Christmas for Refugees Program Varies to Meet Local Needs
The core of the Christmas for Refugees program is the same in Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, but the local needs in each of those nations are different, as are the customs.
In Lebanon, the Christmas events for the children are held in locations all over the country, as the Christian families are scattered. Because Lebanon is 40% Christian, we are often able to use church buildings and have some church staff to help — although in some areas of high Muslim concentration we do have to use public centers. The events generally are for 100 to 150 children each.
When we began the Christmas program in Jordan six years ago the main need was for food, and we had large packages of food for the children to take home to their families. In some locations in Lebanon, we gave the families vouchers to shop at Christian owned grocery stores.
As the situation changed and more ministries brought in food, we filled the needs for hygiene materials (soaps, disinfectants, etc.) that others were not providing. There is still a great need for the hygiene kits we make up in Jordan and Iraq, but not so much in Lebanon. The need there now is blankets for the children. Most of the Christian refugees live in the mountain areas where it is very cold during the winter, not on the coast next to the warm Mediterranean Sea.
The ministry overseeing our programs in Lebanon has requested that they be allowed to furnish two full size blankets for each child’s family, instead of the hygiene kits.
Just after the request was made I learned of a Christian ministry that had set up a small blanket manufacturing plant to help refugees from Iraq and Syria make a living. They have been contacted and will sell us the blankets at wholesale. This is a double win for the Christian refugees. The children’s families get blankets for the winter — and other Christian refugees get some income from making the blankets!
The Matching Challenge is coming: Generous supporters of the Religious Freedom Coalition are helping to set up a matching gift fund this year so that donations for the 2017 Christmas for Refugees program can be doubled, just as they were last year. As soon as the fund has been set up, I will let everyone know exactly how much is pledged and how they can help the Christmas for Refugees program so that their gift is doubled!
In 2017 the Christmas program will grow – more Christian refugee children will have a warm place, with a good meal and a program of spiritual growth where Christ is the center. Our goal is to restore the hope many have lost, by telling them how Jesus can be with them forever!