Amin fled Syria with his children and grandchildren. He’s received trauma healing support from Bible Society and now he says, “God is a healer.”
It’s a warm, sunny day in the Jordanian town of Madaba. Parents are dropping their children off at school. The early morning bread sellers are out pushing their carts down the dusty roads.
And in the Church of St George, the first clutches of tourists are being introduced to one of the great sites on the pilgrimage trail: the Madaba Map. This is a mosaic map of the Middle East that dates back to the 6th century. It’s the oldest known map of the region. A lot has changed and a lot has stayed the same since it was pieced together.
Time and weather have destroyed some parts of the craftsmen’s art leaving blank bits where there were once cities, mountains and rivers. Today, politics and violence have destroyed some of the places on this ancient map. Some 1.6 million people from neighbouring Syria and Iraq have fled to Jordan in the last few years, increasing the country’s population by an estimated 20%.
They bring nothing with them but memories and trauma. It’s into that brokenness that the Bible Society of Jordan has stepped. For the last three years it has offered trauma healing to tens of thousands of adults and children alike. It is also providing much-needed aid and support to between 33-35,000 people a year.
God is a healer
Trauma healing is not a fix-all. But for many, both Christians and Muslims alike, these Bible-based group conversations can be the chance to talk about their experiences; for someone to listen to them; and to try to find hope and God in the midst of it all.
One of them is former cattle merchant, Amin Ahmad Mash-hoor, 54. He, his wife, daughters and grandchild welcome us into their home. It’s a sparsely-furnished, very basic place, but tea is served as we sit on the mattresses and talk about life.
Amin, who is from Homs in Syria, talks about his love for the cattle he worked with, how he misses them and the daily life of working outdoors. The family fled Homs four years ago because of the effect it was having on his children and grandchildren.
“The children saw bombs and people killed and injured on the ground,” says Amin. “We took refuge in a neighbouring Christian village but they couldn’t take us all because 17,000 of us had fled. I have two grandchildren who came with me. One had a heart condition and the other, his hair had stopped growing because of shock.”
For three-and-a-half years the family, who come from a Muslim background, have been attending the local church. Set up by Pastor Amjad, who is also Bible Society’s trauma healing counsellor for the city, the congregation is now 200-strong. Like Amin, 80% of those who attend, are Muslims.
They met Pastor Amjad – who is dying of cancer – when both he and Amin’s grandson were in hospital. Pastor Amjad arranged for the child to have heart surgery, for which the local church paid. And he sent them on trauma healing courses.
Amin says it’s helped the whole family. “The war impacted me psychologically. But now we are at ease because our grandchildren have someone taking care of them. Through the years that we’ve been going to church, many people were affected by what they saw. They were all healed of their trauma.”
“I learned,” he adds, “that God is a healer. When I didn’t count on my age and experience, but on God, then I was healed.”
Everything falls into place with love
After we’ve sipped our mint tea, Pastor Amjad sits down with the family and reads the Bible with them. He reads from 1 Corinthians 13.13, ‘And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.’
“Everything falls into place with love,” he says.
Pastor Amjad was diagnosed with cancer more than a decade ago. Doctors told him to go home and die. It was too late to treat him, they said. Instead, he prayed that God would give him 15 years to work for him. He’s come to the end of that time.
“Why,” I ask him, “are you spending your dying days providing trauma healing for refugees?”