Tearfund’s CEO Nigel Harris has just visited Lebanon, where he met some of the 1.5 million Syrian refugees living there. He wrote a diary of what he saw and heard, including some tragic stories and one remarkable tale of God’s provision.
‘It’s 40°C and I’m standing in the Beqaa valley, 15 minutes by car from the Syrian border. Behind the range of mountains on my right is Syria itself. A vicious war has been raging for more than five years there and at the very least, a quarter of a million people have died.
SCATTERED AWAY FROM HOME
‘Here in Lebanon, the population was four million in 2011 before the war in Syria. Now it’s more than five and a half million, swollen by desperate refugees. That’s the equivalent of the UK taking in 20 million refugees.
‘We’re visiting a tented settlement where our partners are distributing supplies to people in desperate need. Refugees are scattered all over Lebanon, some in tents, others in half-built houses, tiny one-room apartments or disused commercial buildings.
‘I hear so many personal accounts – these are the stories behind the statistics and so many of them are heartbreaking. Khalil and his wife invite us into their home and tell us how they fled their village near Aleppo as the rockets began to fall. In the chaos of gunfire and explosions, their seven-year-old daughter was killed.
‘But there are other stories too and these are ones that offer hope…
‘One night Nadia had a dream in which Jesus appeared. He was holding all her family in his hands saying that he was going to provide for them.’
‘I talk to Pastor Ramy. He’s a remarkable man; he founded his church in 2003 with just seven members. By the time the war started and refugees started coming he had 60 members, ready to offer a helping hand. The church, now around 300 strong reach out with unconditional love, prioritising people in the most extreme need.
NADIA’S STORY – ‘I WILL PROVIDE’
‘Pastor Ramy talks about Nadia from his congregation. Nadia was separated from her husband who was still in Syria. She was struggling to provide for her three children and food was very hard to come by. One night she had a dream in which Jesus appeared. He was holding all her family in his hands saying that he was going to provide for them.
‘The next morning she left her home, carefully checking both door locks on her way out. The house was still locked on her return. However, to her astonishment, the cupboard that had been empty was now full of food.
‘Nadia was deeply moved by this amazing provision and wondered how she was going to explain what had happened to her husband. That night she had the same dream. So, the next day she called her husband. Before she could say anything, her husband told her how he had a dream where Jesus was providing for all their family's needs. Nadia’s husband is now reunited with Nadia and the family. Through all this – one way or another – their needs continue to be met.
‘Every refugee I speak to asks us to pray for peace. If peace comes, they will return home. It’s tempting to think that it’s not worth the effort to pray – nothing could change such a bloody and intractable conflict.
'Then I think of the God who inspires the tireless work of our partners in Lebanon, as they stop and show care to every last person they visit with food. And I think of the God who fills Nadia’s larder – suddenly the effort of a few prayers doesn’t seem so much to ask.’
Nigel Harris is the Chief Executive of Tearfund.
Give to Tearfund's work in the Middle East.