Film Crew Reports From the Frontlines of a Syrian Refugee Camp: “Throughout the suffering, God remains present, and His presence brings hope.”

by Luke McKee

As the world considers how it will respond to the Syrian crisis, millions of men, women and children remain trapped in a state of chaos, struggling to survive in foreign countries having been forced from theirs.

The Trapped in Transition film team explored the lives of Syrian refugees and made friends along the way.
The Trapped in Transition film team explored the lives of Syrian refugees and made friends along the way.

While Canada plans to sponsor thousands of refugees in the coming months, the sad and heartbreaking reality is that represents less than one percent of the total number of people displaced by the Syrian conflict. Many conversations are focused on bringing refugees West, but what will be our response to be to those left behind?

The plight of these refugees is the focus of the short film, “Trapped in Transition,” commissioned by Partners International Canada (PI).

The film shares a beautiful story of partnership as local Lebanese leaders sacrificially serve on the front lines. Their work in the region is done with the larger vision of building the church in the Middle East.

“Trapped in Transition” follows Dany, Robert and Issam, three PI-sponsored local workers helping refugee families who are trying to survive in challenging circumstances. Refugees arriving in Lebanon face inhospitable conditions with minimal support. Whether it is the cramped, barely habitable apartments in the slums of Beirut or the makeshift tents of the Bekaa Valley, it is a life of hardship.

For me and the rest of the film team (Film Director Robert Mentov and Partners International President, Kevin McKay) it was a firsthand look into a crisis that has been ongoing since 2011.

I was devastated to hear the stories of these families. The horrors they have lived through are things I cannot even begin to imagine.

Hearing teenagers speak of being shot at and witnessing beheadings evidenced how dark this world, our world, can truly be.

“Meeting the people that God is working through first-hand was inspiring for me. As we spent time with Robert, Dany and Issam we were amazed and humbled by their courage. In many cases, they are the only source of hope to displaced families. Amongst the tragedy, God’s hand is present through the national workers that are bringing light to a region full of darkness.

Their stories give hope to a crisis that is at times overwhelming. The film shows the dramatic ways that God is working in the lives of those in the Middle East.

Robert, a former member of the militia during the Lebanese civil war, has gone from fighting Syrians to serving them. God has taken a life previously filled with violence, transformed it by His unconditional love and now it demonstrates what purposeful service in His name can do. Robert now understands what it means to be loved and seeks to share this with the people that he serves.

For the refugee families we interviewed, unconditional love can appear in the smallest ways. Refugee children have had their childhoods taken from them. Those who live in Beirut are often chased from the streets and confined to small apartments. The simple opportunity to play is something that they do not have. Robert, Dany, Issam and other local workers invited us to attend a weekly program they have established where children can come and play. This is a place where kids can be kids.

As we filmed and participated in the programming, our hearts were full as we noticed the smiles never left the children’s faces. Their joy rings out throughout the rented school-house as they engage in a safe community and recapture the fun of childhood.

The connections between displaced families and the workers coming alongside of them are undoubtedly the highlight of the film. Seeing the amazing impacts of these relationships gives hope for the future as families continue to be affected by this crisis. These local workers are committed to the region for the long term; they want to help families rebuild their lives in the fullest sense. You can view the documentary. 

Luke McKee is communications coordinator for Partners International Canada (an affiliate organization of The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, publisher of Faith Today). Read a Faith Today article and watch a webinar on how your church can help sponsor refugees.

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