Turkey (CAM/MNN) — Europe’s “people swap” isn’t going according to plan, and desperation is growing in Turkey’s makeshift refugee camps.
Nevertheless, overlooked refugees are finding hope amid hardship.
“A lot more happens, for the benefit of the refugees, than just giving out physical help,” explains Steve Van Valkenburg, Christian Aid Mission Middle East Director.
“There’s a lot of encouragement that the ministries provide, and…they meet a lot of needs that cannot be met just by food and water.”
Overlooked refugees find help
In a deal struck last month between Turkey and the European Union, Syrian refugees are being exchanged for Europe’s illegal immigrants.
Deportations began Monday but quickly had to be paused. More migrants are arriving in Greece than can be sent back. It’s a mess, and things aren’t much better in Turkey.
The Turkish government has thus far taken in the most Syrian refugees and provided the most direct aid. Nevertheless, many are still “falling through the cracks,” says Van Valkenburg.
“They’re not in the proper location, [or] they’re not in a position where they can get help from the [Turkish] government. So, really, there’s no one to help them.”
That’s where indigenous ministries helped by Christian Aid Mission come in, as described here:
Turkey has accepted more Syrian refugees, 2.7 million, and provided more direct aid, upwards of 8 billion euros (US$8.9 billion) than any other country, but thousands of arrivals are not able to access the official camps to benefit from this assistance.
One of the indigenous Turkish ministries that Christian Aid Mission assists visits unofficial, makeshift tent camps outside Adana to distribute aid.
“Every time we speak with refugee newcomers, we find another sad story that sometimes makes you become wordless,” an indigenous ministry leader in Turkey said last week. “We have spoken with a family that has three kids. The husband’s wife was captured by ISIS, and they wounded him when he stood against them to try to stop them from taking his wife away from her children. He showed us the scar.”
On some visits, the ministry sets priorities for distribution of its limited aid. Opting to distribute food boxes and shoes only to orphans and widows last week–especially widows with babies, the ministry gave out cards indicating who could receive aid.
“Many mothers came over to the truck and begged for food boxes, and it was very hard for me to tell them this time we were only delivering to those who held the cards that we gave them,” the director said. “So they were begging us and kept repeating that they were also widows and have six children waiting for bread to eat. It was heart-breaking also for the kids that were crying to have shoes, so I kept telling them, ‘Stay to one side; later I will give something to all of you.’ And they kept saying, ‘Promise, uncle, promise.'”
Along with urgent needs, some families have special needs. A mother of three whose husband was killed in Aleppo in a bombing four months ago has a son who cannot walk. She fled with her brother-in-law to a camp outside Adana.
“They are having a very hard time to survive,” the ministry director said. “She has two girls and a boy, and the boy was born disabled. There are many children born disabled, or they’re becoming unhealthy due to developmental disorders that occur because there is not enough food, and the 3-year-old cannot speak and cannot even walk.”
The ministry is extending a helping hand to such families, he said.
“Our God gave us this opportunity, and we had the opportunity to touch people’s hearts; thanks to God, they’re asking questions to get to know Him. This opportunity is a treasure for us.”
Overlooked refugees find hope
The help indigenous Christians provide doesn’t stop there, Van Valkenburg says. “The bigger help is when the missionaries listen to their stories, pray with them, and they give encouragement.”
The needs of refugees and displaced populations are overwhelming. But a $5 storybook is a good place to start.
“It’s amazing how a simple, little Bible storybook can be a great delight to a family and focus their attention on stories about Jesus Christ and off of all their dismal circumstances.”
Here are few more ways you can help: