(written 23 July 2016)
We always knew, not just that this day ‘could’ arrive, but, in actuality, that this day ‘would’ arrive. The question was never ‘if’, just ‘when’.
Well, that question has been answered.
When you are ministering and serving a transient, migratory group, you know that their life style mandates that they move about.
The work at the ‘Haven of Love and Kindness’ began in the winter – a time when there is little field work for the Syrian refugee field workers and hence the encampments tended to be more static over the long, cold, damp winter months.
But with advent of the Spring season, the weather is more moderate, and conditions in the encampments aren’t as punitive and harsh as during the winter months and field work recommences in earnest.
The nature of field work means that in any given locale, there is a certain amount of planting or working or harvesting to be done and once the current phase has been completed, there is no more work in that locale until the next phase is ready.
In response to this aspect of field work, the people responsible for organising the labour for the field owners, then arrange tractors pulling farm wagons to load up the make-shift shelters of a particular encampment, together with all their meagre possession, and move all, lock, stock and barrel, to a new field where they reestablish their encampment and commence whatever field work is available in the new location.
About a week prior to their relocation, we were informed that the families where we have pitched out tent for the activities of the ‘Haven’ were being relocated some thirteen kilometres away.
We are assured that they will be back, in about two months time. Then work in the new location will be exhausted and there will be work back in this location. As the individual who organises the work, with his family and a few other families will be remaining at the encampment, we have taken the decision to leave the tent pitched where it is – ready to recommence when the full encampment is once again reconstituted.
So, for our last ‘Haven’, we decided to have a bit of a party and prepare some gifts for the children. We knew that some of the families will have already have been relocated, and so we did not know how many children would be there.
In preparation, we asked the teacher to prepare a list of all the children and so we prepared individual, named gifts for the children
We arrived a bit earlier than the appointed time and found many children there and many who had already been relocated. It was agreed that, together with the teacher, I would travel up to the new encampment site, pick up the children and bring them back for the party, meal and gift giving…
Thankfully the teacher knew where we were going as this is a new encampment, it hasn’t existed before and I had no idea where it was – just a vague idea as to the general location.
We drove up to a village, through the village and out on a patched asphalt road heading towards the hills and, I suppose ultimately, the Syrian boarder. Fields to the left and fields to the right, sporadically dotted with massive piles of huge field stones.
Finally we saw, in the distance, the tell-tale signs of an encampment, the bright blue tarpaulins that form the outer coverings of the make-shift shelters. As is all so common, the location for the new encampment is simply a barren field. As it is devoid of growth, I assume the crop has been harvested and the ground has not yet been prepared for the next crop.
There, there is no significant shade save for one solitary tree which one individual has already claimed and pitched their shelter in its shade – all the rest will be situated under the relentless and fierce Antakyian sun. Already, on this flat field, the first contingent have pitched their make-shift shelters. There seems to be no order or plan to the encampment – it is almost as if wherever the tractor stopped they have pitched their shelters.
Water at this location is provided by the labour organiser and in this case consists of a bowser of water (water tanks on wheels). So not the freshest of water and in a distinctly limited amount. Latrines will need to be situation and dug and surrounded by a bit of tarpaulin to provide a degree of privacy.
The teacher meet with the those in the encampment and then we loaded up the children for the return trip to the ‘Haven’.
We had been provided with colourful yellow t-shirts for the children, and as we pulled up to the ‘Haven’, the children ran out to greet us, all dressed in their new yellow t-shirts.
Today was not a ‘class’ day, there were no lessons. The children were happy and playing.
It was hot in the tent, no two ways about that, but outside there was no shade, so, even hotter. But that is par for the course for these children – in the summer it is always hot or very hot or too hot; and in the winter it is damp and cold or very cold or too cold. That is their inescapable lot.
The time came for the gift giving. Receiving a gift is always enjoyable, but even more so when you are the named recipient. But these are children living, shall I say, in ‘less than ideal’ circumstance, and so the gifts would not be of a frivolous nature.
In each gift there were two summer weight sweat suits, 2 pairs of socks for the boys or tights for the girls, some candy, gum and cupcakes and the little children received a strong rubber balloon and a toy truck. I am always humbled by the truly appreciative and thankful attitude of the children when they receive a gift of socks or other clothes.
After a meal together, they were given individual boxes of chocolate milk.
It is not the end of the ‘Haven’, but we have entered a two month hiatus.
Our ministry of providing basic dry food stuffs will continue and so, we will be out in the fields, seeing where they are and what they are doing and, DV, in the fullness of time, they will be back and the ‘Haven’ can recommence in September.
Thank you for your prayers and concern for these children. Please continue to pray for them and that the door to ‘Haven’ may once again open in about two months time.