We arrived in Jordan last night and today went with the Orthodox Initiative, a ministry of the Middle East Council of Churches, to a refugee camp of about 300 persons, just a kilometer or two from the Syrian border. Supported by One Great Hour of Sharing giving, the OI is trying to help people here survive, not just in body, but in spirit.
Refugees aren’t a different class of people. No one starts out and chooses “refugee” as a profession or aspiration. Refugees are doctors and teachers. They are shop clerks and farmers, and students. Most had jobs, and houses, and friends they shopped with, and family they visited on the weekends. The dislocation because of bombings, murder squads, and starvation has taken all of these things away.
The people in this camp have been here about 3 years. Some of them were in another camp for a previous 2 years, the length of time the Syrian crisis has been displacing people. 1.8 million Syrians are living in Jordan, a country that only had 4.5 million people to begin with.
And the Jordanians have worked hard to welcome them. More than half of all the support initiatives are coming from private citizens and groups. This camp was made possible by a group of local farmers who donated land so this large clan of extended families could stay together. They help a little on the farms (they are not allowed to work), and they pay the farmers for some water they use.
Today we joined in distributing health and hygiene supplies for every family. They also got socks for every one of the many children (in fun and bright colors which made them happy!), and the boys and girls got an armload of candy and snacks. Recent projects here are very simple, but so very much appreciated: a tent so the children can have a school. The OI hired one of the refugees who was a law student at university to become their teacher. Colored chairs were donated so there was a place to sit, and garden seeds, so the desert wouldn’t be so bleak.
“Lo the desert shall blossom like a rose…” said the prophet, and here it is so. But it will take more than roses to make deserted hearts flourish again.