Over the last 5 years the world has witnessed one of the worst humanitarian emergencies in decades. Since 2011, the war in Syria has killed over 400,000 people and displaced 11 million. Of that 11 million, just over ten thousand have been relocated to the USA, and just over eight hundred of those have made their way to my home city, San Diego. When Steps of Justice and my family moved here in January, we knew we had to respond to the refugee crisis in some way.
In July of this year a few of our friends hosted a Welcome to San Diego party for Syrian refugees who had recently come to the city. There were approximately 100 Syrians at the picnic, along with 90 volunteers. There was no agenda, there was no order of service, there were no speeches or teachings, just a good old fashioned BBQ at the beach. We cooked over 70lbs of chicken and beef, had tables full of salad and coolers filled with water, juice and soda.
We hung a huge sign that said “Welcome to San Diego” and spent five hours getting to know our new neighbors. It was such a beautiful time; the only time I (Phil Cunningham) had seen Syrians up to that point was in the news. Pictures of grief, death, and destruction covered the Internet and my newsfeed. Images of the horror the Syrian people were facing were everywhere I looked. Then, on a beautiful evening in July, a bunch of us got to spend time eating a meal with these people on a beach in San Diego. One Syrian said ,“This is the best day of my life.” Another said, “Our own community have not welcomed us into San Diego like this.” This is what I believe Jesus meant when he said “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31).
Over the next 3 months, Steps of Justice, and a few other organizations are running hope camps for our new neighbors. Three Saturdays a month we meet at a local park with approx. 40 children aged 6-14. We play games, have small group time and read stories and passages from the Bible. Our goal is to show the love of Jesus to these children and help them process the trauma and change that they have seen in their lives since the war in Syria began. Then, once a month we host a meal for all the families. Our last meal, October 15, we had approximately 90 Syrians come to fellowship and eat with us. It was an incredible gift to be a part of.
We would appreciate your prayers as we continue these Hope Camps until mid December, where we will end with a Christmas party. We love our new neighbors, they are a blessing to our city and our lives personally.
If you would like to get involved, you could donate financially. We need donations to purchase for food for the events, supplies for the newly arrived families, and transportation costs. You can do that at www.stepsofjustice.org/donate. Mostly though, we would love your prayers and support for us and our new neighbors.
For more information on Syrians coming to America, you can watch this interview on 60 Minutes.