By Flora Al-Qassis
This was my fifth trip to Mafraq, Jordan, with the Shepherd Society. Each time I participate in this ministry trip I learn something new, I grow spiritually and I come home more appreciative for what I have.
As a Palestinian woman living in a conservative society, what touched me more than anything else this time was seeing the sad state of affairs for many of the young Syrian women and girls—the opportunities that they simply do not have! Meeting girls aged 6 to 13 who cannot write or read was a huge shock for me. It was painful for me to compare those girls to my 7-year old niece, with her good grades at school. I spent some time playing a word game with a 13-year old girl who cannot read, and whose only dream that she kept repeating was: “I wanna go to the foreigners countries,” believing that she will have a much better chance of life there.
Because the girls are uneducated and have little opportunity in life, it is common for their parents to accept marriage proposals for them from the first guy or old man who comes knocking on the door. One of the worst scenes I saw amongst the refugees was all too common: A pregnant 14-year old girl—or even worse, a 14-year old girl holding a baby and unable to care for him properly due to her lack of education. The ugliest part was to see the old men, mainly Saudi Arabian, taking advantage of those helpless girls and families, giving the parents just about any price in return of their 13-year old clueless virgin daughters.
It was also very agonizing to see the houses that the Syrians are staying in. Actually, you cannot even call them houses, as they are barely suited for animals. Some of these four walled dwelling places did not even have roofs. Some had no doors, some had no lights. Many times, the entire family (most families had at least 5 children) would be crammed into a one-room house. Each of these houses is rented for at least 70 Jordanian Dinars. (Bear in mind that the minimum wage in Jordan is, according to the Ministry of Work, around 200 JD). Of course, Syrian refugees are not even allowed to work in Jordan.
Our Lord is great!! Despite of all the misery we witnessed, we were able to see the hand of God working in so many lives. The great work of the members of the Alliance church with the lead of their pastor, Nour Sahawna, is remarkable. The Lord is using them greatly for the salvation of those lost sheep, through the love and compassion they show to their brothers and sisters. I am happy to report that we got the chance to visit a good number of families that are on their way to meeting Jesus, or already have. We heard some encouraging testimonies from parents, but the best encouragement we heard was from the children themselves. To hear the children speak and sing the name of Jesus (“Yesu”) gave me shivers of joy.
After returning home to my routine life in this cold weather, I began to have greater appreciation for what I have: my house, my own bedroom, the hot water, my work, my healthy family and my friends. But then I started thinking about those families. I know we were only one-day visitors. But we were able to show them love, as we sat down with them and listened to their stories, as we played with their children and drank some very, very sweet tea or coffee, and maybe shared a living word with them. Of course, we also gave them food and other supplies, but at the end it felt so limited that we were able to spend so little time with them. It was really depressing for me that we were not able to stay longer and do more. However, I then remembered His words; “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor.” 1 Cor 3:6-8.
We may not be able to notice the difference we are making in other people’s lives, and we may think that the few words and the love we share with them is worthless—but such words from a merciful God keep us hopeful for one another, knowing that we may have planted and other missionaries may water but our Lord will definitely grow the seed.
“So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11