A throwback to my brief time in Zataari Refugee Camp

Lately I’ve noticed that every time we discuss the refugee crisis or Syrians or those trapped in conflict, I’ve gone from my “knowing head nod” to straight up tears. They pull so tenderly at every single heartstring I have, as the love I feel towards them kind of catches me off guard.

I know my time with them was short but I can’t get them out of my head.

So with the theme of “throwback Thursday” I’m reposting an old blog I wrote. My random processing from my short time with some beautiful refugees living in Jordan.

May God open more doors soon for us to build schools in the Middle East. 

"Wow. Here I sit, in a coffee shop in Jerusalem, finally able to try and wrap my mind around life. Refugees, torture, war, bombings and the beauty of heaven’s invasion in the midst of it all. Wow.

I don’t even know where to start. I feel so blessed. So absolutely privileged to have had the opportunity to sit with Syrians who had recently fled the terror and sheer horror of war and see Jesus come and embrace them. Wow.

Walking into Zaatari Refugee camp in Jordan felt like a dream. We were told the entire time prior that it was closed and we wouldn’t be allowed in, but then favor showed up and the waters parted. A camp with over 150,000 people. 150,000! It was surreal and hard to comprehend at times. Syria is being emptied of Syrians one dangerous trek across the border after another.

As an Iris Relief team we connected with some men in the camp (and eventually the UNHCR) and they became our tour guides as we visited families who’d recently fled the war.

Most camps are structured that you can’t bring in informal supplies and Zaatari was no different. So once we passed the army guards clutching their AK47’s, we had nothing to give but love.

““As-salam alaykum!” (Hello!)

We’d greet a family and then enter the refugee camping-like-tent and sit with an inquisitive family. We’d say we were there to listen, to pray and bring hope, and then… the stories would flow.

“Our city had a massacre of 400 people”

“Our city had a massacre of 500 people”

“In our home town, children were used as a human shield against the opposing side and 250 were killed, most under the age of 10 years old”


“My husband went to the market and never came home”

“I was captured and tortured for information I didn’t have”

“I was taken and locked in a room, no bigger then this tent, with 100 other people. Body, was on top of body, on top of another body…”

The stories went on as we discovered more about the blood spilling out from Syria. Looking into the hopeless eyes of so many refugees I couldn’t stop what was bubbling up from inside me “THERE’S HOPE!” I would blurt out almost uncomfortably sometimes. Really uncomfortably at other times.

“There’s hope and it’s tangible and he’s ALIVE!”

Those are the moments that if you don’t back it with action, you look like, well, a jerk. These people have had war in their country for the last two years. Massacre after bloody massacre. Their homes have been blown up, their bodies at times ripped apart, and then this random group of people shows up and says “There’s hope”?!.

But it felt like second nature. Listening to their stories half of me wanted to cry while the other half couldn’t silence heaven’s cry of response.

So, we would invite Holy Spirit and he would make sense of that controversial four letter word.

 “If the gospel doesn’t work in a war zone, it doesn’t work.” God's not just good for middle class America, he's good in the trenches of war. And we can stand on that.

In one tent praying for a man his knee was completely healed from pain. The first of many miracles. Backs, heads, hearts. Blank eyes were revived with life, laughter filled the mouths of children and echoed everywhere we went.

We were hopeful going on the trip but to see as much response as we saw, I think we were all quite shocked! Haha. Hope to such hopelessness is TANGIBLE. You can see it, touch it.

You can walk into a home of those who have never desired Jesus but within moments of a few sips of tea, or disgusting Turkish coffee, they could see what you have and reach out on their own for the love that you carry.

It was amazing. I felt like I came alive all over again with a little hand tucked in mine, walking through a sea of tents. This is what the gospel looks like; compassion to action, leaping into unchartered territory and finding heaven’s already been there waiting, longing to break forth in love.

Though Syria is still contracting with the pains of war, after our time in the dirt, I couldn’t be more confident standing with papa and his dreams for peace.