By Joanne Liang, Director of Restoring Refugees, November 2019.
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” - Matthew 25:35
Whenever I re-enter America after my trips to service refugees in Jordan, I carry back an overwhelming feeling about their plight. Though I also have the rewarding feeling of at least having made a small dent in their desperate lives, it haunts me for days coming back home where everything is plenty and available. It’s difficult to process the contrast between the comforts and distractions of the West with the human tragedy and miserable conditions of refugees in the Middle East, but that is what drives us to appeal for continued help for them. Each time I promise them that we will not forget about them. After making six trips to Jordan, they trust my word. I tell them we will continue to pray for them and will return with more food and help next time. This gives them hope that we care and that we will keep them in our eyes (Arabic expression).
What I have witnessed in Jordan since 2012 is not only a humanitarian crisis, but also a horrible human injustice. Below poverty level existence. Inhumane conditions. Sparse assistance. It’s heartbreaking from the perspective that they previously had careers, education, homes, cars, and savings. And it was completely taken away from them. In some cases, ISIS even took away their I.D. papers. Now they live fighting to keep their dignity.
Even with all the misery and horrible living conditions, upon visiting these families, they always offer hospitality. They are so welcoming and insist on offering drinks, candy, or cookies, and sometimes even a simple meal. They want their story known. They smile. They need somebody to listen. They hope that more will hear their stories through us. They retell the horrific circumstances that drove them from their home. They cry. Their eyes switch from joy to sorrow and back again. The joy stems from their talk about God’s protection. Their sorrow and trauma manifest when they retell the evil actions of ISIS. As we depart, leaving behind food and crayons and coloring books for the children, they smile once more and their eyes burst with hope as they say they will see us again, inshallah (God willing). This is my prayer.