By Sarah Jennings
On a bright Saturday afternoon in December, children from 15 different nations gathered in a small room in Beirut for a Christmas party. “Jingle bells” in Arabic played in the background and the children showed up in their very best – dresses, bows, and bright colors. For many, this will be their only holiday celebration this year, and dressing up showed what a significant occasion this was for them.
“I loved seeing the beautiful array of countries represented there and knowing these are all children of God. That was so powerful to me,” explained Lauren Wallace, MERATH Program Officer, “I love seeing so many kids from different nations show up together, because that’s a picture of heaven. Like when Jesus said, let the kids come to me, he’s talking about these children.”
As the children of migrant domestic workers, these children are often treated as outsiders in public settings, like their schools. Different languages and appearances separate them from the majority population. Yet at this Christmas party, they belong. They might not go to the same schools or live nearby each other, but their mothers all share similar employment and find hope through the ministry of INSAAF.
This Christian nonprofit seeks the well-being of migrant domestic workers laboring in Lebanon by holistically caring for their body, mind, and spirit. Migrant domestic workers have been among the most vulnerable and marginalized in Lebanon for a long time, and they are at risk of every type of abuse, without mentioning the constant racism they suffer from. After the Beirut blast, MERATH began partnering with INSAAF to distribute ready-cooked meals to affected migrant domestic workers.
This support then expanded to winter items, food vouchers, hygiene kits, and repatriation. More recently, the two ministries worked together to fund crucial medical help for women at a local church-based clinic.
This year, LSESD was able to include them in our annual Christmas project for the first time, which began eight years ago with Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Each year, it has expanded to meet emerging needs and new communities, and this year, around 50 churches across Lebanon and Syria will host Christmas meals and share the story of Jesus.
“After the explosion, we did a Christmas event at the explosion site. Wow. All the kids, they had lost all their toys, all their gifts, and this was the first gift they received for that year,” remembered Rosette Mansour, LSESD Senior Partner Relations Officer.
There is one thing that never changes though – presenting the Christmas message! It is the most important part of these happy events. We are not just handing out gifts; we are sharing the story of Jesus as the ultimate gift to the world. Likewise, one of the many reasons that we love serving alongside INSAAF is their commitment to doing everything both in word and deed.
“We read the story of Christmas, and there was translation,” said Rosette. “Usually, the kids are bored when there is reading and then translation. But it was so interesting, and they were so much attracted to it. They were so quiet [while paying attention to the story].”
After Lauren shared the Christmas story, Rosette explained to the children that Jesus was not that much different than them.
He also didn’t have electricity. He didn’t have a lot of money. His parents had to travel a long way before he was born, and then later he became a refugee when they escaped to Egypt. Despite all these hardships, this child would become the savior of the world.
Even the environment itself reminded Rosette of the Christmas story.
“I took pictures from the outside. On one side, you can see the port, the explosion, the destruction. On the other side, there is a huge population, poverty, and houses. But between these two views, I could see the joy inside [the INSAAF building]. I felt it’s somehow like the scene of when Jesus was born, because everything around him was dark. He was only in a manger, yet there was joy,” said Rosette.
This Christmas, will you join us in praying for migrant domestic workers and their families in Lebanon? We ask God for their safety, healthy relationships with employers, and that those in abusive situations can return safely to their passport countries and thrive there. We also ask for prayer for the rest of the Christmas events that are currently happening across Lebanon and Syria. May the partner churches and volunteer teams find strength and joy, and may the events have a long-term impact on the children.
For more stories from migrant domestic workers, you can read these interviews with Sarah, Djajida, and Shati.
Provide Crucial Medical Care
Migrant domestic workers in Lebanon have increased health-related needs. Being in extremely vulnerable situations, they rarely can afford the treatment, exams, or surgeries that they desperately need. MERATH is looking for more support to continue providing crucial medical care to migrant domestic workers in Lebanon.