1500 Olive Trees

There comes a time on any trip where you feel overwhelmed, when tiredness and lack of control of your surroundings can creep into the journey. I think it is particularly true of any kind of refugee or humanitarian work. 

Yesterday was my day to feel overwhelmed. Overwhelmed and inadequate with the needs I have seen and the stories I have heard. 

To summarize, anything you have ever heard or seen about the refugee crusis is true, but worse. The stories of losing everything, people watching relatives killed, babies born to moms who can’t breastfeed because of inadequate diet, losing factories, businesses, and livelihood. All of it is true. 

Two days ago, we sat across from a farmer who had 1500 olive trees in a village near Aleppo. ISIS has taken over his land and cut most of the olive trees down for firewood. It is a literal loss of generations of family’s work. It is symbolic of everything else they have lost. 

I have met widows and new moms struggling, men who can’t find work and mothers who lost their sons, men who are being pressured to sell their kidneys just to get money to feed their families. The collective loss is unimaginable. 

I have learned that ISIS is one kind of evil–and the other evil is the people that would profit from a crisis. Those who would buy children from a desperate parent; scheme to traffic vital organs; and charge thousands of dollars so people can drown in a poorly made boat. 

When people are left without hope, we must hope for them. 

It is a privilege to sit with people and hear their stories and I am so grateful for this time. It is a gift to laugh in the midst of pain; to drink strong cups of Arab coffee while sitting in tents; to ask people how we can pray. 

But I also have an obligation to pass on what I have seen and learned and to ask you to remember this crisis, remember Syrian and Iraqi refugees. Don’t forget them – and pray for peace to come to these lands.  

 

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Third Culture Kid - Grew up in Pakistan, lived and worked in Pakistan and Egypt as an adult. Moved to the United States and learning to live away from curry, Urdu, Arabic and the Pyramids.

6 thoughts on “1500 Olive Trees

  1. The story about the olive trees is heart-breaking. HEART-BREAKING. Even days later, it is staying with me. Can’t stop thinking about this impossible loss. How can people endure such loss? I have American friends enduring unimaginable losses right now too, and I start to wonder how much the human soul can endure.

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  2. Even if one heart is opened through your words to this human crisis of unimaginable proportions, then good has been done. Every bit of loving kindness released into our world has meaning . . . and may draw even more Grace to healing our broken world.

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  3. God bless your kind and compassionate efforts.You are bringing the world to many of us who cannot go. Thank you for being responsive to the call to share what you know and experience. It is making the world a bit smaller.

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  4. Marilyn,
    I have been frequently checking your blog since you last wrote hoping you would write more about all that you encountered on your journey. I have imagined you being back home but unable to stop thinking about all that you have seen and heard. Please write more. Tell us what you can. You have been there and more than once. Your heart is enormous and I believe many of us would like to hear more. Hear more so that we might know and understand better. We see a news clip here and there but it is not like being there and really seeing how it is. When time permits will you please tell us more?
    Thank you for going. Thank you for all that you do for the refugees.

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  5. Marilyn I just want to weep . A few years ago, BEFORE all this, we visited Syria by road, where we walked the streets of Damascus, climbed ancient forts, were amazed in Palmyra, shopped in Aleppo, visited/worshiped in a Christian village (has now been destroyed) relaxed in tea shops, met and chatted with the friendly people we met and gained insight, love and respect for those precious people. I am thankful that you, Cliff, and others are trying desperately to bring hope. May God have mercy.

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