“It’s like a movie!” I thought as I heard this family’s tragically romantic story. Unfortunately, this is real
life and not all that rare. Four years ago, Wissam and Doha were studying economics at a university in the beautiful and ancient city of Damascus, Syria. They were interested in each other but wanted to finish their studies and start careers before getting married. When the war started Wissam knew it was only a matter of time before he was conscripted into the army so he fled to Jordan. He didn’t want to have anything to do with the war that was slowly engulfing his country. He was unable to complete his sophomore year of university and he was now separated from the girl he wanted to marry. When he arrived in Jordan he was safe but faced a daily struggle to survive since refugees are not legally allowed to work, and typically go from one under-the-table labor job to the next.
Doha finished her sophomore year and went back to her hometown to be with her family as their country fell apart all around them. Eventually, their house was destroyed in a bombing and they too fled to Jordan. When they arrived they were forced to live in a desert refugee camp for eight months. What a change for this young and bright student to go from university life to living in a dusty tent with her entire family. After eight months in the camp they were able to leave and come to live in our city. The Syrians agree, while their basic necessities are provided for in the camps they prefer life outside even, if they have to fend for themselves completely.
Once Doha and her family were able leave the camp she was reunited with Wissam and they were married. Wissam was still working day labor whenever he could and they moved into a tiny basement apartment of their own. Life can’t wait just because you are a refugee so the happy couple were overjoyed to learn they would expect their first child, a son, this fall. Their eyes were full of joy when they told me they had decided to name him Qais.
Unfortunately, a refugee’s life is full of unexpected twists they are powerless to control. As the refugee population continues to grow and services for them become more scarce the economic situation across Jordan struggles. It has become harder and harder for all refugees to find the under-the-table labor work they depend on. Wissam had been making about $300 a month but the work dried up and they were soon unable to pay their $200 a month rent and were forced to move in with Doha’s family, who were also living in a tiny two room apartment with several other extended family members and Doha’s younger siblings. They may have no home to bring their newborn son back to in a couple months.
Two young lives, once full of hope and dreams for the future, have been dramatically changed forever by war. They try to keep their spirits high and they love to shower us with hospitality when we visit. Recently, Wissam told me, “I am a Muslim but when I see how you love us it makes me ashamed to be a Muslim.” How do I explain that Jesus can replace that shame with hope for life both now and for all eternity? How do I explain that God is more than powerful enough to provide for them?
This is one story of two people who are representative of the more than 1,000,000 refugees in Jordan right now. Please pray our hearts have the capacity to love and show compassion. Pray our mouths have the Arabic words to speak comfort and truth. Pray our hands are gentle to embrace the hurting. Pray our car keeps running to get to their homes. Pray that our bank account has enough money to purchase food and medical care to nourish.