First report from Lebanon for Christmas 2016
Refugee children are celebrating Christmas in Lebanon!
By William J. Murray
The character of the Christmas parties for the children varies not only from nation to nation, but from region to region. In Jordan and Iraq, a larger number of children are involved in each event, while in Lebanon there are more parties ranging from 50 to 150 children each. In all, twelve Christmas parties will be held in Lebanon in 2016.
I and/or someone else from the United States representing Christmas for Refugees, will be at several of the Christmas parties . As of December 18th, I have visited Christmas parties only in Lebanon and have today arrived in Amman, Jordan.
Why am I here?
The simple answer is to make sure that the money donated by people from all over the United States is used wisely and with the greatest impact. The Christian organizations and churches that implement programs for us in the Middle East are made up of wonderful, caring people. They sacrifice much and in some cases risk their lives to help refugees, and seek to save not only lives but eternal souls as well.
Each of the organizations and churches involved have unique values and ways of looking at solutions for the same problems. Often, I am able to see a solution in one area to a problem facing a project; then I am able to take this information to other areas as a suggestion. The puppet shows that are now universal in our Christmas parties was the idea of just one church in Lebanon three years ago. The Gospel themed puppet shows help in keeping the attention of the younger children and at the same time keeping their eyes upon the Lord for their hope and salvation.
I have been able to suggest solutions to meal and transportation problems in some cases, only because I have seen solutions elsewhere.
Then, there is the selfish reason why I am in the Middle East during Christmas week: I get to see the smiles on the faces of refugee children and get to hear them laugh.
In the photo above about 100 children were broken down into small groups by age and gender not only for the meal, but for instructional time. The meals of the older children were a little more substantial and so were the words of the counselors. Each of the ten groups had a counselor who is just off camera in this photo. (I try not to show facial photos of adult volunteers.) The children have not opened the meals because a prayer of thanks has not yet been offered. This particular venue does not have chairs, as it was in a rural area where most of the refugee families live in tents. In cities with larger churches the meals are taken at tables.
This year in Lebanon the families did not receive food or vouchers to buy food. Instead, each family received a large bag or box of hygiene materials. Courses in hygiene were also offered by a nurse associated with a Christian service agency in Lebanon. The hygiene kits included:
Lebanon is a very expensive place; the rents in Beirut are as high as San Francisco. Even in rural areas, refugee families are paying up to $300 a month to live in a one room storage locker about the size that many American families use to store junk they will never use again. There are not official refugee camps for Syrian refugees in Lebanon, and refugee families must pay farmers rent to place a tent on their land. This goes by way to explain that the wholesale cost of materials to make the hygiene kits was $30 each.
Watch for my next report at Christmas4Refugees.org as the Christmas for Refugees program continues in Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. My next report will be from Jordan. To help Christmas for Refugees please donate here.