Beer and nuts. Not the snack I expected from a missionary. We arrived in Jordan a day early and the missionary invited us over to his house to meet his family.
We started off with coffee and baklava. I love the opportunity to sit down with people one on one and hear their stories. This family is so warm and inviting, answering all of my questions and sharing their experiences.
More family showed up to join in the festivities and more food was brought out: bowls of nuts and ashtrays, which I discovered were to put the shells from the seeds in. They asked me if I wanted a drink and the description was that it was like non-alcoholic beer. In my western mind, the thing I compared this to and thought they were trying to explain was root beer. So I told them that was fine.
They brought it out and I found that it was literally a non-alcoholic malt beverage that looked and smelled exactly like beer. They obviously were being completely literal in their translation.
Visiting is a little bit of a vague term to me. Visit has always been synonymous to talk in my life. Like when my aunt would call my mom and they’d talk, that was referred to as “visiting”, just talking and catching up on life. Going for a visit meant going to someone’s house and doing that very same thing.
So when the missionary asked if I wanted to go on home visits, I didn’t really know exactly what that would entail. As I loaded in the van with a couple of the leaders from our group, I learned that we would be going to the homes of Syrian refugees that are currently living here in Jordan.
I’ve been hearing about Syrian refugees for months now on the news. About them escaping Syria, about countries deciding whether or not they’ll allow the Syrians to seek refuge within their borders, about government and politics and war. But, to be honest, I mostly ignored it. I didn’t really understand what was going on and I never took the time to learn about it. There was never any relevance for me. But, that has changed.
Syrian refugees aren’t a news headline, they aren’t politics. They’re people. People who have been displaced by violence. People who have had to leave their home, leave everything they own and move to a foreign land where they are given no rights and barely enough help to survive.
So, I want to share their stories.
This family fled Syria a year and a half ago. The husband and wife had a fruit and vegetable stand there, where they sold produce. They came to Jordan in a Jordanian army bus, which helped them flee from the fighting going on. They came with only the clothes on their backs, leaving everything and everyone behind.
Her children are fortunately able to enroll in school here (only 25% of Syrian children are allowed into the Jordanian public school system). She and her husband, however, are not able to get jobs. They survive on 10 dinar per person per month. This is given similarly as food rations and is the equivalent of about $14. Their pricing is not too much different than ours in the U.S. so you can imagine how difficult it is for this family to survive.
Their temporary home is here in this one room apartment. They sleep on mats on the floor. In Syria, they had a home. Now, they have this.
They have applied for asylum through the UN. They’re hoping to be able to move, but the list of asylum seekers is long. People have been waiting since 2012 and still are stuck, with no way to support themselves.
They were a happy group despite their situation. They were excited to have us visit and wanted to take pictures with us.
This mother didn’t ask us for help, she didn’t want anything, she only asked that we listen. She needed to tell her story, to share her burdens. These are the stories that need to be told. This is what people need to hear.