When Aleppo Comes to Your Front Door

I am really good at avoiding the news. For various reasons; I’m forgetful and distracted and doing good to keep up with what’s going on in my own house.  But also, because the news is really depressing.

Social media makes it a little harder to avoid the news.  At some point, someone decided that Facebook was not good enough with people swapping funny quips on each others’ “walls,” so they had the great idea to start posting news articles on Facebook.  That is a huge part of the reason that I have tried to spend minimal time on Facebook for the past year or so.  (I would quit Facebook altogether, but it seems that every group and organization north of the Fall Line uses Facebook as the primary means of communication.  I guess that’s another rant for another blog post.)

(But, really, would a group e-mail be that difficult?)

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So now it’s time to make this confession: Even though I knew that something terrible was going on in Syria, I ignored it for a long time.  If I saw an article and it mentioned Syria, I wouldn’t read it.  I had a vague idea that something awful was happening, and honestly, I didn’t want to be held accountable to any more information than that.

I was turning my back on Syria, not because I don’t care about Syrians, but because I didn’t know if I could handle learning about the pain and suffering that is going on there.  And even if I knew, what could I do about it??

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My dam of ignorance and apathy finally broke down when I read this blog post by Ann Voskamp.  Not only did I finally let my heart break for Syria, but I also started clicking links.  I started reading about refugees, about their needs, about the process that they go through.  I found out that even if I can’t actually go to Syria and help there, there ARE things I can do for refugees here.

I contacted the World Relief office here in Atlanta.  World Relief helps refugees get established in the States.  A very patient volunteer coordinator has been answering my questions for a few weeks now.  Every year at Christmas, our family does a service as our birthday present for Jesus.  This year, we put together some Welcome Kits, and I have been trying to figure out with the volunteer coordinator when a good time to get the Welcome Kits to her would be since their office was closed for the holidays.

Long story short, there ended up being a need for a refugee family who is living in a hotel.  Their apartment was supposed to be ready for them today, but they will not be able to move into it until Tuesday.  Would it be possible for us to take them to the market so they could have food until then?

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So today we met our first refugee family.  Before we met them, the only thing I knew was that they spoke Arabic; I did not know what country they were from.  I am so blessed to have a friend back in Tallahassee who is actually studying Arabic and has a number of acquaintances from the Middle East.  She was kind enough to call me and talk a little bit about what I might expect and taught me how to say, “Hello, my name is Kara.”  (I’m sure she would have taught me more, but that’s about all this brain could handle!)

I packed up the best “hotel entertainment” I could come up with; games, coloring pages, puzzles.  And we headed into the big city.

We arrived at the little hotel and met this sweet, welcoming family, who smiled at us even though I know they had no idea what we were saying.  We had to rely on Google Translate and pray that it was translating us correctly.  We found out that they were from Syria and they had been in the states four days.  But I had to keep in mind that Syria does not necessarily mean Aleppo.

Within minutes, Egan had made himself at home between two of their boys playing on their phone, and we were being served almonds and dates by the family we were supposed to help feed.

We took the parents to two markets so that they could find the things that they needed.  I wondered how terrible it was for them to not understand what we were saying while in the car with us.  The children were asking questions about their country, and I was reminding them that Syria was next to Israel; that the Damascus we read about in the Bible is actually located in modern day Syria.  I wondered if they were catching the names of those familiar places, but didn’t know why we were talking about them.  That has to be a terrible feeling.

During one of our car rides, I finally was able to use my phone to ask the mother a question.  (Technology comes more slowly to me.)  I asked her what part of Syria they were from.

Aleppo.

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Now listen.  I first read that blog post and really thought about Aleppo for the first time on December 14th.  At the time, Aleppo’s situation seemed heartbreaking, but it was a whole world away and there did not seem like there would be anything I could possibly do to help.  I met my first refugee family from Aleppo on January 14th.  Do you see what I see?  In exactly one month, a part of the world that I thought I could never help reach practically arrived at the front door.

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Now please don’t misunderstand me.  I’m not saying that we did that family much good today.  They bought some salt and cheese with their own money, and for all we know, Google Translate could have terribly botched everything that we said so that they are more confused now about Americans than ever.  The point of this blog post is to not toot our own horn in any way.

So what’s the point?  If you’ve read this blog very long, you know there’s a bullet point list coming!

  • We can help.  I’ve already provided linkies to World Relief above, and I’m sure there are some other great organizations to get involved with.
  • Ignoring the heartbreak in the news may not always be healthy.  This is something I still need to work on.
  • When God burdens your heart, pay attention.  Remember my confession last year?  When I revealed I had allowed the busy-ness of my life to take precedence over a call God had placed on my heart when I was fifteen?  So I’m still learning this lesson.

Oh, and what’s up with the apple pictures?  This sweet family put fruit before us before we left them.  Although we hated to take it from them, we knew that receiving hospitality was important to them.  This was my apple.  (Which I later gave to Arrow, so it did not go to waste.)  I didn’t have any photos from today, so my apple pictures are to help me remember.

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