The night that government forces attacked the Aziz* family’s village in Sudan’s Darfur region would change the course of their lives forever. The family narrowly escaped—one of only five families in the entire village to do so—but their house, animals, and garden were destroyed. They needed to start over, but how? Where would they go? What resources did they have?
The Middle East does not top the list of places of peaceful refuge around the world. But for the Aziz family, the Middle East was a destination for them among very few options. They headed to Jordan after their mother became critically ill. At the time, there was war to the east of Jordan, conflict to the west, and Iraqi refugees filling its cities. Still, Jordan seemed a better alternative than the reality behind them. The family landed in Amman, the capital city, with a short-term humanitarian visa, knowing that they would probably never be able to go back home.
Once the Aziz family arrived in Amman, they quickly planted themselves among the other three million inhabitants of the capital city, in a neighborhood where hundreds of Iraqi refugees had reestablished their lives. The neighborhood offered the city’s cheapest housing as well as vegetable markets and bakeries within walking distance of the family’s humble apartment.
The nearby public school did not have room for the three Aziz children, but down the street stood a small building with a sign above it that read, “Nazarene School.” The children thought they had no hope of attending because their father’s earnings were barely enough to cover the family’s food and rent—with nothing left to pay tuition at a private school.
The family heard that the nearby Ashrafiya Church of the Nazarene was providing food, mattresses, blankets, and heaters to refugees from a neighboring country. Their mother prayed, asking God to let the Nazarene church help her Sudanese family, too. That prayer was answered, and the church welcomed the Aziz family.
According to the pastor of Ashrafiya Church of the Nazarene, the family members were not just casual attenders. They became critical members of the church community, coming to prayer meetings and participating in drama, sports, and music ministries. The church came to love this family and was eager to help them. In fact, the pastor and other church leaders helped the family when their mother was in the hospital on two separate occasions, a kindness the family says they will not easily forget.
“The situation of refugees in our neighborhood will break your heart,” the pastor said. “If you sit in their homes and listen to their stories, you will be moved to take whatever money you have in your pockets and empty it into their hands.”
And over the years, the church did its share of emptying its pockets. The Ashrafiya Nazarene School enrolled the Aziz children by faith. Nazarene Child Sponsorship and special donations kept the children learning and thriving in the school for the eight years they lived in Jordan.
The Aziz family found themselves in a seemingly hopeless situation but soon discovered the love and compassion of a local church that cared for their children and their physical needs. When we live compassionately, we participate in God’s redeeming work in individuals, families, and communities around the world.
Right now, Nazarene Compassionate Ministries’ 2014 Christmas Project is focused on helping children, just like those in the Aziz family, who have been displaced by violence. Through the gifts of people from around the world, NCM is able to provide education, food, and loving Christian discipleship to children in times when they need it most. Will you help bring hope to a child caught in dark circumstances? Visit NCM.org/Christmas to give today.
* Name has been changed.