Location: Mafraq, Jordan
Cost of Trip: $4,100
Partner Organization: English Language Institute–China
Last year, I was blessed with the opportunity of going to Jordan for the first time. Surrounded by new people, new challenges, and a new culture, I learned and grew exponentially. My faith was challenged and shaped in ways I never expected. The season that followed my first trip was shaped by questions. What did being a Christian mean to me? What did it look like to truly love your neighbor? How could the God who loves this world so much allow so much suffering?
I never imagined that I would have the opportunity to go back to Jordan this summer, let alone co-lead the trip. But the Lord leads in mysterious ways, and I found myself back in the city that I fell in love with the year prior. Before leaving, I wondered what this experience would bring compared to last year. I learned quickly that if last year’s trip lead me to a lot of questions, this year’s trip lead me to a lot of answers.
Our location is only around ten miles from the Syrian border, making it a convenient relocation point for Syrian refugees. I, along with over twenty other participants, partnered with a local church to teach local Syrian children English. The program lasted for three weeks, with classes running from Monday to Thursday, 9 AM to 1 PM. I was able to teach kids from ages 7-10 basic English skills that could assist them as they try to find jobs in the future or relocate to a different country. It was an honor getting to work with the church as well as others in the community as I grew in understanding of the conflict and how God is working amongst it all.
With twenty to thirty kids in our class, each day was a challenge, but a fun one. Each day, when our class started at nine, I knew I would end the day exhausted but fulfilled. From out on the playground to craft time to playing word games, the amount of honor and joy I felt to be able to serve these kids was overwhelming. Of course, they didn’t always listen. They would act up, fight, disobey the rules, and create messes. Chaos was not a stranger in the classroom. But while some days were more difficult than others, I was constantly reminded of how much God loves each and every one of these kids, even among chaos. God loves them even when they fight, when they spill water all over the floor, when they scream so loud no one can hear anything. God loves them so intimately and deeply. He knows when my students smile and when they cry. He knows when they sit and when they rise. He knows their joyful victories and their painful losses. He knows and loves them all, and He knows and loves me. Even when my life is chaotic, He is there. Even when I act up, He is there. Jesus loves and likes me, just as He loves and likes our students. And it is in remembering this very important fact that my soul came to find peace regarding the questions that plagued my mind in the past. What does it mean to be a Christian? To me, it means to love as unconditionally as Christ loves me. What does it mean to truly love your neighbor? To me, it means to serve and advocate and listen, just as Christ does these things for me, just as He does for the kids my team served, and just as He calls me to do with others. Why is there suffering when there is a loving God? Well, that’s a more complex question, and while I admit I don’t have the answer, the one thing I do know is that suffering does not negate love. It does not negate joy. This trip reminded me that God is present in the suffering. He was there when our students fled Syria. He was there when they found their new homes, He was there when they signed up for our English camp, and He was there in our classrooms. And while I am no longer in Mafraq, I know that God is still there, still ministering to the kids we worked with, still present with the church we partnered with, and still present with me. Even in chaos, God still works, and I will always be thankful for that.