GLC in Syria: Sharing a Burden – A Meeting with One of the Hundreds of Orphans in Syria16 July, 2016 Kobani, Syria
“Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” — Matthew 11:28-30
Arjin is an eleven-year-old girl who lived with her family on the westernmost edge of Kobani, Syria, close to the Turkish border. She and her father and mother and four younger brothers and sisters had survived the battle between the Kurds and Assad for the city of Kobani in 2012. They had survived when ISIS took over Kobani after a long siege in September of 2014, and they had survived the battle in which it was wrested away from ISIS in January 2015. In the ensuing months, the Kurds and coalition forces had dealt ISIS major defeats, taking back hundreds of villages and nearly pushing them out of the area entirely. This family, along with many others, attempted to resume normal life and the morning of June 25th found them sleeping in the yard because the heat of summer was coming. Arjin’s mother was making the baby a bottle. Suddenly shots broke the morning calm, coming from the direction of the border. Arjin’s father ran around the house to see what was happening; he was hit instantly – his wife, hearing his scream, dropped the bottle and ran to him. She too was shot and killed. The kids followed their aunt in a frantic rush to her car as 15 ISIS fighters descended on the house, the first house to be hit that morning, because it was the nearest to the border. Arjin’s father and mother were thus among the first victims of the massacre of June 25th and 26th, in which ISIS fighters killed between 223 and 233 civilians. Arjin is now responsible for the care of her 9-year old sister and three younger brothers (ages 4, 2 and 1-year old), as well as helping to care for her elderly grandmother. They all live with her aunt.
Her dark eyes, as she looked carefully at me during our interview, were large and serious, weighing me up, calculating. We had handed out some clothes, shoes, snacks. When I asked what things they needed, she decided I might be able to help with diapers. “We need nappies, they’re really expensive,” she said, looking from me to the translator. I later learned from our translator that the only thing Arjin had ever specifically asked her for, without being prompted, was an enlargement of a photo of her parents.
Children in a war-zone are a unique ‘people-group.’ In my experiences, they are affected but still adeptly climbing over the wreckage to get where they want to go. The buoyancy and spontaneity of childhood is buried deep as they intentionally take on the seriousness of their situation – they no longer give themselves permission to have the light hearts of before. Arjin was now her mother and father, and she had to do them proud. As I saw this weight pressing on her, my own heart went out to her. Jesus’ words took on a new and very specific message of hope: “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
I told her, “You have had to grow up quickly, Arjin, with many new responsibilities. But you don’t have to be your mother and father. God knows you are 11 years old and He will help you. He won’t make this more than you can bear.” And I prayed with her for strength and that all her needs would be supplied. Then we sang some songs with her and the other kids, a mini program, like we had done the day before with hundreds of orphaned children in a nearby camp. And in the light of this girl and her family, the songs and games, the fun and laughter, took on a new weight – a weight that I trusted and hoped was lifted straight from Arjin’s small shoulders and transferred to the God who promises to help us bear all things.
Please pray with us for Arjin and her family and all the other children carrying heavy burdens in desperate circumstances.
God bless you,
The Good Life Club team