For many in the United States, 'tis the season to cozy up by the fireplace with family and friends. 'Tis the season to sing merry Christmas tunes and to be grateful for freedom, relatives and Grandma's cooking.
But for Syrian refugees who have had to flee to safety in Lebanon, 'tis the season to fight brutal winter temperatures in their houses made of plywood, tarp or tents and hope they can find food to eat each day. 'Tis the season to survive.
We visited one extended family of 14, squashed into a temporary shelter with two rooms – no more than a large tent in reality – pitched with a few others on the side of muddy, flooded field…The only other things I could see in the tent was a pile of thin mattresses, providing some limited insulation from the fridge like, damp ground…. In a few weeks their tent will be blanketed in snow – a thoroughly unwelcome 'White Christmas.'
The Syrian conflict has been deemed the biggest humanitarian disaster the world has faced since the Rwandan genocide in 1994, according to the Lebanese Society for Educational and Social Development (LSESD).
Since the conflict began in March 2011, 9 million refugees have fled their homes, as recorded by syrianrefugees.eu. Of those, around 1.1 million have settled in Lebanon, scattering across the country and making their home wherever they can find an open piece of land.
Around 80 percent of those are women and children, and refugees make up over a quarter of Lebanon's population. Many who have resided there since 2011 have run out of savings and with the winter months now here, they are literally freezing, said Lucas Shindeldecker, LSESD community development director.
The United Nations recently announced humanitarian aid has been cut short, creating much concern for Lebanese Christians about how they can possibly get food to all the refugees. And a storm in Lebanon in late November of this year already took the lives of two Syrian infants, sparking fear for what the winter months hold ahead.
The Lebanese Christians are calling their brothers and sisters around the world to contribute whatever they can to help make a physical and spiritual difference in the lives of the refugees. A little can go a long way, Shindeldecker said.
Texas Baptists is partnering with the Lebanese Society for Educational and Social Development (LSESD), as an initiative of the Texas Baptists Partnerships program, to help bring warmth to many of the refugees through its Winterization Project.
The Winterization Project will help winterize—provide blankets, stoves, heaters, food and other necessities—an office space in Zahle, Lebanon where 9,000 Syrian refugees are being housed. By meeting the physical needs of the refugees, Lebanese Christians have an open door to address spiritual needs to them as well.
Shindeldecker reported that they are already seeing Syrian refugees visit churches not solely for help, but for connections and relationships. As the Lebanese Christians seek to witness to the refugees, they know they cannot meet all the physical needs without help.
Through the Winterization Project, Texas Baptists have already contributed over $5,200. With the full onset of winter and the harsh living conditions being experienced by the Syrian refugees, Texas Baptists are invited continue contributing to this timely ministry.
Consider helping this to be a season of celebration and salvation for refugees in Lebanon by cheerfully giving (2 Corinthians 9:7) through the Texas Baptists Winterization Project to provide warmth and the message of Salvation to one or more Syrian refugee families. And pray for the Lebanese Christians, that they will not grow weary in doing good (Galatians 6:9).