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Lebanon: Refugee children supported as woman 'lived like a refugee'

10 June 2016

Refugee children supported as woman 'lived like a refugee'

Hazel*, a UK supporter, spent a week 'living like a refugee' to raise funds for the running of children's camps in Lebanon for Syrian refugees. She then travelled to Lebanon to take part in running the children's camps.

Refugee week is 20-26 June. Check out our resources for ideas on how you and your church can raise support for refugees.

Hazel set herself the challenge of spending seven nights in a tent in her garden, wearing the same clothes every day, only taking one cold shower during the week, only spending £10 on food for the week, and cycled to work each day, which was a 30-mile round trip.

"My garden is a bit of a jungle so it felt like an actual challenge because it's not really a pleasant place to be, to camp there for a week," she says. "I was genuinely very hungry for quite a lot of the time, particularly because I was doing the cycling. My hair took on entirely new matted qualities."

The challenge enabled her to raise almost £1,000, which went entirely towards the running of a camp for Syrian child refugees in Lebanon.

The experience also gave Hazel a small insight into the difficulties facing refugees. "What was different for me was that obviously I knew the next week I would be eating well. It did strike me that if you don't know when it's going to end it's very hard to keep hopeful. If you know that there's an end point you can summon the energy and get through it. To have no idea what your end point is I think would be really difficult."

Supporting Syrian refugee children

Hazel then travelled to Lebanon as part of a team of Open Doors supporters to help lead the camps for Syrian children. "We were in the north of Lebanon, which I suppose is one of the more dangerous regions of Lebanon. There was a little cluster of Christian villages and a few churches that are doing amazing work for refugees and for Syrians. We went and joined one of the churches there for a few days and helped them facilitate this camp.

"For each day of the camp we had 100 children come in, and the next day it was another hundred, and so on. I was expecting that most of the children would be from Christian families, but actually 90% of them were from Muslim families.

"It was amazing, we had such fun with the children. We did all the typical things that you'd do in a kids camp in England: face painting, singing songs, playing games, parachutes that you play games with, dramas, Bible studies. It was absolute chaos, but good chaos!

"The translation was one of the challenges because I don't speak Arabic and most of the people there didn't, but it's amazing because you can still build up a really great relationship with the children without that. You can show them love, you can make them laugh, and they can make you laugh, and have a really good time.

"We had them pretty much for the full day. We were in a covered outdoor area, a bit like a football cage. So they were safe there for the day. It gave them shade, we gave them food and water, which was great because actually a lot of the kids don't eat well.

"It was quite striking because a lot of the children didn't want to eat their lunch because they wanted to take it home for their families. At the face painting table, a lot of them wanted extra wet wipes so they could clean themselves because they were really pretty dirty. So whilst we were having a lot of fun and in many ways it just felt like a normal British camp, you could see glimpses of the fact that actually these kids come from very different backgrounds and have had very different experiences."

While Hazel found it hard to be there for such a short time, she was glad to be supporting the wider work of the church in Lebanon. "The church there do things like [the camps] fairly regularly, and they do also have a centre where a number of those children come for lessons, so they're getting an education, and have activities throughout the week. We were giving them a short-term boost, but still facilitating something that really is long term which was really good.

"I think because of how short it is, it's easy to think 'Oh there's nothing I can really do, I'm only here for a day or two', which is quite hard. That's partly why it was so important for me that we were a part of long-term ongoing work. They would have struggled to do such an intense camp without us so you do feel like it's worthwhile you being there, but it's still hard to leave."

Seeing the church grow

Hazel was also able to see some of the discipleship and training that the church is involved providing for new believers and those who are exploring the Christian faith. "They do a lot of discipleship and training which is amazing. We were really privileged in that they let us go in and shadow some of the training.

"There was one lady who walked in fully clothed in a burka. She was a new believer but her family didn't know that she was coming once a week for Bible training and for discipleship. She was being trained by a Lebanese girl who was also a believer from a Muslim background herself. To see her wanting to come and having a real hunger for God's Word was great.

"Another guy came who was exploring Christianity; he wasn't a Christian at that point but was really keen to learn more. He was watching a video and then discussing it with one of Lebanese guys and asking questions.

"That was just really exciting, to see discipleship and training in action, to see the church growing out there.

"I would definitely encourage people to pray for the work of the church in Lebanon; they face real challenges. Even just using the building for the church has been put under question, and the leader of that church has been threatened and had a lot of hardships, so it would be great to pray for protection and boldness for the church out there."

Stand with refugees in the Middle East

Open Doors is involved in helping a local organisation in Lebanon to provide food packages and other basic supplies to Syrian refugees, as well as Christian literature and education for children. Here are three ways you can stand with refugees in the Middle East:

*name changed

Please pray:

  • For protection and boldness for the church in Lebanon
  • For provision for Syrian refugees, and particularly that child refugees would have access to education
  • For wisdom leaders in the Middle East and globally to know how to support refugees.

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