bring hope and spiritual healing to the heart broken.
(4) To support the workers and ministries of local churches and Christian organizations who are serving among the refugees.
(5) To train our students in practical ministries of relief and compassion.
As we visited homes, we heard some heart wrenching stories:
Flora: “I visited a house that was home to a young couple and their two children (3 years and 1 and one/half years). I was really touched by their humility and simplicity and very moved by the story of the husband who was shot in the head during the war and stayed in a coma for a month. He woke up, realizing that he was not able to speak. That lasted for a whole month and then he kept mumbling for 3 more months before he was able to speak clearly. Regrettably, the bullet is still lodged in the right side of his head and the doctors said he would lose his life if they tried to remove it. Consequently, movement in the left side of his body is impaired. He used to work as a hairdresser and he tried to find a job at a barbershop but was unable to do his job due to a “sleepy” hand. The owner of the shop offered him a job of cleaning the shop for 2 JDs ($3) a day which can only buy him bread and tomatoes. What was really encouraging after all the sad things we heard, including that they are not receiving the assistance they need by the concerned organizations, is that he and his wife were just thankful and no bad words or cursing was said by them. They accepted what happened to them saying that after all God did a miracle with them in keeping the family alive. They said that they believe that God is wise, and has a reason for allowing all of this to happen, even if they were not able to understand it, now or ever. They expressed trust in God’s wisdom and are thankful to him for all that he has provided and done for them.”
Pastor Maron: “We visited a house where we had a great discussion. As we were talking about the situation in Syria, the husband in the family told us that it was so difficult for them to leave their country and come to a foreign one, but because of the war, they had to. The husband said that in this war they lost many of their family members, from both sides. It was really painful to them. Later, somebody asked the husband if he has any bitterness and hatred in his heart against those who killed members of his family. Then the husband said something that really shocked us, as he mentioned a story from the Bible about a woman caught in adultery and brought by the Pharisees to Jesus, saying, ‘According to the law, this woman should be stoned, so what do you say?’ Instead of replying, Jesus started writing on the ground, then stood up to say, ‘He who is without sin should throw the first stone’. The man then said to us, ‘We should all learn from Jesus; to forgive everybody, because we all have our own mistakes. I forgive them, and I don’t have anything in my heart against them.’ During our discussion we discovered that this man is a believer and that he actually gave his life to Jesus Christ!! So what I want to say is that the one person who can bring healing to the hearts of those who have pain or bitterness is Jesus Christ!”
Amira: “The very first visit that I made has changed many things in my life. We visited a widow with 5 children who said something I never expected. She said that hope, love and good things have grown in her life out of pain and suffering. She ran away from war, death, loss and pain, but she sees all of that as a way to change and to have a new life full of hope. She is so thankful to God and to all the women from the church who have helped her and have changed her life forever. I can never forget that woman’s face. She was so strong and full of pride and hope. She taught me the meaning of strength and patience and to always see the good in every bad situation, for God will always give us beauty for ashes.”
Siham: “When we entered the house we saw an old lady sitting on the floor; she looked to be in her eighties, though she has three children, ages 17, 14 and 12. She was a widow whose husband passed away due to a heart attack just before she left Syria. I asked her about her age and she said she is 49. I just started crying and couldn’t say anything when I found that she is only one year older than me. Furthermore, she has problems with her heart, a serious disc problem, a bad ulcer and cannot walk. Her financial situation is really difficult. Also, while she left Syria legally, her children did not. When she arrived in Jordan, she stayed in a hospital in the Al-Za’tari Camp for 5 months. She then moved to the city of Al-Mafraq to a house that was in a very bad condition, so much that when it was raining, the house almost flooded. She moved to another house which was not any better, as she woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of her son’s screaming in his bed and discovered he was fighting a big rat that was biting his nose. Again, she changed her place and now she lives in a house that has no heater, no mattresses and not enough blankets. But despite her misery, she is not blaming God for anything; she kept giving thanks to God, which was something that really touched my heart.”
Jeries: “I met Abu Suleiman, a Syrian refugee from Homs city, who was owner of a bakery store in Homs through which he helped the poor and provided them with bread and other different food supplies through a small window in his shop that he dedicated for the needy. Abu Suleiman shared a dream he saw while he was in Jordan. In the dream he saw that the whole city of Homs is destroyed despite this one building—a church which he saw was full of people, who invited him in saying, ‘Come here because here you will find peace and safety’, and he entered the church filled with joy. This man may not have accepted Christ yet, but he is on the right way, recognizing that the people of the church are the only people who can show him love and peace. At the end we prayed for him and will continue to pray for him to meet Jesus, to know and accept Him in his life.”
What we discovered on our 7th mission trip to Mafraq is that the seeds that have been sown by the Church in Mafraq, with the help of many Arab and international volunteers, are now bearing fruits. We met Syrians who gave witness of the radical spiritual and physical changes that took place in their lives due to the service of love that was shown to them.
Rev. Alex Awad
Shepherd Society Director
March 9, 2015