Lebanon (MNN) — Do you remember that thrilling feeling of going back to school with a new backpack, out-of-the-box-sharp crayons and pencils, and crisp notebooks? Maybe you even got new clothes for the school year and spent the night before picking out your “first day of school outfit.”
Sadly, not all kids are prepared for the school year. Things like backpacks and pencils are luxuries for struggling families. This is especially true of kids living in refugee camps in Lebanon.
Heart for Lebanon offers informal education to refugee kids through their Hope Centers in Lebanon, and Molly Hawkins says they see the struggle firsthand. In addition to a lack of resources, even the school supplies refugee kids do have often wear down quickly.
“If we come home and we put our briefcase or our purse or our backpack on a clean chair in our nice, clean house in the corner, or even if we leave it on the floor, the conditions we live in are just so much more sanitary than where they live. Things really don’t last as long. They get dirty very quickly, and just with wear and tear, things don’t hold up.”
That’s why Heart for Lebanon is hosting a Back-to-School Match to raise funds for school supplies for refugee kids. Thanks to a generous donor, every dollar given will be doubled, up to $10,000! This is the last week you can give to this initiative!
With the potential to raise $20,000, there is a lot of good Heart for Lebanon can do with that money.
“We love to give out backpacks to all the students at the beginning of the year filled with the supplies they need — so, filled with paper and markers and pencils and workbooks,” Hawkins explains.
“Also, we like to be able to supply things for like art class or when they go to chapel. A lot of times there is a craft that goes along with the story they have heard. Also for gym class, [we supply] the soccer balls and basketballs and just gym equipment in general.”
Many refugees in Lebanon don’t have formal asylum seeker status. This means they are limited in the aid available to them and it’s harder for parents to make sure their family has basic necessities.
“Their parents just don’t have the means to buy anything for them, so whatever we can do that will help [refugee students] learn now and succeed in the future, we want to do that.”
Heart for Lebanon works with approximately 300 refugee students at their three Hope Centers. Every teacher that serves at a Hope Center is a Christian eager to demonstrate Jesus’ love for these kids.
“We believe that God is great and that He is creative, so [we want to] see children develop that part of them and then explain, ‘There is a God that created you exactly the way you are. Look at how creative He is to be able to have made this whole entire world and you. That’s where you get it from. You can use your gift for His glory. You can use your gift to bring other people joy and happiness.’”
In addition to education, a major way they teach refugee kids about God at the Hope Centers is through chapel time. Each chapel covers biblical characteristics and leadership traits. Every month, students learn a biblical value such as generosity or integrity or honesty, and teachers try to emphasize those virtues in the classroom.
Hawkins shares one story of a young female student. “She was super quiet. She never really said anything. She didn’t really ever seem to enjoy anything, especially not chapel.
“One day at the end of class, the teacher handed out papers and asked the students to write what they love the most. Surprisingly, the student wrote, ‘I love chapel. I used to not like it. I didn’t really believe it, but now with your patience and hearing all the stories about Jesus and how much He loves me, I look forward to chapel more than anything else.’”
Hawkins says this message to refugee kids — that they are loved by God and that their lives have meaning — is contrary to what they normally hear.
“We don’t want to just throw them away like other people do. They have a purpose. So these [school] materials will help us to show them how they were made and how loved they are and what they can do.”
Of course, there are always families in every community who need help equipping their children for school. This struggle is not unique to refugee communities.
However, Heart for Lebanon’s Tom Atema says the need in our own backyards shouldn’t stop us from responding to the need outside our borders as well.
“I don’t think it’s either-or. I think it’s both. I think we have an obligation to help people in our own backyard, our own Jerusalem, and then go to Samaria and eventually go to the outermost parts of the world.”
Hawkins adds, “We definitely want people to help locally, but if you have a heart for the Middle East, then we definitely want to talk to you. Really at this moment in time, Muslims are more open to the Gospel than ever before… This is our opportunity to reach out in love and to show them exactly what Jesus did.”
Atema encourages believers to really seize this opportunity and respond to what God is doing in the Middle East — especially among Muslim refugees and this young generation. “The 300 [students] that we deal with is a small drop in the bucket, but we have the capacity to do more. We just need more prayers and investments.”
If you would like to give to Heart for Lebanon’s Back-to-School Match and see your gift doubled, click here!
Then, commit to praying for this ministry. Atema says, “I’m asking for prayer for our teachers, that they’ll have wisdom, they’ll have strength, they’ll have God’s protection as they deal with all the different situations.
“The last prayer request I would have is for the children themselves — that many of them, number one, would come to faith in Jesus Christ. But number two is, as they grow in their faith in Jesus Christ, they will not get discouraged, they will not lose hope, they will not lose that passion that they have — believe me, they have it — of what they want to be, that their dreams will be fulfilled in a positive, God-honoring way.”
(Header photo courtesy of Heart for Lebanon)