Bringing a culture of celebration to refugee camps

By January 29, 2024

Lebanon (MNN) — Imagine explaining the gift of salvation to people who have never given or received gifts. That’s the situation Triumphant Mercy Lebanon faced recently.

Celebrations and Gifts

Nuna with Triumphant Mercy was teaching about celebrations and Christ’s birth at a school for Syrian refugee children. She opened the lesson by asking the students to talk about different gifts that they have received. No one had an example!

Quickly Nuna discovered that these kids never celebrated birthdays and rarely had big celebrations. The closest they came would be feasts for holy days.

Nuna says, “Even the teachers that they did not come here during the wars … they never celebrated a birthday until they were in our classroom, never in their lives. I asked the teacher, why don’t you do this? She said, ‘It’s not in our culture.’”

This culture clash required Nuna to make some quick changes in the lesson. Much of the language Christians typically use to describe salvation is foreign to these children. A free gift does not mean much, if you’ve never had one!

(Image courtesy of Ahmed Akacha on Pexels)

“Just to explain the gift of Christmas to them, became a harder task than I expected. I was expecting to just talk about Jesus as a gift to humanity to come and save us, but I went into the whole thing of just enjoying giving to others. Then, of course, we reached the point where God gave His only Son.”

A New Focus this Year

Because gift-giving is so unusual in the student’s culture, over the next year Triumphant Mercy plans to add an in-class focus on celebrations and gift-giving. They have already been celebrating the children’s birthdays, but this year they will discuss the motivations behind giving gifts and responses from the person receiving, as well as including celebrations to mark important occasions and add joy to life.

“I think we need people to see that God loved celebrations. He instituted celebration and celebrations. Like the wedding celebration would go for a long time; the Passover would go for a long time; Tabernacle would go for a long time. It was big parties and God loves celebration.”

This idea of God instituting celebration and wanting His people to be joyful, is a strange concept for many coming from the Syrian culture. They have experienced a lot of pain with the war, but even more than that, without Jesus, they are missing out on the underlying joy that Christ brings.

“I think we have the joy of Christ to give out to societies, to people around us – wherever they are, whoever they are, whether they are refugees, whether they are Lebanese, whether they are poor or not. It doesn’t matter. We have a joy in us. We have hope in us. We have celebration in us and we cannot depend on situations. It’s not because the situation is all good with everything working perfectly, now we can celebrate. No, we celebrate just because He’s born and because we’re happy that we have Christ who came to dwell with us. He’s Emmanuel. He’s with us. So we celebrate.”

Get Involved

Triumphant Mercy has already seen children responding to the gift of Christ as they continue to explore gift-giving. Please pray that God would open the hearts and minds of children, parents, and teachers to understand the gift of God in salvation. To learn more about Triumphant Mercy, click here.

Image courtesy of Antoni Shkraba Productions on Pexels.

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