It was a cold rainy evening. Our team had spent the day visiting refugee families living in tents and make shift shelters in the Bekaa valley along the Syrian border in Lebanon. It is estimated there are as many as 2 million Syrian refugees in this region. They came to escape the war and find shelter and safety for their families. Now 8+ years later their lives remain on hold, not knowing if they will return nor how if they must.
The last home we visited for the day was the family of Abu (not his real name) with his wife, 4 children, his mother, and sister. They live in a small tarp home in a refugee camp on the outskirts of the village Zahle. The tarps were a combination of UN donated tarps with their logo and unused billboard paper advertising everything from clothing to cigarettes make up the walls and ceiling. In this weather they kept out most of the rain and keep in some of the heat. There was a flood 2 weeks ago that left a foot of water in their tent forcing them to tear down their home and rebuild on 2 feet of additional soil, a newly poured concrete slab, using what they could from old timbers and tarps and buying new as needed. Thus, making a tough life harder as this and many other families spent their precious few resources on the new structure as well as losing a week of work to rebuild.
The father met us at the road and led us by foot down a very muddy path between into the village of tarp tents built one against another. As we went many hands were held out to help support us as made our way to the doorway. We went inside, took off our muddy shoes and were ushered by the children, between 3 and 8, to cushions arranged along two of the walls near a small kerosene stove that warmed us who were near. After a short time of small talk, the ladies brought us chi (tea), which also warmed us, and we began to discuss the flood and the troubles it caused. The conversation drifted backwards in time to the war. How, 8 years ago, their family had to flee their home in Syria, as their town was shelled.
Three of their 4 children were born in exile. The one born in Syria is named Mariam. Mariam is an 8-year-old girl with a very sweet spirit. During our visit she was always smiling, lovingly engaging with her family and our team. When I finished my chi she immediately got up and poured me another glass. One of the things that made this special was that Mariam has clubbed feet. With a beautiful smile and great determination, she got up from the floor and walked across the room on the back of her toes as her little feet turned so far in normal walking was not possible. The father told us Mariam was born in Syria. When she was delivered there were complications and during her delivery the hospital was shelled. They grabbed Mariam and her mother and barely escaped the hospital alive. In great fear for their lives they decided the must flee Syria. They ran and “settled” in the camp they live in today.
Our hearts ache to hear such things. This is wrong, this should not happen, this is not the way life is supposed to be, this is not Gods plan. These things should, and will, always break my heart and I will do my best to fight against this type of evil and help those afflicted by it.
After an hour or so listening to their stories we anointed Mariam with oil and prayed for her and her family. We gave them some money and left. They are on our radar and will receive future assistance. As we headed back up the muddy path we again were assisted by helpful residence. I tried to make it a point to look each person in the eyes and thank them.
Our team has been serving in these camps for years and we will continue to help Mariam and other families move from hopeless survival to joy filled prosperous living.