Initially when offered to spend three weeks in the Middle East working with refugees, my thought was that this was too good to be true: to travel to the Arab world twice in one year is an incredible opportunity, but to travel twice within four months is a display of Someone wanting me to be there. When coupled with my experience of knowing refugees in Belfast, and desires to at some stage live in the Arab world, this seemed like a perfect opportunity.
The trip began with a miracle. Upon praying through the possibility of the trip, and the finances, a member of church (who asked to remain anonymous) graciously and generously donated the entire required finance of the trip. This reminded me of how we are all in God’s family and how much we support each other as a church in a supernatural way.
Before I knew it, the day of departure had snuck up on me and I was in the Middle East. My initial feeling and thought was how different the atmosphere and environment was to North Africa; while both being the Arab World, this felt extraordinarily different, it felt more impersonal and chaotic. Furthermore, the bomb and bullet holes in walls reminded me that this was a war-zone until very recently. The extent of the difference blew me away, as from the beginning of the trip I had been praying for guidance and clarity from God regarding the future… and throughout the trip He certainly answered!
At the airport I was greeted by two people who have moved to the city to work there permanently. I was working alongside these and a few others during the time, and we went on to become great friends. Yet again, God reminded me of how our church is global, and no linguistic or cultural barriers can separate family.
Within hours of arriving, I was briefed about the details of our work, and met the others who I would be working with. I was part of the “Made Clean Team”, where a group of workers went into refugee camps in a big blue van, kitted out with washing machines in the back, offering to wash clothes for the women. While the clothes were being washed, we would share good news with the women and put on kids programmes. Each day was a new camp, filled with new challenges and new people. There was a rule with the kids that we were unable to initiate conversations about faith, but if they asked us then we were able to answer. For that reason, my tattoo of Matthew 14 proved one of the most useful assets I had, sparking many conversations about Jesus’ deity and saving power.
Throughout my time at the camps I saw many incredible things, including meeting a teenage boy who had become a follower of Jesus, praying for healing for a man with a broken back and seeing him walk, and seeing a man healed from the deathbed. I learnt so much about God’s love and care for these people who have no home, and I feel blessed to have been able to carry the love of God into those broken families and homes. It also gave me a new appreciation of the refugees who have made their way to Belfast and Lisburn, and the difficulties that they have been through to get here, and most importantly of their need for community and love while they are here.
Something that blew me away was a comment that one of the men in the camps made: he said “why is it in the West you have everything – cars, jobs, money, family and yet you are not happy. Here we have lost our jobs, our money, our families, our cars, and yet we are happy.” This challenged me massively in how the West relies on material things for joy, rather than turning to God and finding our satisfaction in Him.
Now I am home, I’m still processing all that I saw and experienced. I have far too many stories to fit into this ‘short’ (whoops!) report, but please if you are interested and want to hear more of the trip (this article really only scratches the surface), then please don’t hesitate to come up to me and ask about it!
.شكرا لك بارك الله فيك
(Thank you God bless)