With the upcoming release of our short documentary “Trapped in Transition” coming on December 3, we are also sharing written stories from our trip to the Middle East where footage for the film was captured. As part of the film crew we sent our president, Kevin McKay, our communications coordinator, Luke McKee and our film maker, Robert Mentov. Over the next 6 weeks we will be sharing the stories from their travels as they followed national workers from the Free Evangelical Association of Lebanon (FEAL). For more information on the upcoming film and the official premiere please visit the event page here.
Arriving in a new country with next to nothing presents immense difficulties. Families fleeing violence have escaped immediate danger, but now arrive in a new country to face a new challenge; they must quickly find a place to live. Many arrive with the hope that their stop in Lebanon will be temporary, but those we meet during our travels reveal to us that what was once thought to be a short term stay has turned into long-term shelter.
The majority of people crossing the Syrian/Lebanese border will begin to settle in a farming area called the Bekaa Valley. They remain close to danger, as fighting continues between rebels groups, ISIS, and Lebanese militia in the mountains just 10KM away. Only a few weeks before we arrived in the Bekaa Valley, a group of local soldiers had been kidnapped. Their government refuses to negotiate with extremists, and despite the desperate pleas of the soldier’s parents, they remain unheard from.
This violent potential exists in the Bekaa Valley, but for many it is the least of their concerns. The refugee camps in the valley are not the organized white-tent communities we typically associate with refugees, rather they are small communities that have spontaneously emerged with no organization. Lebanese farmers will allow refugees space to build new homes in exchange for labour in their fields. There are no paychecks for the refugees and they must survive on the bare minimum. After we participate in a morning food distribution we then arrive in a camp to meet many that received care packages that morning. We learn that the food they received is all they have, they must stretch these supplies amongst their families. Every day presents a new struggle, each day becomes more difficult than the last.
For those who arrive with money, they often journey to the capital city of Beirut where they hope to find apartments. They are meant to be a short stop before they continue their journey to Europe. However, political bureaucracy and slow moving legal systems have ensured that many families will remain in Beirut for years.
Lebanon is an expensive country and the only affordable apartments in Beirut are in the Bourj Hammoud district. The apartments are small, cramped and often unsanitary. Our film team is shocked to learn that the cost of many of these apartments can be as much as 600 U.S. dollars a month, similar to prices in some Canadian cities. Refugee families are confined to these homes. While the husband will often hunt for any kind of work during the day, mothers and children remain indoors. The Lebanese community has grown annoyed with the refugees and so children are not allowed to play in the street. As we are invited into these homes we hear the same stories as the Bekaa Valley. They are people who have been waiting for years to leave. What began as a short term solution has become permanent.
The future for these people is grim. They are waiting for help and yet it does not appear to be coming. They have escaped the violence of their country only to enter a new trap. Their lives are safe, and yet still seems more difficult then they ever could have imagined.
God has seen the struggle of these families, He has heard their cries of pain. The Church in Lebanon has risen to care for these people. Local leaders in Lebanon have emerged to sacrificially share God’s unconditional love to the people who need it most.
Keep an eye on our blog next Sunday for Part 3 of the Trapped in Transition blog series! Next week we will share how the Free Evangelical Association of Lebanon is responding and the people that God is working through. You can watch the trailer for the film below: