An elderly woman at a refugee camp in the Middle East was pleading and crying – not for food or shoes, but for a tablet device for her grandson.
The mobile devices with touchscreen displays are used to teach children to read, and local missionaries had managed to acquire and distribute 10 of them at the camp, along with the usual aid.
“Perhaps she thought we did not want to give out any more and figured we would listen more to a 70-year-old woman,” the leader of the local ministry said. “She fell at our feet, yelling in the middle of camp, ‘Please, he is an orphan! I have no money, and if he never learns to read, he will grow up to be a bad, immoral man. Please, let my grandson learn to read!’”
They helped her up as a gesture of respect and explained that they had already given out all the tablets and food including baby formula, and that they had spent remaining funds on clean water and medicine for the nearly 800 people in the camp.
“We promised to help her next time we came, but the woman would not quit sobbing, ‘Please, please,’” the leader said.
The grandson now also was crying, and the workers could not take it anymore – with money set aside to buy plane tickets back to the ministry base, they bought a tablet and brought it back to the grandmother, he said.
When other children and their parents then also asked for tablets, all the leader could do was encourage them to pray in Christ’s name.
“I know that those kids who heard everything that happened will definitely pray that prayer because, as we left and went to our car, they followed us, chattering back and forth to one another, ‘…in Jesus’ name, amen!’” he said. “Because we bought this woman’s grandson a tablet with our last bit of money and forsook our one-hour flight for a 10-hour bus ride, the joy we had from the Lord was such a prize to us.”
The requests for tablets represent a shift in mentality for the primarily Syrian refugees who have been fleeing their country since unrest broke out in 2011.
Though physical needs are greater than ever, refugees are increasingly desperate over the reality of children growing up with little or no education.
“When doing these distributions at the camps, people used to come up to us and ask, ‘Do you have any clothes? Shoes? Blankets?’” the leader said. “But now more than anything, they are asking for tablets or computers for their children.”
Those who have tried to educate children at the camps have often called him with requests for tablets and computers, he said. With 72 elementary school-aged children at the camp and hundreds more in each of several other camps, the needs are overwhelming.
“I am asking you to pray for the 62 children who did not receive tablets,” he said. “Pray that they would not hold a grudge against us in their hearts because we could not give them tablets, because if we were to have given one to each of them, we would not have been able to give out any food. This decision really was hard, but we are praying that we will be able to give out five or 10 tablets every time we go to distribute food.”
Onto each tablet the ministry loads cartoons that explain Christianity in Arabic, and after kids finish their schoolwork, they watch the videos, he said.
“We are helping children learn as well as letting them hear the word of the Lord,” the leader said. “And children have learned to call upon the name of Jesus. They have learned to pray, and they are able to receive some education, and it is all because of your prayers and your generous giving.”
Some of the children have the opportunity to partake in online education available worldwide, while others who have been in the country longer have the possibility of attending schools near the camps, he said.
More refugees are moving out of the camps to crowd into shared, cheap apartments, but with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, they have even fewer resources to pay rent.
“The entire world is in a big mess because of COVID-19,” the leader said. “Many people are now unemployed, and though some have kept their jobs, they are forced to work for half the pay. Those who have it the worst are the refugees. Before, I would encourage the men to go and find work, but now there are big problems finding work.”
Though moving into apartments indicates a shift to a more stable life, refugee needs remain the same – food, blankets, medicine and baby formula, he said.
The leader of another local ministry said that with the blow that the coronavirus has delivered to already battered economies, refugees are even more tempted to flee to Europe illegally.
“They say that there is no hope for the future anymore,” he said. “The governments are leaving them to their fate, and the refugees just want their children to live like human beings.”
People who once were able to obtain work that barely supported their families now have nothing, the leader said.
“The help they receive from us is very important to them, because they cannot work and earn money as they used to,” he said. “Donations for them will help to save their lives. We believe in miracles, and God is the only true God almighty.”
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