I look around at the families and the situations that many of the POCs (People of Concern-a term used for refugees and asylum seekers), and I see hearts that are longing for a sense of community and belonging. As human beings, this is something that we all crave (often subconsciously); Because this is how God has wired us, as His children. We are not meant to do life alone. For many of the POCs, their sense of belonging and of community is currently in shambles. I believe that originally the purpose of this trip was to provide an educational camp for these children and assess the educational needs, laying the groundwork for future programs. And while this purpose has not entirely changed, I believe that God has had some other things in mind for this trip, as well.
Before I arrived, the group that was already here had a birthday party for all of the refugee children living in the building next to us (our neighborhood kids). These families had not had the opportunity to celebrate in community like they used too. They are now living in an area with others around them that could become a community; but they are living in devastation and trauma due to their past and current circumstances. One of mothers shared that us being here has reminded them to laugh and smile, it has reminded them how to play; We have helped them to forget their troubles and pain for a few minutes. My heart was truly touched, but also hurting when I heard this. The pain in their lives has currently made it impossible for them to work on building community (what is typically normal), but God has given us this opportunity to create times for them to do that. He is using us as the vehicle to create that.
Hebrews 10:24-25 “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another-all the more as you see the day approaching”
Honestly, it is so hard for me to express my emotions and what is happening in my heart right now, so I am starting with the facts and hope that you can hear my heart behind it. I can already share with you that I know my heart will ache to leave these families and children behind. Almost every day we have had the opportunity to share a park program with them and get to know them better. At first, some of our team was struggling with not being able to do more educational activities, but as I toddler and pre-school teacher I am seeing so much value in what we are doing. Play and group activities can be so educational because we need to learn how to play, how to work with others, and how to relate in community as a foundation for further education.
Each day we pick up some of the kids and their families and head to the park. Some families meet us there or come later. The second time that we did the park program, one family was already there…Early! Which is not typical in this culture. They ran up to us and the little girl clapped her hands and said “My friends, My friends! My friends are here!” It was enough to bring tears to my eyes. We play with jump ropes, balls, frisbees, and sometimes bubbles. It almost feels like a family get together or a block party as mothers, fathers, and even grandparents join us. Each day I am greeted with hugs and kisses and sincere thank yous from the mouths and eyes of the mothers and grandmothers.
We have done different art projects like tracing our hands, making superhero masks, and paperplate fish. The kids also have loved singing songs with us. One things the kids have really enjoyed are our STEM projects that we’ve done like making balloon rockets, lighting up a lightbulb with lemons, and teaching them how to make play dough. Their eyes and their faces light up as we work on these projects; but not only the children’s eyes-also the parents. I’m pretty sure we made one of the dad’s entire days when he saw us working on th lemons; in his previous home he was actually an engineer and he was soo excited when he saw what we were doing with the kids.
Each day we end with a snack and a story. Even the parents gather around to watch the story. Despite the fact that there is quite a large language barrier, the stories still catch their interest. I had the privilege to share the stories in our team each day. It has been SOO amazing to get to use my godly play storytelling experience (the same cirriculum our church happens to use back home!) to share with them the story of Abraham, the exodus, the ten best ways, and the parable of the great pearl.
Our time at HOME looks much different, but is still a time of building community and giving families from Camp Moria the opportunity to rest and relax before returning home to the chaos of Moria. At HOME we sit outdoors under a porch at tables and set up centers. We typically had playdough, plasticity, coloring books, paper, legos, jump ropes, and sometimes did group singing or taught a game or two. Our original purpose was to be there for the children, but it turns out that adults need to play too 😉 Each day looked different as we had different groups and different amounts of adults and children. Sometimes we would be teaching English, numbers, letters, and colors, other times we would just be coloring with them, and other times we would be listening to stories.
As many of you know, play can be so therapeutic; especially when working with different art mediums. I found our time at HOME to be a time where people came to rest and to process. Some drawings and colorings didn’t nessarily seem to have deep meaning, yet that isn’t to say they didn’t. I sat across from a 3 year old girl who spent a good 20-30 minutes drawing a picture full of little lines and dots in specific color and places on her paper. I watched her pause multiple times and look upwards to contemplate and then go back to drawing. I have no idea what her picture actually was of; and it hit me hard that maybe no one ever would-but she had drawn it very purposely and with thoughts and emotions behind it. Other drawings and colorings had very raw and open emotions behind them…there were moments that I had to walk away briefly because tears were pouring onto my cheeks. When they say a picture is worth a thousand words, I think they typically mean a photograph. But in this case their drawings were worth a thousand, if not a million.
This blog has ended up being so much longer than I meant it to be….I know that reading about what is happening here is not the same as experiencing it; I am honestly very impressed if you made it to the end of this blog. But thank you for sticking it out. Maybe this blog was more written for me to process than anything, but maybe if you are still reading this I hope that you at least have a small glimpse into my heart for what is happening here, for God’s heart for these wonderful people, and for the amazing (even if they seem small) works that God is doing here. God really has called us into community and I am so humbled that I has allowed me to be a part of helping to cultivate community and healing in the hearts of the people that we are encountering.
Galatians 6:2 “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ”