The way to do anything is to just do it; the way to get anywhere is to start moving your feet; and the way to change your life, and hopefully the lives of others, is to quit your good, stable job and hop a plane to Beirut to work with Syrian refugees.
At least, that’s my situation.
Starting today, I’m joining up with a humanitarian aid organization’s service program and then heading to Lebanon where I’ll be an emergency response assistant working with Lebanese-Syrian peacebuilding and humanitarian aid programs. Yeah, it’s a mouthful.
But, at the same time, it’s simple.
I’ve wanted to work with refugees for a long time. I studied international relations with a regional focus on the Middle East. I work in journalism and this postition has that built in. I’m able and desirous to go. I like people and languages and stories not my own. I like Jesus, who said we really ought to serve people. And God opened the doors for me to sign on with this organization and to make a clean break with my job.
It’s a good fit. It makes sense.
Plus, there’s a big need. Not that Lebanon or Syrian refugees need me. They don’t. But, surely, something, someone, is necessary.
In five years of barbarous civil war, Syria has seen over 200,000 dead, four million refugees, and another eight million displaced within the country. Lebanon, Syria’s neighbor and recipient of more than a million refugees, is a country in which, presently, a quarter of the people are asylum-seekers. In December, the UN said the region needed 8.4 billion dollars in aid. Nothing near that amount has come in, and the previous six calls for aid—for a total of 6.5 billion dollars—have been met with barely half of the necessary funds.
The situation is dire and things are only getting worse.
Called the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II—let that sink in for a second—this is a war, like any other, that makes hope dwindle. And five years on, the wick of hope that was fueled by peaceful activists and dreamers and regular people doing regular things is dying beneath the fireball of war, whose fuel is corruption and sectarianism and terror and dead bodies drilled through with bullets and the lustful feeling of power at any cost.
I am not going to a warzone. I am going to the house next door, treated in Syria’s conflagration as the westward gutter, collecting blood and people.
It is interesting to me, as I’ve been preparing for this change of horizons, that the beclouding fog of war becomes also a fog of peace. The confusion for warriors gusts confusion upon peacemakers. I don’t know all that I’ll do, because I am yet a padawan among such forces, and because we do not know all that is needed. But we want to know. And when we have a good idea of things and a good design, we will try to do it.
I am earnest for your prayers. And let your prayers, too, be earnest for the refugees, the combatants, the influencers, the clergy, and the despots.
I go now to an older land with a heavier soul and in a colder moment. But it is not far. Remember that little, vital fact when you think of other human beings in other places. In the end, they are never very far.
An earlier version of this was posted at The Calvin Post.