Cost of trip: $3,500
Location: Mafraq, Jordan
Partnership: Pinnacle Teaching
During the month of August, ten members of the Gordon community spent time teaching over 200 Syrian refugee children in a small Jordanian city. Partnering with ELIC, a fantastic Christian teaching institute that operates around the world, we experienced things and say God move in ways that are difficult to explain. Each teacher was given a class of 35 students, grouped more or less by age and definitely not by ability. Some students could neither speak nor write in English or Arabic, and many had never been in school before. Lessons could be as basic as how to hold a pencil, or explaining that “coloring” typically included more than one color of crayon. As I sat down to write this post, small memories spring into my mind and remind me of the sweet and bitter memories I’ll carry with me forever.
The laugher as children gathered at the playground in the morning, excited for school and still not yet knowing exactly what that meant. The tear-stained face of a mother as she begged, UN Refugee papers in hand, for her five children to be allowed into one of two refugee schools in the under-resourced city of Mafraq. The joy in the eyes of a six-year old boy as he realizes he can now count to ten in both English and Arabic. A pastor, overworked and under resourced, hugging person after person as they pour in for the Sunday night service. The pride in a young girl’s face as she holds a certificate indicating she completed her course. The silence of the city at dawn, and the noise of the dark streets at night. The smells, the light at dusk as it touches the rooftops. The laughter of the kids as they feel free to experience joy in a school where they are safe.
The past month in Jordan, I experienced more grace, felt more joy and loved God more than any other four weeks of my life so far. I also saw more suffering, more evil, more pain and more destruction than anywhere else. The city of Mafraq, just 15 kilometers from the Syrian border, has more Syrian refugees than native Jordanians. The need is great, and resources of time, of labor and of good are carefully monitored. Everyone has a heartbreaking story of loss, of rescue, of joyfully reunions and painful goodbyes. It was a beautiful and challenging time to reflect on what it meant to be a servant, when there was so much do be done that I was incapable of doing. Sometimes I just cried because I didn’t know what to say or what to do. And it was in these moments that I found Jesus in a new way, and I understood with a deep level of thankfulness what it meant that He became fully human for us. It is not just that we are able to reach Jesus, to feel Him in our hearts, it’s that He is in and among us, in the midst and the depths of our joys and our sufferings. In the face of the most widespread humanitarian crisis of modern times, Jesus weeps right along with the rest of us. There is a peace and a restoration and a relief that comes from acknowledging that there is a God who loves us so much, and is so involved in our lives, and cares so deeply for us that He weeps when we weep.
There is also so much peace and love in a God who is sovereign, in and above all things. I have struggled in the past with understanding how the gospel can be so exclusive; God has gifted me with an empathetic heart and I can’t bear the thought of the beautiful, lovely and hopeful people I met in Mafraq being condemned to some terrible fate away from love. But God, again, met me in those moments in a new way. I was encouraged to look at this source of tension through a lens I understood – His sovereignty. God’s sovereignty is greater than my ability to understand even one small bit of his plan. I have no say in who is saved and who is not, or even what that means. God is in charge of that, and His plan is more perfect than I could ever imagine. Oswald Chambers wrote once: “It is not a matter of my ability, but my poverty; not what I bring with me, but what God puts in me; not a matter of natural virtues, of strength of character, of knowledge, or of experience – all of that is no avail in this concern. If I will allow Him to take me to the end of my own self-sufficiency, then He can choose me to go with Him to Jerusalem. The only thing of value is being taken into the purpose of God.”
The greatest injustice has gone to the cross, and it is there it is meant to exist. I was challenged more than I ever thought possible during this month in Jordan, amongst God’s people doing God’s work. But I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything, because in every face I saw the light of God and in every word spoken I heard His voice and with every tear shed I felt His love. God does amazing things if we reach a point where we’re willing to lay down our own agendas and accept His will for our lives. And I’m so deeply grateful for the community I come from that enabled me to go and have this experience. Gordon is a place that encourages people to see outside of themselves, and I appreciate that on a whole new level after this month.
By the end of the month, our classroom was covered in work from the students and they proudly counted to five, sang in English and said “goodbye, teacher!” And their voices, their drawings, and their names, will forever be written on my heart.