A Dozen from Aleppo

by a pastor in Jordan

Every day we visit refugee families. All of them have different stories, different plans, different living conditions. Some live in very nice apartments, while others live with many other relatives in a crowded room with a leaking roof. Some are very optimistic about their future. Some are so sad you can literally feel a heaviness in the air.

Some families decided to change their lives dramatically and flee Iraq. Sometimes the last straw was a friend, relative or a neighbor’s “accident.” Families often tell of ISIS kidnapping, torturing or killing a person they knew. They left as soon as possible after that.

refugee_stories.pagesIt was a quick visit because we had difficulty finding the right house. Finally we found it – a place of contrasts. It was located in the slums of tiny houses topped with blankets instead of rooftops. Poor huts. But the view – situated on a hill where you could see all of Amman laid out before you! The woman we were looking for, Aisha, came out to meet us. When we entered her house, two children were sitting on mattresses and watching a small TV. They were her youngest son, Yousef, and her granddaughter, Esraa. Esraa’s mother was at the hospital about to give birth to her second baby. We congratulated Aisha on such good news, but she sighed and shook her head.

Aisha had come to Jordan two years ago after her hometown Aleppo was bombed. She, her husband, Joum’a, and their six children fled Syria by car. Her oldest daughter, Shana, stayed in Syria with her husband, Timothy, and Esraa. After some time, violence in the country escalated, and two of Timothy’s brothers were killed. Timothy lost a leg during one of the endless bombings. When a rare opportunity came to flee Syria, the family moved to Jordan just a few months before our visit. They stayed at a refugee camp because Joum’a and Aisha’s small flat already housed eight people. When Shana found out she was pregnant, Timothy insisted on moving to Amman. It wouldn’t be wise to stay in the camp’s poor living conditions when Shan needed medical care. So, three more moved into this house.

As I tried to imagine how a dozen people could live in such a tiny flat, Aisha offered us some tea before continuing her story. Doctors told Shana she needed a cesarean section, but it was not possible to get this surgery in a government hospital without proper documents. Shana had only her passport – her UN refugee identification document was still in the refugee camp. Aisha nervously checked her phone while talking to us. It was obvious she was waiting for an update from Timothy.

We wrote down a list of things Aisha asked for – food, blankets, mattresses, cleaning supplies, a heater – and then we left. I have thought about this family a lot. How can they live in those conditions? How can children enjoy their childhood? How can Timothy cope with his brothers’ deaths and his own disability? Will they ever be ready to start a new life? Where does Shana find strength to live and fight for her future? How can a newborn survive in such conditions? I don’t know the answers to all these questions. Almost all of the Syrian refugees tell us they dream of returning to their country one day. I can only wish their dream will come true.

We have heard so much about the happenings in Syria – bombings, destruction and a high level of violence that has ravaged the country. There are so many organizations in play now – ISIS, al-Qaeda, and both the Syrian army and the Free Syrian army. But it all looks absolutely different, more real, when you meet Syrian people who have lost their homes and relatives, who had to flee their homeland in order to save their lives. It reminds you how fragile a person’s life is, how priceless it is for his family. We have seen many faces of the Syrian refugees: we know we will remember them long after everything else will have faded. It is not easy to forget pain, sadness and suffering in people’s eyes.

I don’t know how much we personally can help them, but I know for sure they do a lot for me. They have already changed my vision of refugees, washing away a lot of stereotypes about them, and made me think a little bit differently of the situation in general. The scariest and most honest thought I’ve had is that everyone of us could be in their place. Nobody is protected enough to feel absolutely safe in our crazy and unpredictable world. And there is a huge difference between reading about refugees as names in an article and sitting in their houses, looking into their eyes.

IMG_4183In Amman they applied for the refugee status and are now waiting for the approval of the resettlement plan. The old lady was angry and sad at the same time as she spoke about how unfair it was to flee their homeland.

“It was never easy to live in Iraq. My husband and I have suffered from several wars, then the economic blockade in the 1990s. We lost everything we had many times. We moved from city to city, but we always knew we could stay and fight and build our lives there. We had the house we built, our shops, our children, grandchildren, friends and neighbors. It is hard for me to believe that this time we had to give up. Because for me it means exactly this: by leaving the country we were born in, we show that we see no hope there. It is very, very painful for me and my husband. It is very sad to lose all the material things we had, but it is much sadder to lose hope in the country’s future.”

b83bda2ba45c268d0d7f8ff1037b6575Refugee ministry is extended to many ethnicities in Jordan and has encompassed many avenues for ministry.

In January, the government sent all Sudanese refugees back to Sudan. We met a 31-year-old Muslim man who was searching for truth. The Orthodox Church directed him to us to get some answers. We will still connect with him through e-mail.

We set up a barbershop one day a week for men and another day for women. Believers explain the message of salvation and show the Jesus Film to all at the barbershop.

Many refugees have special needs. We distributed wheelchairs in a Palestinian refugee camp. A woman trained as a therapist has connected to several families in camps and in homes. She is helping a man who suffered a heart attack after he saw his son’s remains from a bomb explosion. The father can now move his left leg and hand. The trainer also works with a low-functioning 21-year-old man who was dependent on his mother for everything. The trainer discovered the man understands and will respond to verbal instruction. Through the trainer’s advice, the mother senses a new freedom, as well as God’s love.

Pray for:

– protection from violence for Jordan
– more Christians who have a vision for compassion
– our monthly meetings with non-Christian women, including those in the Palestinian camp, to meet spiritual, emotional, psychological and financial needs
– youth activities for Jordanian, Palestinian, Iraqi and Syrian refugees, including sports, crafts and discipleship
– God to provide support for families, including food, heaters, mattresses and fans
– wisdom in sharing the plan of salvation with others through English language lessons and hair-cutting ministries
– a Christian health center to give help for those with special needs and counseling for caregivers