Said the king to the people everywhere,
Listen to what I say
Pray for peace, people everywhere!
Listen to what I say
The Child, the Child, sleeping in the night
He will bring us goodness and light
(From “Do You Hear What I Hear”)
What I’m longing for most this Christmas is just that: goodness and light. In the midst of the darkness—the violence, hatred, and fear—that seems to have a stranglehold on parts of our world, my heart is crying out for goodness and light. When news of more darkness, more conflict or racism surfaces, I find myself praying for light—for responses of peace, courage, and love.
And this Christmas we again have the opportunity to be the light for Syrian and Iraqi refugees. To be the light for people surrounded by darkness. The refugee crisis created by Syria’s civil war and ISIS is the worst humanitarian crisis of our time. Nearly 10 million Syrians and Iraqis have been displaced within their countries, and more than 4 million have sought refuge in other countries. Many have experienced unspeakable violence. Families are struggling to survive in their home countries or to make a new home in neighboring countries like Jordan and Lebanon. Some are risking their lives attempting to travel to Europe or beyond; if they survive the journey, sometimes they are welcomed, and other times they are met with hostility.
I recently traveled to Iraq and met refugee families who have experienced such darkness. When I think of them now, I can’t help but believe in the incredible goodness and light we could bring—all of us together. You and I can partner with some amazing people, true heroes on the ground in the Middle East, working each day to usher light into the darkness. I know some of these people. I’m humbled by their commitment to love courageously in the face of fear and violence. As they give a food pack to a hungry family, start a school that provides a safe, fun place for refugee children to learn, help a displaced mother start a business so she can care for her kids, visit a refugee family, sharing a cup of tea and listening to their story, they are shining light into the darkness. And we can join them.
Let’s show up. Let’s not miss this opportunity to be the people praying for peace, and to be the people sharing the goodness and light of Christmas with those who need it most. Please read about the organizations I’ve highlighted below. Learn about what they’re doing, who they’re serving, and consider how you can join them.
Ministries Serving Syrian and Iraqi Refugees
We Welcome Refugees
Some of the best information on how to engage with the Middle East refugee crisis, both locally and globally, is found at WeWelcomeRefugees.com. This is a developing movement, empowering the global church to be a key agent of hope and compassion in this crisis. Believing “now is the church’s moment,” We Welcome Refugees provides tangible ways for individuals and churches to support refugees and partner with churches on the frontline of this humanitarian crisis. Their website features educational resources, practical ways to engage, and giving opportunities via several key organizations, including the following:
• Preemptive Love, serving Iraqis fleeing ISIS, uniquely positioned to reach those who would otherwise be without help
• Questscope, providing critical and educational assistance for thousands of refugees and internally displaced people
• World Relief, working locally and globally with churches to provide urgent assistance for refugees
• World Vision, providing vital resources for Syrian refugee families
Following is information on a Jordanian church and several NGOs serving refugees who have fled to Jordan and Lebanon, and those who remain in Syria.
A Jordanian Church (name undisclosed for security reasons)
This amazing church in Jordan is serving the most vulnerable of refugees: those living in the urban shadows. Offering food, medical care, rent subsidies and school fees, volunteers from this church personally visit refugee families to assess their needs. For security reasons the church doesn’t have a website, but you can donate to the church by writing a check to A2 Ministries. (A2 Ministries is the Hybels family nonprofit. You’ll receive a tax receipt from A2, and A2 will send 100% of your donation directly to the church in Jordan.)
US check donations:
*Please note “Syrian refugees” on the check
A2 Ministries c/o Lynne Hybels
67 E Algonquin Road
South Barrington, IL 60010
Manara Ministries | Jordanian NGO
Manara Ministries has been serving Iraqi refugees for years, and now also serves Syrian refugees. Manara staff was in Iraq when the recent ISIS fighting broke out, so they are very connected with the current Iraqi situation as well. They are in great need of funding as the influx of refugees from both these countries continues.
In addition to serving refugees, Manara has one the best Christian/secular bookstores in the Middle East, and hosts a summer Christian camp for kids that has been a training center for many evangelical leaders in the Middle East. The ministry is well known and highly respected. Much of their work is done through partnerships with local churches. Donate here.
Vision Hope International | US NGO
Because of the extreme trauma of Syrian kids and because they’re missing out on education, Vision Hope has started schools that provide art therapy and other activities focused on trauma recovery and remedial education. The schools also employ and pay a stipend to Syrian women as teachers and assistants, which absolutely transforms their lives. Schools are located in Mafraq and Karak, with a third starting in Menchia, where there is no church.
Vision Hope staff have started knitting groups, safe places where women knit together and feel comfortable talking with one another. The ministry then buys the scarves and hats the women knit (thereby providing income), and distributes the items to refugee families.
Many of the Christians working with this organization have lived and worked in the Middle East for a long time. They love Arab culture and feel compelled to live in a respectful way with Muslims, living out the way of Jesus through careful words and loving actions. Their work with refugee women and children is smart, creative, and effective.
Mission One’s Middle East Team | US NGO
Committed to offering the blessings of Christ in word and deed, Mission One provides winterization supplies, diapers (a huge need for refugees), and basic food items, as well as the story of Jesus through resources and personal sharing. Because of an extensive relational network, donations to this ministry reach the least accessible and most vulnerable displaced people.
LSESD, Lebanese Society for Educational & Social Development | Lebanese NGO
This well-known NGO is connected with a variety of ministries from Christian publishing to education, and the director is an expert in the field. This particular facet of the ministry is devoted to child development issues and is extremely well positioned to serve Syrian refugee children. LSESD works closely with local churches.
She Is Safe (formerly known as Sisters In Service) | US NGO
In any conflict situation, women are always vulnerable. She is Safe works in Syria, partnering with local groups to rescue girls who have been trafficked among displaced populations. The ministry provides immediate emergency needs like food and housing, as well as job training.
For additional information on the Middle East refugee crisis and how you can help, see my post from December 2014, Let’s Be the Light for Syrian and Iraqi Refugees.