In early December a group from Crossroads went on a short term mission trip to Amman, Jordan. Jordan is located in the Middle East surrounded by Israel, Syria, and Iraq - right in the middle of a hot mess of wars. Jordan is one of the only countries in the area that does not have war or instability, an example of peace to the rest of the middle east. Jordan is home to both Christians and Muslims. Although the country is run by Muslims, Christians are mostly free to worship as they please.
Because of it’s location, Jordan has found itself to be a place of refuge to people fleeing the chaos of their own country. More than 2 million displaced people are currently living in Jordan, most of them from Syria and Iraq. Jordan has welcomed these people into their country and allowed them to live among their own people. However the extra population is definitely a strain on Jordan’s resources.
Some of the refugees living in Jordan choose to live in the UN camps (as pictured below) where they are supplied with a tent. Others choose to find their own living arrangements in the cities and towns of Jordan.
SYRIAN + IRAQI CONFLICTS
Since most of us are not experts on all the current conflicts going on around the world, let me get your up to speed with the Syrian and Iraqi conflicts.
SYRIA: A civil war, starting in 2011, also called the Syrian Uprising. This conflict is a little complicated. The people of Syria started protesting against Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. The government responded with violent crackdowns. It escalated from there and now includes many different groups fighting each other (including ISIS). Towns and cities are completely destroyed. There is essentially nothing left in Syria. If you’d like to know more about the details of the Syrian war:
IRAQ: This war is a little more simple to explain. I can describe it in one word: ISIS (or whatever they’re currently calling themselves). ISIS is sweeping through Iraq leaving a trial of devastation and fear behind them. They are specifically targeting anyone who is not Muslim, particularly the Christians. I was a little ignorant of the fact that there were so many Christians living in Iraq. I pretty much lumped all Muslim, Middle East countries together and assumed they didn’t allow Christianity. But Christians have been living and working in Iraq for thousands of years, and up until last year, were pretty much able to live and worship without fear. They had businesses, nice houses, they went to school, and were part of their church communities. ISIS comes through a town and finds out where the Christians are. Depending on the leader, they may just kill the Christians, or they may give the Christians an ultimatum and a chance save themselves. The ultimatum is this: convert to Islam, leave this city in 24 hours, or die.
Our team went to Jordan to partner with an organization that is providing food and supplies for these refugees. The refugees arrive in Jordan with only what they could carry. They are not allowed to work and have no means to earn money. Jordan doesn’t have the resources to provide food for the 2 million extra living in their country but the UN does give out a small amount in vouchers. These vouchers allow the refugees to buy a few supplies but definitely not enough to survive on, this is where the help from relief organizations becomes really important. The organization we partnered with in Jordan (we’ll call them PO for partner organization) does a wonderful job of locating the refugees who have chosen to live in the city (as opposed to the UN camps). PO identifies the refugees’ needs, visits them, builds a relationships, and whenever possible, shares the hope of Jesus Christ.
Our team joined PO on their initial visits to some refugee families. We split up into groups of about 4, with a couple staff people from PO to translate and get us around town. On our trip, we visited mostly Christian Iraqi families. Just like in the US, some of them are Christians merely by name (it’s part of their culture) and others have a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. ISIS doesn’t care what kind of Christian they are, if they are Christian by name or by true belief, it doesn’t matter, they are targeting both. This is causing many people who didn’t necessarily have a relationship with Jesus to take their faith more seriously and ask themselves some tough questions. Many nominal Christians, when given an ultimatum by ISIS, have chosen to identify with Christ and lose their current life.
I cannot stress enough what a huge privilege it was to meet these brothers and sisters in Christ, to sit in their homes, drink tea with them, and sit and listen to them share their stories. Their stories are so horrific and so full of suffering. The war they’re fighting is both ethereal and physical, it’s a REAL war against evil. Against an evil group who are killing those who profess the name of JESUS CHRIST.
But it was evident that THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN is being built here on earth and is ADVANCING THROUGH THESE PEOPLE. And so I think it would be most appropriate to share their stories and how God is glorified through them.
Stay tuned this week for more…..