“The drawing is very therapeutic,” the Syrian woman says. “I saw the fighting.”
She holds up her small notebook, swollen with crinkled pages, and shows off an intricate portrait of a woman’s face.
Tracing her fingers over inky sketch lines, she reminisces, “I used to draw with chalk and pencils, but now all I can afford are pens.”
Photo by Evelyn Adamson, IMB
Kendall Stanford,* a Hands On student worker in the Middle East, talks to a Syrian child in her town.
Kendall Stanford,* a Hands On student worker, holds the notebook up and looks over several pages of drawings.
The artist is almost eight months pregnant. Stanford and another Hands On student worker, Lana Keely,* are trained healthcare professionals and are making an introductory visit. They will check on the mother’s recovery after the birth.
It has been several months since Stanford, Keely and a third Hands On student worker, Chloe Ralston,* were sent from their home church in Alabama, to serve Syrian refugee families for up to six months.
For Stanford, everyday life does contain trace evidence of her routine before she came; however, some elements have changed. She has traded her stethoscope for a scarf, and now walks down dusty one-way streets instead of cruising down broad highways. While she used to buy her coffee to go, now she sips tea with refugee families and listens as they share their stories.
Stanford says, “I think one of the main ways to minister to someone is to be where they are … being beside them, holding their hand. There’s a need to be here, to not just be where it’s comfortable, but to come where the need is.”
In her city alone, refugee numbers steadily rise as the war rages inside Syria. To this day, an estimated 4 million refugees have fled the country since fighting began in March 2011. A fraction of that 4 million have found themselves living in Stanford’s city, and they are why she quit her job, packed a couple of suitcases, and moved across the world.
Photo by Evelyn Adamson, IMB
Lana Keely* studies the Bible with her Hands On colleagues at their apartment in the evening.
“More than anything, Syrian refugees need hope,” she says. “They need people to share God’s love – to let them know He is there in the suffering with them and that He knows what suffering is and He loves them.”
Stanford felt a desire to go overseas, but was looking for short-term opportunities longer than one month. Her church suggested she look into International Mission Board’s Hands On program. Hands On enables students to join a missions assignment for six months. For Stanford, Hands On has provided an avenue for her to respond to the desire God placed in her heart.
Stanford sees how God has specifically equipped her to help ease suffering through her training in health care.
She says, “At my previous nursing job [in America] I saw a lot of pain and suffering. Looking back I see how the Lord [used] that to prepare me to come over here [and] to be able to get in the hard places with people who are suffering.”
From treating burn scars on children, to taking food to hungry families, Stanford has seen God use her Hands On team to make an impact in the Middle East.
Stanford acknowledges that it is important to step out in faith wherever God calls His people to go.
She says, “If I truly am saying that I believe in Him, then I need to have open hands, [to ask] ‘Where do you want me to go? … How can I best use the gifts You have given me to glorify you and to share Truth?’”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Evelyn Adamson is a writer for IMB living in Europe.)