An estimated 12 million Syrians have been displaced by the brutal war in their homeland. About 8 million are internally displaced; and 4 million have managed to get out of Syria to the neighboring countries of Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq. About three-fourths of these displaced Syrians are women and children.
In Lebanon’s refugee tent-camp environment, communication is not always easy. Many relief workers going into these dangerous areas are men, and cultural limitations often keep the women refugees from speaking freely. But Middle East Lutheran Ministry’s Katia Sahyouni, together with other women involved in the LHM center’s work, has earned the trust and friendship of many of the women the center serves. Occasionally a woman such as Fadilah* will open up and express her deepest concerns.
“I was happy in my life,” Fadilah began. “I used to work as a teacher; I’m well educated and was satisfied with what I had. I was living with my family peacefully in a large, beautiful house with a beautiful garden—until the war started between the Syrian regime and the armed protesters.
“When Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian al-Qaeda group, came to my village to fight against the Syrian army, bombs were everywhere, and there was no way to escape because my village was blockaded by the Syrian army. They bombed our village with rockets, and 80 percent of the houses were destroyed. We had a shortage of food, almost no nourishment. We ate what nature gave us; we spent many days eating just grapes from our garden. That was all we had.
“Later my parents decided to send me to Lebanon, but I objected. I was afraid to stay in Syria and at the same time hesitant to go to Lebanon. The only way to escape was to get married to my cousin, who is a refugee in Lebanon. I didn’t want to get married—but everything around me and all my circumstances forced me to.
“So I came to this little camp in the Bekaa valley. Instead of living in a house, we live in a tent; instead of sleeping in a bed, we sleep on the floor; during the cold season we freeze and during hot season we boil. Instead of being a teacher in my career, I am jobless … and my husband can barely find work. We don’t have money to buy milk for my newborn baby, but God has blessed me with the natural ability to breastfeed.
“What we are living now is not a life; one hand can’t clap alone. We need your help and we will be thankful for anything you can offer us.”
Fadilah concluded with a simple plea: “Please help us.”
Thanks to the Gospel-fueled generosity of LHM’s donors and ministry partners, our Middle East Lutheran Ministry (MELM) center has been able to build relationships with people who have sought refuge in Lebanon, regardless of faith or gender. As these relationships grow and MELM continues to ease these refugees’ suffering, opportunities to talk about Jesus arise.
“We take our responsibility seriously,” says ministry center Director Fadi Khairallah about MELM’s care for refugees in Lebanon. “We are helping to feed their body with food, and to feed their souls with the message of God’s salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Please pray for Fadilah and her family. Pray also for Lutheran Hour Ministries’ Beirut staff, for the relationships they are building with Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Lebanon, and for opportunities to spread the Gospel among these people who desperately need its message of hope.
*”Fadilah” is a pseudonym used here to protect this refugee’s identity.