On Syria: Real life, Real people

Each night my daughter is tucked up in bed,  alongside a bunch of cuddly toys, with joy written all over her face.  Her only concern is whether to wear her pink or her purple skirt the next day. That’s her reality. That’s how life should be for a six year-old.

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And then there’s Nizar*.  He’s just a few months younger than my daughter – just a small five year-old boy.

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Nizar found his mother’s dismembered head amidst the rubble in his family home in Syria. A rocket had come through the kitchen whilst she was getting a drink for his father.

Once, maybe, his face too was written with joy. But now it’s marked by grief. And loss. And confusion. That’s his reality

He’s not just a faraway story on the news, only to be flicked over to watch another home renovation programme. He’s not just another statistic. He’s a real child. As a Syrian refugee in Jordan his world has been turned upside down.

  • Civil war in Syria has displaced 6.5 million people within the country and led to around 2.5 million becoming refugees in neighbouring states.
  • More than 100,000 people have been killed, and now every hour, more than 300 people flee their homes in fear.

This boy, this real boy, with real feelings, blames himself for his mother’s death. His world will never be the same again.

This is real life. Not my real life. And probably not your real life.  But this is his real life: painful and scarred and broken.

And he’s not a singular case. These children have lost fathers. And mothers. And siblings.

Families had fled Syria to avoid rockets in homes and tanks on roads. They’ve fled so their children no longer have to see fathers tortured and mothers abused.

Even as I write, it’s hard to grasp that this is the reality for so many lives.

This is Safiyya*:

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Safiyya is 23 and a first-time mum. When she was eight months pregnant, she and her husband decided they had to leave Syria for their safety, and their child’s.

They walked for six hours through the night, coming from Daraa to Jordan with a group of around 90 other Syrians.

Safiyya was training to be a teacher in Syria. Now she’s a supervisor in a kindergarten for Syrian refugee children run by a local charity in partnership with Tearfund. Safiyya worked with Nizar, mentioned earlier. This is her story:

“For 8 months I was at home, I did not leave the house. When we’re at home we think of family, friends we left in Syria. It makes us really sad. The kindergarten is a nice place where children are loved. I feel that they are my children. And the teachers are very sweet. Together we are one, we work together.”

As a volunteer at the kindergarten, Safiyya receives a cash stipend for her help –  it’s her family’s only source of income.

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Ninety children go to the kindergarten; all of them have fled from Syria and many are traumatised by what they have been through. The Syrian women who work there have all been trained to look for and understand the signs of trauma in children. In addition, a qualified psychologist visits once a week to run sessions.

Despite all that’s happened Safiyya’s greatest hope is that they will return to Syria and her son will grow up there. She says:

‘Our lives were in Syria. We love Syria.’

Today marks the 3 year anniversary of the ongoing conflict in Syria.

We may feel powerless to help. We may feel there’s nothing we can do.

But maybe today, we could believe something different. Maybe today we could allow our reality to affect their reality. Maybe today we could believe our prayers make a difference.

Maybe, today we could pray together for this war-torn country and those affected. Maybe we could choose to stand #withsyria

Maybe today we could use our financial reality to give to projects like the kindergarten Saffiya works at.

This is one prayer from a Tearfund partner in Jordan providing preschool education and trauma care for Syrian children:

Bringing light to the dark places

Lord Jesus, you give sight to the blind, you heal the

crippled and you restore the dignity of the disenfranchised.

Give us renewed vision and hope for the future and restore

the dignity of our Syrian brothers and sisters.

We beg for mercy for the many children who have

lost their fathers; for the many men who have been

tortured, beaten and maimed; for the many women

who have suffered from abuse; and for the many

more who continue to live in fear and shame.

Where there is fighting and fear, please bring peace.

Where there is hatred, please bring love and forgiveness.

Where there is death and hopelessness, please bring

the joy of your deliverance.

Lord, you are our only hope, our only Saviour.

Amen.

For more guidance on how to pray for Syria, or to financially contribute to the work of Tearfund in Syria please click on the Tearfund website here.

*Names have been changed at their request. For security and cultural reasons, there are no photos showing Safiyya’s face.

How do introverts thrive, not just survive, oikos living?

Many of us will have heard the term “oikos”. You can read some of our previous posts about what living in oikos means in our oikos series which starts here. In summary, living as oikos means living a life of extended family on mission together. It involves sharing life, resources, time, energy and effort with others. And whilst some are jumping up and down with excitement when they first hear about oikos, there are others who are slowly sinking into their seats whilst the colour gradually drains from their face……..

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Read the rest of this post over on the 3dm UK blog by clicking here

In search of oneness

Often in marriage we are constantly learning what it means to be “one” with our “other half”. I remember in our first year of marriage Rich and I made an agreement that we would phone or text each other before spending any amount over £5. Looking back it seems a litttle excessive but we made the agreement after my trouser addiction came into the light. I was regularly buying a pair of trousers, “storing” them in our room for a while without telling Rich and then pulling them out at a time I wanted to wear them. Clearly if our marriage was to succeed I couldn’t continue stashing trousers away without telling Rich! I needed some accountability, and I needed to realise my vows: “All that I am I give to you, all that I have I share with you.”

“I” was no longer “I”. “We” were “we”. And that meant that “my” money was no longer mine. It was “ours”. So the text/phone agreement gave clear boundaries for both of us to be accountable to the other. The agreement lasted a few months. By that time we had established a foundation and a pattern for our marriage; we no longer needed the firm boundaries because we had established the foundation of trust and accountability.

Ten years on and the need for oneness continues. The challenges are different. Right now our challenge is to remain as “one” in ministry. Our heart is to always reflect God together, as “one”. Although we may do different things, and have different callings we have never wanted to have “Anna’s ministry” or “Rich’s ministry”. Even in the times where Rich is a more “visible” presence than me we have always felt that what he communicates represents both of us. Likewise when I write something, or I disciple someone, it is the fruit of our oneness together in Christ. Maybe one day our roles will look very different but our heart is to continue to be “one”.

Sometimes when Rich travels it can be harder to hold on to this. When he recently returned from a trip to Australia someone sent me an encouraging text which said “Well done, you did it. Frontiers were won because you released him. It’s your ground too.”

To me, that little text summarized oneness:

Your ground is my ground. Your victories are my victories. Your people are my people. Your joy is my joy. Your sorrows are my sorrows. Your life is my life. Your God is my God.

How about you? – what does oneness look like for you?

posted by anna

What it’s like to…… confront fear

I am SO chuffed to introduce the author of this post. Not only is she a great writer, she’s also a woman of incredible character and integrity.  So here it is  – the first guest post in the “What it’s like to …” series, written by Anna Burgess.

What it’s like to confront fear

 

I wasn’t fearful when I first arrived in Peru – Continue reading

What it’s not………..

Have you ever heard someone say “the problem is that he/she/it isn’t…………”

We seem to be hearing it a lot these days. It is the ability to express ‘what it isn’t’. It is easier to express how or why things should be different. Where the lack is. Where expectations or standards are not met. What we are not happy with and how it’s not working for “me”.

It is something Anna & I recognise, and talk about how to not fall into that trap. We don’t always manage it but we are trying.

Sometimes expressing the “what isn’t” can be a positive thing – striving for change, dreaming of a better tomorrow, looking at how people, systems, structures or institutions can change for the better.

The problem is that it can also just be critique.

It is much easier when talking about others, about circumstances, about life, about institutions, about ourselves, to give a list of critique.

There is a way to identify if it is critique or a genuine heart for change. You can tell by asking the question “well what could it be? And how could you help bring about that change?”

If it’s just critique – people can’t tell you. They have a list of where it falls short but not a picture of what it could be.

We’ve seen this with church. People so ready to say what it isn’t but not sure what they want it to be.

We’ve seen it with people’s expectations of relationships, community, even us, so ready to say what is isn’t or where it’s lacking but not able to say what they want it to be and now living towards making it a reality.

So when we’re about to give some feedback, critique, advice – we need to stop and check our heart.

Is it said in love or judgement?

Am I  pulling someone or something down? What would it look like to build them up?

If you can see ‘what it isn’t’ – what could it look like if ‘it was’?

And now could you be the change you desire to see in the world (paraphrase of Gandhi)?

Posted by Rich