Tearfunds partner in Lebanon delivers its work through the local Lebanese church. Courageous faith-filled men and women who have responded to this huge humanitarian crisis for the last nine years are stepping up again… Sitting in my lounge looking out the window today like most of us, I reflected on the enormous change that has happened in the world in such a short time. No wonder many of us have been feeling stressed. For some people, the distress is growing as job losses hit and economic challenges start to bite.

This morning though, my mind vividly recalled a woman I met 18 months ago in Lebanon. Before this global pandemic, she was struggling to survive and provide for her three children.

I met her in her home, as part of a weekly pastoral visit that Tearfund’s partner in Lebanon made. The house was a 3m x 4m concrete box with two broken windows roughly stuffed with cardboard. It had rained heavily overnight and since this was a refugee slum, constructed within the ruins of the city rainwater had flooded the house. We carefully entered and stood beside her as she boiled a chicken neck in a pot of water over a kerosene burner. There was a broken single bed in one corner, and on it, a mattress and some blankets were piled to keep them dry.

In another corner was a chair and stacked on it were the few other clothes they owned. There was no other comfort or food available—it was stark and desperate. The young mother, a Syrian refugee, was alone in the world. Her husband had been killed in the war and the trauma she had experienced in her escape to Lebanon had left her mental health very fragile. She had little education, and due to her desperate circumstances, had turned to prostitution in an attempt to help her children survive.

This, however, had compounded her isolation and shame, adding to the weight of her burdens and loneliness. With Covid-19, I find myself again thinking of this young woman. When you are the poorest of the poor, struggling to survive on a good day, Covid-19 amplifies your vulnerability and robs you of the little you have. For women around the world who have been trafficked, enslaved or through total desperation have ended up the sex industry, their income has gone completely. The level of poverty these people experienced is lived one day at a time.

They have to earn enough to pay rent for the day and food for the day. There are no savings to fall back on, no assets to sell, no welfare to register with, no security. They cannot stockpile food, no refrigeration to keep food safe, social distancing is not possible for those in slums or refugee camps as neighbours are crowded into very small spaces. Water is scarce and bathrooms are shared by large groups. All the suggested Covid-19 safety measures implemented in NZ are simply unachievable in their world.

The lions share of the work Tearfund’s partner in Lebanon delivers, is through the local Lebanese church. Courageous faith-filled men and women who have responded to this huge humanitarian crisis for the last nine years are stepping up again. But they need resources – plain and simple.

We, the church in NZ, have the resources and it is incumbent on us do our part to ensure the church in Lebanon can distribute much-needed hygiene kits and essential food supply services going for refugees. As church leaders, we need your voices to encourage your church communities to not turn away from the poor at this time.

We humbly ask that you focus their prayers on this global tragedy and remember the most vulnerable. We also pray that this focus would lead to people considering supporting the work being undertaken by Tearfund’s partners whether in a small way or a big way. We are all in this together and every little bit will help.