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Sarah Phillips: Refuge

Posted: 6/30/16 at 11:15am. Blogpost by Sarah Phillips

Some awesome camp kids on the bus!
Some awesome camp kids on the bus!

As an intern-of-sorts here with BCYM (Baptist Children and Youth Ministry) through LSESD (The Lebanese Society for Education and Social Development) I never know quite what to expect when I wake up in the morning. Every day is a little different, and the roles we play here change based on what is needed.

A few weeks ago,  I was lucky enough to be helping with my first camp here, in Zahle, Lebanon, with children of Syrian refugees, with an awesome mission team from Northern Ireland. I was really excited that we would get to visit refugee homes in the afternoon. I couldn’t help but think that this was the real deal, the “mission,” I’d been waiting for. I was going to get to work with real refugees and do some real, measurable good. But, as He will, God had other ideas.

I’d wanted to change the world, but instead I’d only get to change into my bathing suit to spend the afternoon at the pool.

When it came time for home visits, prayer time, and food delivery, there simply wasn’t enough room in the van. The visiting team from Northern Ireland got to help out, while the interns were sent back to the hotel.  I’d wanted to change the world, but instead I’d only get to change into my bathing suit to spend the afternoon at the pool. How could this be all that God had planned for me on my mission trip?  I was frustrated.

Next day, things went a little differently. More kids at camp, things went more smoothly, and rumour had it that we had a larger van for the day. Towards the middle of the day, though, I began to feel a little off-kilter. I wrote it off as dehydration, drank a few bottles of water, and kept moving. This was my chance to do some real mission work, and I was going to take it.

We did indeed get to do refugee home visits that day. It was incredibly humbling to sit in these makeshift houses of real people, and see how they make a life from it. I could not possible describe to you what it is like to talk to someone who has been through so much, and still has an uncertain future, but with unshakable faith.

It was while sitting on the cushions one woman had set out for her visitors, listening to her story about her escape from Syria, the double hip surgery that her baby, Fatume, had just woken up from (and was distressed to find her house full of strangers,) and her struggle to get by, that I realized two very important things.

First, that I’d been entirely selfish in my motivations to come here. This woman was braver and stronger than I’d ever be, and there was so little I could do to help her. Second, I realized that I was suddenly very, very sick. I was so dizzy that I could hardly stay awake, and that everything hurt, and my throat was swollen, and there was absolutely nothing that I could do about it. Sitting in the concrete tent home of a refugee family, suddenly I, the missionary, was the one who felt helpless.

God humbles us in the most unusual ways.

God humbles us in the most unusual ways. I prayed immediately that my selfish ambition would not allow anyone else to get sick, and that I could have the strength to make it through the day. A few minutes later, our refugee hostess brought out tea for all of us. I had to hold back tears of relief as I drank it. There is nothing that I could have wanted or needed more in that moment.

How could someone who had so little be giving me something that I needed. Wasn’t it supposed to be the other way around? By a communication mixup (which are fairly common when you don’t speak Arabic) I was the only one to get served tea twice. I was doubly blessed by someone who I was supposed to be blessing.

As a funny turn of events, the fact that I’d gotten two cups of tea instead of one (by total accident,) caused concern, and I was offered more medicine and kindness than I could have ever asked for from the visiting mission team who, again, I was supposed to be helper to.

It was an overwhelming reminder that it wasn’t, and isn’t about what I can do here in Lebanon. It isn’t about me, or my mission. This life, this help, and this service is always about God’s mission, and his glory, not mine. Sometimes it is hard to remember that it is God, not, I, who is the true giver, even when I think I can “save the day.”

God both humbles and blesses us when we need it most.

Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness! (Psalm 115:1)

View of Zahle
View of Zahle
Outside of a refugee home
Outside of a refugee home
Sarah Phillips is serving with the Lebanese Society for Educational & Social Development (LSESD), helping with camps for the Syrian children as well as with office assistance. A junior at James Madison University, she is a member of Round Hill Baptist Church and attends Harrisonburg Baptist Church while at school.

Read more about the 2016 summer missionaries.