As soon as they saw our little convoy of vehicles turn up the dirt road to the refugee camp, they emerged from the dilapidated tents and abandoned, boarded-up apartment buildings they now called home and ran right for us. Dressed in dirty hand-me-downs, they smiled and giggled and kibitzed with one another as they looked us over with bright, curious eyes, full of life.
Good to see kids are still kids – even here – I thought.
This is a guest post from Steve Hertzog, past President of Vanguard College and new Regional Director for Eurasia with the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. Steve and his wife Patti are a part of the North Pointe family and financially supported through Missions giving. They recently returned from volunteering at an overseas refugee camp.
A Bag Of Food For A Family For A Week
As the flock of children ran behind our cars, announcing our arrival to the rest of the camp, the adults came out too. Knowing the drill, they lined up in single file, each clutching a number given them by the aid worker the day before. One number per family, one 35 kg bag of non-perishable food (rice, beans, lentils, etc.) per number, once a week, distributed faithfully by our Global Workers 52 times a year.
This week Patti & I had the privilege of distributing the aid with them.
Once we got out of the vehicle the kids immediately spotted the candy that Patti had brought for them. Mobbing her before she could figure out a more orderly method of distribution, she threw them up in the air and ran to a side lest she be crushed by the excited wave of youth bearing down on her.
I hopped on the back of the truck and started lifting bags of food to the aid worker, who gave each to a mom or dad in exchange for a number, checking each number off on a paper list as she did.
We brought 200 such bags, based on last week’s experience. But this week it is soon clear we have over 30 extras.
The place is in constant flux, and many have left this “unofficial” refugee camp this week. Some have gone to other parts of the nation in search of work.
Others have joined the over two million refugees in “official” camps, hoping to be one of only a few thousand selected for resettlement in distant North America.
Others have attempted to cross the Mediterranean & seek asylum in Europe, making the trek through the Balkans to the new Promised Land of Germany. Some will make it.
Life Goes On
Realizing that there are extras, some families bring their food to their tents and then return to the line, pretending that they never received their allotment and they just forgot their number. But the aid worker, having done this many times before and knowing them all by face, dismisses them immediately.
As we prepare to leave for the next camp, some women ask if we have any carrots. A couple is getting married in the camp in a few hours, and they want to make a special soup. We cannot help with the request, but still it is comforting to know that life goes on… people are still marrying and having children (200,000 babies were born in these camps in the last two years)… even here.
Iraqis and Kurds
I ride shotgun on the back of the truck to the next two camps, a km or two away, where we repeat the process. But these camps are smaller and the people… mostly Iraqis and Kurds displaced by civil wars and ISIS… are friendlier.
The adults smile more and one elder in the third camp invites us into his tent (while full of holes, the tent is remarkably well organized on the inside, with specific places for shoes, clothing, utensils, a carpet to cover the earthen floor, and even a TV and satellite dish… though I wonder what will happen when the winter rains come soon).
Some of the kids there even hug us as we leave.
Of course most of the residents of these camps are the “luckier” ones who’ve been able to find jobs labouring in the fields for local farmers at starvation wages. With no legal status in in the country and so no wage or working condition legislation to protect them, they are driven harshly at their jobs. But at least they have jobs. Most do not and so must live entirely on the handouts we give them. No wonder these seem to have more hope.
A Sea Of Suffering
As we drive away, waving, I am torn. Part of me feels good to have had even a small part in helping these people whom Jesus loves… even if they do not know Him. Another part cannot help but wonder. There are up to 3 million refugees in this country. Maybe 250 families max received barely enough food today to help them survive till next week. Barely a drop in the bucket of need… or more accurately in a sea of suffering.
What good did we do, really?
Then I remembered the words of the Lord about the lady criticized for pouring an expensive jar of perfume on His feet: “She did what she could… she has done a beautiful thing…” (Mk.14:8).
We did what we could that day. In the future we will do what we can to assist the Global Workers who are heroically trying to help even more refugees.
We hope it is a “beautiful thing” in God’s eyes and we will leave the long term results to Him.
APPLICATION: Please leave a comment for Steve and Patti.
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