MIDDLE EAST – At home in Syria, he was a lawyer. Today, he is a refugee in a neighboring country, looking for any type of work to support his wife and children and his nieces and nephews who had fled the country – 20 in all.
They found their way to a makeshift refugee town, where 20 families had used feed sacks, plastic bags, cardboard – anything they could find – to create shelters. The community, now with 100 families, has found some vacant farm land and worked out an agreement with the owner to grow some food there.
“With more than 5 million people displaced, either outside or inside the country, the challenges continue to mount as to where to respond,” said Jeff Palmer, executive director of Baptist Global Response (BGR). “While there are some official sites and camps for refugees, the majority of those displaced are still in makeshift locations, such as with friends or families, or they are just finding anywhere relatively safe to lay their heads.”
Palmer met the refugee lawyer just two days after the family had arrived from Syria. He was able to share an emergency food packet provided by Southern Baptists through Global Hunger Relief (formerly the World Hunger Fund).
Southern Baptist relief efforts are touching lives in significant ways as an estimated 2 million refugees have fled Syria for neighboring countries. One makeshift refugee town has grown from 20 families to 100 families. Southern Baptists are facilitating ongoing projects with Syrian refugees in four countries that are distributing food packets, hygiene kits and temporary shelter.
“The majority of Syrian refugees are women and children and a few older men,” Palmer said. “Husbands, fathers, brothers and uncles stayed behind to protect their precious resources – unfortunately, many times in vain. They were so thankful for the small amount of help we gave them. We promised we would be back the following week with more.”
An estimated 2 million refugees have fled Syria for neighboring countries, such as Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq. The prospect of Western powers entering the conflict has dramatically increased the outflow in recent days, Palmer noted.
“Our relief and development efforts among the refugees are into the second year,” Palmer said. “To date, we have helped mobilize over $750,000 in relief goods to this crisis – a small amount compared to the ongoing need, but we have been able to direct what we have to some key areas and through some key partners.”
Working primarily through partners on the ground who can mobilize critically needed items to refugees as well as internally displaced persons, BGR is helping mainly in the area of emergency food packets, hygiene kits, basic shelter materials and some small amounts of medicines through ongoing projects with Syrian refugees in four countries, Palmer reported.
“Most of these are the distribution of food packets, hygiene kits and temporary shelter needs to sustain families who literally have walked away from pretty much everything they own,” Palmer said. “All of them are done in the love and name of Christ to help these who have no one else to turn to.”
In the face of such great need, it is hard to only be able to share a small amount, Palmer added.
“I thought about the miracle of the fish and loaves. I wondered how God would multiply the small amount of food that each of them received,” he said. “I then thought about the generous donors in my home country. Even though many gave small amounts, God had multiplied their gifts and blessed them so that so many this day were blessed.
“We ask continued prayer for wisdom and knowledge – to find the most effective and efficient places and people in need that we can help, to choose wisely,” Palmer said. “We also pray for continued safety and guidance for our partners who put so much at risk to respond. And we pray for peace – true peace – that can only come from above for all of those caught up in this terrible tragedy.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mark Kelly writes for Baptist Global Response, on the Internet at www.gobgr.org. World Hunger Sunday is Oct. 13. For information and resources on promoting hunger awareness in your church, visit www.worldhungerfund.com.)