From Maher el Hajj, National Director
In March 2011, the Syrian uprising started taking place. As it progressed, Lebanon welcomed refugees who fled the conflict in their country. In April 2011, the first 5,000 refugees crossed the northern Lebanese borders. Since then, the number of Syrian families seeking refuge in Lebanon has been rapidly growing. Youth for Christ is working, alongside local churches and NGO’s, to reach out and support the youth who are caught in this heart breaking situation. In this special report we share some of the activities that are on-going, as well as plans for future ministry.
LEBANON’S TRAUMA COUNSELING RETREATS
The Youth for Christ team helped at two counselling retreats for traumatised Syrian youth. One retreat was geared for Armenian youth from Aleppo who are now residing in Beirut, and took place over the weekend of June 7 & 8, in partnership with the Armenian Evangelical Church. The other retreat was geared for youth who were invited from different churches in Syria, and took place during the last week of July. They needed someone to listen to them, love them, play with them and give them hope – real hope that is only found in Christ. Youth for Christ was present and helped by providing meals and running the fun and recreational time.
LEBANON’S YOUTH FOR CHRIST CAMP FOR SYRIAN REFUGEE YOUTH
The morning rays of sun fell upon a group of Syrian teenagers huddled in a bus. They were not making their way across war-torn lands, nor were they trying to manipulate the treacherous sniper-infested roads on their way to safety. Thankfully, they were in Lebanon and on their way to a 3-day camp!
The first two days started off with fast-paced games and two messages on God’s love and following Jesus. Then on to a time of worship, a delicious break, onto a fun time of wide games in five challenging game posts. The youth then had a chance to settle down after all the exercise and discuss the spiritual lesson they had heard in small groups. They were given the freedom to express any thought or question on their hearts. Staff heard stories of war and death, but also saw glimpses of God’s love beginning to shine upon the minds and lives of these teenagers.
The third day was different, whereby everybody headed to the mountains, just outside of Beirut, to enjoy horseback riding, all terrain vehicles, and Sky Walking. The day again ended with some fun traditional dancing and delicious hamburgers.
Perhaps what touched the team the most was the gratitude and joy that these youth showed. The whole 3-day camp was a breath of fresh air for them. It was encouraging to learn that many of these youth are interested to attend a local Syrian-Kurdish church. Youth for Christ staff look forward to restarting the monthly club with them in September!
As the white bus made its way down the hill on Saturday, it was again filled with Syrian teenagers. However, there was something different about them: they were happier, had experienced love, and were more aware of God’s gracious presence with them in their lives.