A visit to the Refugee camp in Beirut

Almost every week I host visitors from around the world who heard about our work in the Refugee camps. A few weeks ago Mark came and I asked him if you would write his experience so we could publish it on this site. I think it says a lot. Thank you Mark!


“My travels have taken me across the world and to a variety of locations.
I’ve seen impoverished parts of china, aftermath of war in the Congo,
under resourced inner city US, and Nicaraguan refugee settlements in San
Jose, Costa Rica.  Many tough spots, to be sure, but despite
difficulties, there was always the promise of relief followed by
rehabilitation and development.  When I first heard of the plight of the
Palestinians in camps within Lebanon, and heard it associated with long
term relief, I immediately doubted what I was hearing and assumed that
there was some poor analysis going on.

So we arrived at the camp on a Monday am.  We heard the news that the
Lebanese do not/will not exercise any police control within the camps.
We had been told about the lack of legal status of the
Palestinians–that they cant work, own property, or leave the country.
But it doesn’t really mean anything until walking around in the middle
of the day.  Yes, there is a local economy within the camp and folks
buying and selling products.  But aside from this retail, there’s lots
of folks just sitting around.  Don’t they have options?  Yes, work
illegally outside of camp and be taken advantage of by employers looking
for cheap labor.  But maybe this will improve in the next generation?
Wait, it’s been this way for 60 years? All because my relatives decided
to go north to Lebanon instead of south to Jordan?  Wait, my kids and
their kids have this to look forward to?  Being taken care of by the UN
for the rest of my life?  Not being able to work and provide for my
family?  Well, maybe I should focus on my education?  So that I can be
taken care of by the UN for the rest of my life?

Well, maybe it’s not so bad.  The water is full of lead leading to long
term health issues, the electrical system is intermingled with the water
system (safety seems overrated), and when we have more family members,
we’ll keep building upwards without building codes, insuring disaster
and structural failure down the road.

I need to be honest here–I’m a glass half full person. But  I left the
camp wondering what hope exists for these people.  Really.  I think of
all the things I do in a day–all of the opportunity–and I scratch my
head asking myself what can I offer as hope to this desperate situation.
Of course, Jesus.  But these folks can’t hear about Jesus, because Jesus
is associated with Christianity, and the west, and it’s the west who has
empowered Israel that started their problems–and we wonder why they
might be angry?

But then I’m reminded that God is present in this camp, sustaining life.
I’ve never encountered something like this, and I’m thankful that there
are Muslims and Christians working together to give “a cup of cold
water” to these folks with an amazingly difficult situation and little
hope of change.  God is there–I’m thankful that folks following Jesus
are working to bring the kingdom of God to earth, however difficult it
may seem.


Leave a Reply