By Lucy*, a short-termer on a recent summer team
‘Semolina…and orange blossom water.’
Aisha*, a Syrian woman, was looking at the English translation of the Arabic words she had put into Google Translate. She had baked a delicious cake for the last day of the educational summer scheme and I had asked her for the list of ingredients.
Earlier in the week we had chatted at length about our mutual interest in international cookery. This was one of many conversations of connection between our short-term team of Christian volunteers and Syrian refugees – many of whom were Muslims – who had settled in one UK city.
Having fun, sharing life
Those in the team assigned to the summer scheme were working with children, helping to prepare lunch, or assisting with English classes, while the rest were allocated to Syrian families to teach English in their homes.
The atmosphere at the centre was vibrant, full of noise and life – a place for learning and a place for the team to share their skills, enthusiasm, and lives with all those who went there, whether refugees or other volunteers..
Getting involved in the lives of the Syrian families for a week meant we gleaned insights from stepping into their worlds. Uplifting stories of how children were having their innocence of youth returned through playing sport, music, crafts and forming new friendships were mixed with examples of hardship as families struggled to find jobs, learn a new language, adjust to a new culture, and just get through the demands of daily life in a foreign land.
Quality time and deep chats
When we made home visits to spend focused time with Syrians, we were very much blessed by their generosity. As well as serving rich coffee and delicious food, they freely shared their joys and sorrows with us. It was a privilege to hear stories that moved us to tears as well as topics that brought much laughter as we sat together, chatting and eating as friends.
With an Islamic festival rich in spiritual imagery on the horizon, there were natural opportunities to share sensitively teaching that is at the heart of our Christian faith. We were able to point to how Jesus was the Lamb slain once for all for forgiveness of sins.
Seeing God at work
It’s heartening to know that we played our small part in the ongoing work of reaching out to Syrians in that city with the love of Christ. And it’s encouraging that in a small window of time some opportunities did open up for Jesus to be shared in word and deed. For one family, we were able to speak to them about Jesus twice in one day. This spiritual interest has been built on three years of building relationships of trust and shows that the work is long-term and depends on the Spirit of God at work in partnership with the faithfulness of His people.
It was a privilege to have served alongside those followers of Jesus as well as others from around the UK who have a heart for Muslims.