After reading the title, you probably think that this is going to be about how “the love of money is the root of all evil” and poor people are the truly rich ones, but it isn’t. Because you’ve already heard that plenty of times. Even though I could talk about how the poor people you know aren’t nearly as poor as the refugees here in Jordan, I won’t because there’s no sense in comparing levels of poorness by amounts of physical possessions. What I do hope to show you, though, is what hope looks like.
Levels of this word “hope” is used oftentimes when discussing worldly situations. If someone drops out of high school, we would say there is not much hope for them. If someone graduates college as an engineer with a perfect GPA, we would say he or she has much to be hopeful for. Since this is the scale by which we define the hope for a person, we would look at a Syrian refugee family and lament how little hope they have and how crushing that feeling must be. Heck, I thought exactly that. That thought, however, lasted for all of about 30 seconds of walking up to the door of the first refugee family I visited on Monday .
This week, our team has been working in the city of Mafrak, a city about an hour and a half north of Amman. In simpler times, Mafrak was your typical Jordanian town with about 85,000 residents. Today, those 85,000 residents are joined by 850,000+ displaced Syrians, as well as 20,000 more in a camp just outside the city. Let me frame that for you: this means that there are most likely as many Syrian refugees in Mafrak as there are people in the city of Detroit. Yeah, I was overwhelmed, too. However, the task became much more focused and addressable when we learned that the task of building relationships, the hardest part of long-term ministry, over the course of several years has already been done by the permanent missions folks we’re working with. All we had to do was join these long-term people on their typical route of delivering bags of food to families around the city. In fact, some members of the families, if not entire families, had already been baptized as believers, meaning our job was simply to listen, encourage, and disciple.
So as I approached the first house Monday morning, I was expecting to see a worn-down family lacking many necessities and not knowing when, or even IF, there was a way out. And that was exactly what my group walked into. One day, this family of a mother, son, grandmother, and uncle went about their daily duties in their Syrian village. The next day, bombs rained from the sky and angry men invaded homes. The family watched friends and family fall down around them dead as they sprinted towards the mountains, leaving behind every possession and security they ever knew. Fatally wounded friends reached out for help on the roadside, but there was literally nothing that they could offer. Weeks later they found themselves in a new land in which the people looked down on them and they were refused access to medical care, education, and employment. The uncle had lost both his legs in the bombings, grandmother had a severe case of cataracts and PTSD, the son was traumatized and rejected by the native Jordanian children, and the mother did not know where her husband was or if he was even alive.
Yet, even after all of this, they had hope and joy; from the moment I sat on the floor in their guest room, I could see it. They were, “afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Cor. 4:8-9). This family had recently accepted Christ and been baptized, but the same demeanor was seen even in those who were Muslims. There are no schools, jobs, or daily events & activities for them to participate in for the purpose of stimulating their everyday lives. Each Syrian family longs for peace and returning to their villages, but as they sit in their makeshift homes consisting of two or three rooms for typically large families, they have each other, and that is enough.
I can’t wonder if we would respond the same way back in the States. I always associate the word “hope” with an expectation of future events because in the United States, life is all about pursuing external comfort through things like early retirement, gated communities, and sustained life, yet internally, it kills the soul. If out of nowhere, my hope of future jobs and the purpose of my college degree were ripped away, would I still bee able to “give a reason for the hope that is within me” (2 Peter 3:15)? I hope that I would. Then perhaps I could be as wealthy as a Syrian refugee.
Thanks for reading and praying.