Tears bring Stella, a Tearfund worker, and Shams, a refugee, together in a profound way. And then something very precious happens as Stella explains...
‘On Wednesday I was hosting a visiting group of Tearfund supporters. We visited a family whose 12-year-old son was killed at a checkpoint in Homs.
‘I sat with the mum outside her tent. Her name is Shams, which means ‘sun’. I tried to make small talk with my broken Arabic, but we didn't get very far. There was a bad smell. Her husband gestured at their five year old daughter, who got a lighter and lit the cigarette in her dad's mouth.
‘It was the end of a long day of visits and at that point I felt a strong urge to make my excuses and leave, because their situation was just too depressing and I was tired.
ANOTHER WAY OF SEEING
‘But then a little reminder dropped into my mind: that when we meet the most downtrodden, dirty and unattractive people, we are meeting Jesus – it is our privilege and honour to be in their presence and to serve them. So I decided to stay a bit longer, trying to see this family as precious and significant.
‘Shams started talking to me intently. At that moment, my colleague Joseph wandered up and started translating.
‘'She says she smiles and laughs but she is always pretending. She can't feel happiness anymore because she misses her son so much. She thinks about him all the time.'
‘I didn’t know what to do but take her hand. 'She says the police just came through the camp and told them they have 24 hours to dismantle their tent and leave. She doesn't know what they are going to do.'
‘Then I did something I'm not supposed to do. I cried. Joseph translated, 'she says she's sorry for upsetting you.' I was annoyed with myself; I was the one who was supposed to be strong here.
‘Shams took my face in her hands and started wiping my eyes. It was maybe the most beautiful thing I've ever experienced.'
BEAUTY IN TEARS
‘Shams took my face in her hands and started wiping my eyes roughly but lovingly, talking softly all the time. Her hands were coarse and blackened with dirt. It was maybe the most beautiful thing I've ever experienced.
‘Funnily enough I'd been annoyed the night before, because I'd left my makeup in Beirut. The team I was hosting were filming and I didn’t want to be seen on camera without it – yes I’m that vain.
‘Now, I realised why it had happened; if I had been wearing makeup I would have instinctively pulled away. Because I had a bare face I didn't care. All I felt was blessed, because she was giving love to me in the best way she could. As she wiped my eyes she kept saying, 'these tears are precious.'
A PRECIOUS MOMENT
‘Then something else happened that I really didn't expect. She said, 'now pray to your God for me.' I struggled to speak, overwhelmed by a sense of God's presence. Joseph translated whatever it was that I managed to pray. Before I could say amen, she interrupted saying 'I love you so much!'
‘We took pictures of each other on our phones before saying our goodbyes and returning to our vastly different lives. I know that for that short time God joined us together to share something precious.
‘I can only describe it as a sacred moment, and my heart is still breaking over it. All I can do is pray for them and believe that, somehow, God’s love is bigger than the horrible evil of the war here.’