Lebanon (MNN) — For Syrian refugees in Lebanon, winter storm brings snow, rain, and new misery.
Syria and the countries that border it have been bracing for what is expected to be the worst winter storm in years. Storm Alexa struck Lebanon (along with Syria, Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan) with rain on Tuesday night, bringing snow to higher areas and rain elsewhere, accompanied by high winds by early Wednesday.
According to forecasts, conditions are not expected to change much over the next few days. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is scrambling to help protect more than 800,000 Syrians sheltering in Lebanon.
Cold in winter is not unusual there. Executive Director of Baptist Global Response Jeff Palmer says BGR teams have dealt with that for three years. However, getting “a storm on top of that is a little more intense, and it’s hard for folks. You can imagine living in tents, living in makeshift shelters, living in garages, uninsulated areas, wherever they can find.”
Despite the conditions, the flow of refugees into Lebanon isn’t letting up. On Thursday, government officials said 200 additional men, women, and children had crossed the border on foot. Palmer says, “Some of the areas in which we’re working–especially in north Jordan, Lebanon areas–the local capacities to be able to handle it are overwhelmed from everything from water to education to housing.”
Most are leaving with few possessions and very limited ability to provide for their own basic needs. Southern Baptists are helping thousands of desperate families who have fled the violence in Syria–now totaling an astounding 9.3 million people, inside the country and out. BGR partners are providing food parcels and hygiene kits to families in need.
With the onslaught of the storm, small things make the difference in survival. Palmer explains that as an outside organization, BGR is able to “come in and partner with local folks to be able to fill in the gaps and help with things like the winter package. That’s going to provide some heating oil, some heaters, some blankets, and some better insulation for the makeshift houses that they’re in.”
BGR is connecting people who care with Syrian refugees in need, and you can help. “We’re working in different places through local churches. We’re working through some NGOs that are there. But all of them that we’re working with and working through are believers who have a heart and a compassion for helping.”
“Salt and light” projects like this offer an opportunity to demonstrate the compassion of Christ and make a profound difference in the lives of people in desperate need.
Palmer is quick to add that it’s not really an issue of meeting physical needs first, and spiritual needs second. It’s a ‘both/and’ kind of approach. “We do it in a way that expresses the love of Christ, but we also use it a as way to share truth and speak truth into their lives.”
As with many ongoing crises, interest wanes as time goes on. While that’s normal, Palmer counsels, “When you see people suffering like this, you realize that they don’t have anywhere else to turn. We would say ‘please don’t let your hearts get cold to the needs of the world and to the needs of the people of Syria.'”
Please pray for peace in Syria. Please pray that God would use His faithful servants to help bring healing and the message of hope to so many in need.
You can help Syrian refugees by donating to BGR’s Syria Crisis Fund.