Jesus was full of compassion during his time on earth. His compassion always led to action. When Jesus saw that the widow’s son had died, “he felt compassion for her” and then healed him (Luke 7 13). In Mark 6: 34, “Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.” And Jesus’ response when crowds followed him to a remote area was that “he had compassion on them and healed the sick” (Matthew 14: 14).
The compassion of Christ for the people of the Middle East then inspires LSESD’s relief and community development programs now. Our first emergency relief response was to show Christ’s love in action to those displaced by the 2006 war. Since 2011, most of our resources have been focused on responding compassionately to thousands of Syrian refugees that are in our communities today, displaced by the horrific conflict in Syria and left poor and disadvantaged. Their needs, be they financial, educational, medical, emotional or spiritual, are huge and we feel compelled to do something to ease the plight they face.
We currently have over 20 relief projects running across Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. These cover the following areas:
- Food aid – we are providing food assistance every month to thousands of families combined in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.
- Health – we have so far funded treatment at a Lebanese clinic for over 4,000 patients, who would not have been able to afford it. We have also distributed hundreds of hygiene kits in Lebanon and Iraq, as well as milk and diapers to families with small children.
- Winterization – every year we supply families with blankets and mattresses to get them through often harsh winters in the basic accommodation most live in.
- Education – we support local churches in their efforts to help Syrian children with education, including formal and non-formal efforts. We support multiple partners in education at various levels. Most of the children being helped would not otherwise be able to go to school and by continuing their learning we are giving them hope for a better future.
- Trauma support – we are providing child friendly spaces in Lebanon and Syria for those affected by what they have seen in the war, to help them to start to heal from their experiences. Some families are receiving monthly social or psychological support and we are training churches to better respond to cases of gender based violence.
- Water – 200 families in Syria have benefitted from a borewell and more wells are being dug in Syria despite difficult and dangerous circumstances.
The pressures on refugees are significantly increasing as international aid is cut from bodies like the World Food Programme. In Lebanon, 89 per cent of Syrian refugee families are food insecure in 2015, an increase of 22 per cent from 2014. Although we try not to make those we help dependent on aid, many find they are increasingly reliant as it is illegal for them to work. Their savings are either seriously depleted or they are heavily in debt. Without the support of LSESD, many of the 8,000 families we are helping would be forced into drastic action to survive by reducing the number of meals they have each day, taking their kids out of school so they can work, or putting their health at risk by not spending enough money on hygiene.
The context in which LSESD works is hugely challenging with the situation on the ground changing day by day. We distribute all of our relief through local church partners and faith based organisations who regularly advise us as changes develop. We are giving them training so they can administer relief and assist as many as possible in a co-ordinated, accountable and helpful way.
We work not only with local partners but with international ones as well. The support they provide is vital for our work and is also a huge encouragement to local churches who are serving their needy communities. By working together, LSESD, the local and global Church can show Christ’s compassion for the Middle East one life at a time, and bring hope where hope has almost been lost. Please support us through your prayers and by giving to this life saving work.
The winter of 2014 was a bitterly cold one for those displaced in Syria. Through the ‘For a Warmer Winter’ project LSESD partnered with Syrian churches to provide winterization items like blankets and heating stoves to those most in need. One woman described the impact of the relief effort on her family, her voice shaking with emotion as she observed the happiness of her children as they watched a heating stove being installed in their 3 x 4 meter one-room shelter. “This gives both warmth and hope for our children, who are deprived of living their childhoods in normal conditions,” she said.
When bombs kept falling near her home in the centre of Homs, 12 year old Shams* and her family fled the Syrian city, eventually coming to Lebanon. Shams was fearful and psychologically drained by what she had experienced, and lost a year of education because of the war. But then her mother heard about True Vine, a church based school in the Bekaa Valley that is supported by LSESD. Shams got a place, along with her brother, and it has transformed her behaviour and attitude. She is so much happier learning with other children and feels released from the oppression of her situation. Life feels more normal going to school and she is doing well.
Chris Hall | November 2015