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The scene is a school classroom in Lebanon. The question comes from a quizzical young Syrian girl – a refugee recently forced, with her mother and siblings, to flee the vicious cycle of violence in her homeland.
The young girl’s teacher puts a hand on her shoulder and patiently, gently, explains again the task she has given the class. These are not pictures of bombs. Instead they are card cut-out pictures of ornaments that the children are decorating to hang on the classroom’s Christmas tree. Satisfied with the explanation, the little girl nods her head and enthusiastically gets back to work with scissors, paint, and copious amounts of glitter.
There are currently almost 60 refugee children in Kids Alive International’s refugee program, the Oasis. Each child has their own tragic story to tell. Many have suffered the agony of seeing their homes destroyed and family members killed. Some have experienced the terror of being shot at as they crossed the border from Syria to Lebanon. The majority are now living in abject squalor in Beirut, with very little prospect of being able to return to the villages and communities from where they have been so cruelly uprooted.
These children have experienced much pain in their short lives. They have every reason to feel angry, bitter, and hostile. And yet, when I visited the program and interacted with these kids recently, I experienced something very different. There is a very real sense of joy in this place. These kids love coming to school each day to learn. They appreciate the love and care that they receive from their teachers. They listen to Bible stories with rapt attention, and sing worship songs with gusto. And the sounds of joking and laughter are never far away.
The teachers pour their lives into these kids. Grace, the Oasis director, exudes a quiet authority while offering compassionate care to these vulnerable young lives. “When these kids first come to us, they know only pain,” she tells me. “You can see it in their eyes. But, as we love them, discipline them, teach them, that pain is replaced with a very real sense of peace – and hope.” God is at work in this place.
I discussed with Grace and Joseph, our Lebanese Field Director, their dreams for the Oasis. Every day they see so many other children from the local community in desperate need, unable to attend school, some of them forced into begging on the streets as a result. We have the space to help more children. The staff are willing and passionate about seeing lives changed. The challenge is simply the level of funding needed to expand our services and provide basic necessities for children who need us.
Please pray with us for the kids that we care for now, that God would accomplish extraordinary things in their lives – and pray also that we would be able to secure the financial resources that are needed to develop and grow this vital, transformative, ministry in the months ahead.