We processed hundreds of Syrian refugees through the clinic that week. They patiently waited under a colorful bedouin tent that served as a waiting room, blocking them from the Middle Eastern heat. Each Syrian I met was either stoic from war shock or weeping uncontrollably…and understandably so. They are caught in the middle of a vicious civil war with no good guys. There’s nowhere to run, except to cross the border.
My job was simple. When the doctors were ready, I would enter the waiting room, call the next patient, and take them to the appropriate room. Of all the people I met, I’ll never forget two little girls, Farha and Fatima. At about 12 and 14 years old, they were exceptionally beautiful. As I collected their registration papers, I looked into the tent, calling for their guardians.
“Welcome! I am sorry, but we cannot see you unless you have a guardian. You girls are both under 18. Go get your parents, and when you return, we will see you. Okay?”
They just stared at me.
Again, through a translator, I explained that I can’t legally bring them back without their parents. It was for their own protection. After the muddled exchange, the girls just left. To my surprise, they returned an hour later….with no guardian.
At this point, I was slightly frustrated. Word had gotten around that there was a free clinic this week and our bedouin tent was overflowing.
“Girls,” I said sternly through a translator, “we cannot see you unless you have a guardian.”
Fatima’s face went cold and sheepish in a hurry.
“Both of our parents are dead.”
In that moment, my heart sank. The thought that these girls might be orphans had never even crossed my mind. They had seen and lived through more evil than I could ever imagine. They were just trying to survive.
A Deteriorating Situation
My first encounter with Syrian refugees was in 2013. Three families were living in a single bedroom apartment. They didn’t even have plumbing. The only item of value between them was a scarf from Syria with the colors of their flag. It was likely the only thing they were able to grab as they fled their home. As they shared how they were forced to leave their homes and their subsequent poverty, my heart simply broke.
While their situation was terrible, the civil war in Syria has only intensified. ISIS continues to gain momentum with increasingly ruthless tactics. The horrifying situation out of Syria is highlighted almost nightly on the news. For months, I continued in prayer for them. But I wanted to do more. I wanted to encourage them. I wanted them to understand that they aren’t forgotten – that someone desperately loves them.
That’s what finally led me to go. I signed up to serve in the Middle East for a month, working in two medical clinics. As I called their names in Arabic, they would often crack up in laughter. (So I guess I also served as entertainment!) I loved my job. I would play with the kids one moment, then take finished patients to the pharmacist for their medications. We would care for them both physically and spiritually. They would enter with tears and leave with smiles!
But I still think about Farha and Fatima often. I don’t know where they sleep or where they are fed. We were able to connect them with a local church in the area but I can only pray they know how much their Father truly loves them.
When we look at the situation in Syria, we are easily overwhelmed. Their needs are so dire. There are so many people, we just feel helpless. But God knows each of them by name. He knows their needs before they even ask and He collects each one of their tears. He cares for them individually and we can do the same.