Long-lasting friendship helps Carol share God’s good news with Amina in Lebanon
By Tim Allan | Lebanon in Middle East
Stock photo of Syrian children learning in Lebanon. Picture: Russell Watkins/UK Department for International Development. CC licence - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0.
Building true friendship takes a long time, especially in a place where fear, mistrust and a nagging suspicion of others are everyday realities. That is certainly the case in a place like Lebanon, where war and conflict have been ever-present in the tiny country’s short and badly scarred history.
John and Carol*, sent by SIM UK, lived and worked in Lebanon for more than 20 years. For the last 10 of those they ran an education centre for the children of Syrian refugees, who now make up something like 20 per cent of the country’s six million people.
The refugees have fled Syria for many reasons. Some are escaping the war, others fear being called up to the army, others leave for economic reasons. Almost all of them bear the wounds of trauma, either from their past lives or from the reality of trying to scrape a living in a country where they very much feel unloved and unwanted.
It is often the women who bear much of the pain. They marry young, have multiple children and put the wellbeing of their families before their own.
One such woman is Amina*, who arrived in Lebanon about seven years ago to join her husband, who earned a meagre living as a plasterer and construction worker. She has always been diligent about sending her five children to the education centre. She knows how important it is that they learn to read and write.
Very often, the children of refugees have no access to formal education, so the education centre offers real and tangible hope. It was by sending her children there that she got to know Carol. John and Carol’s team made it a point to visit the families of the children they taught at least once every two months. They went to encourage, to help wherever they could and to share Bible verses and audio Bibles.
Very often it was the children who read the verses aloud to their parents, because many of those parents, educated in the Syrian system, were barely literate.
Gradually, over time, Carol built a closer relationship with Amina. She was there for her when she needed a caesarean for the birth of her fifth child; she was there for her when she noticed things were not going so well at home, because her husband was drinking and sometimes violent; she was there for her when she was taken to hospital with bleeding on the brain after her long robe had got caught in a motorbike chain and she had been thrown to the ground; she was there for her when one of her sons fell from a first-floor balcony and was thought be to brain-damaged but, praise God, was not.
After one of these incidents, Amina asked Carol if she could have a Bible but, she emphasised, she wanted the Bible to be given to her in secret. She did not want her husband to know she was reading it. Carol gladly obliged.
Carol was also able to help by offering Amina a lift to the dentist! Few refugees worry about their teeth until they are in so much pain they cannot continue. Even then, there is little affordable dental help.
Amina now has a new set of dentures but the true gospel value lies not in the blessing they have been, but in the conversations Carol was able to have with her during the repeated trips to the dentist for the making and fitting of the false teeth. God works in ways we can barely imagine!
But it was through experiences like that that and a growing friendship which enabled Carol to offer Amina the gift of Biblical trauma healing. Over six sessions, they worked through the counselling, helping Amina process her grief and trauma and take it to Jesus, the great healer and comforter.
Through the long years of their relationship, Carol and Amina have become close and Amina has become more comfortable with speaking of Jesus. She has even told her husband she is reading the Bible and, by the grace of God, he has accepted that.
John and Carol have now left Lebanon and are honest enough to admit that they do not know how Amina’s relationship with Christ will continue from here on. But they are very happy to have played a small part in showing her the true love of Christ, opening up the goodness of the gospel and helping her see where her salvation truly lies.
• That Amina’s desire to learn about Jesus will grow and grow, even though Carol and John have had to leave the country.
• For more gospel workers to be raised up from the global church with a heart for the people of Lebanon and a willingness to serve in a very beautiful country.
• For John, Carol and their family as they transition back to the UK after 20 years abroad; that they will settle in quickly to a new season of ministry and not suffer too much homesickness for the friends and places they have left behind.