The Least of These

By: Morgan Steele

"Morgan!” Hannah* practically squealed with excitement as I stepped into her small apartment. “Ahlan we Sahlan (welcome)” she ushered me in, smothering me in a hug and saying “binti binti (my daughter,
my daughter).” I was three weeks into my five week stay in Tyre, Lebanon where I was teaching an English class, leading a Bible study, and learning study, and learning about life as a missionary. After all my doubts about my primitive knowledge of Arabic and lack of experience as a teacher, my quick friendship with Hannah encouraged me greatly.

When I sat in on her literacy, pregnancy health and craft classes for women in the refugee camps, I saw how her tangible joy and loving attention brought smiles to her students' faces. During her classes, the benches were always full, and everyone would have to squish together as latecomers trickled in. I could tell that she loved being there and that they loved having her. Hannah welcomed me into Lebanon enthusiastically and began calling me her American daughter; in the course of my stay, she showered me with gifts and many encouraging words.

While visiting, I told Hannah about my family– showing pictures and sharing names, but in a moment, she went from excited to somber as she told me about her own family– seven sisters and two brothers who all still live in Syria, surviving amid violence and poverty. Through her broken English, she told me of her brother and ten year old nephew who passed away, likely from being caught up in the violence in Syria. She told me about how there were no churches in Syria, and how her family doesn’t know Jesus. She talked about her small hometown that she missed so much. How everything there is handmade and beautiful, and her dream to bring the gospel back to her people someday.

The road that Hannah has had to walk has been difficult and lonely. Her daughter, now 13, was traumatized by things that happened in Syria, and rarely leaves her room except to go to school. Her husband works as a doorman for an 8 floor apartment building, which means he is obligated to run errands for tenants, fix anything broken, and keep hallways clean, so he is constantly busy at all hours of the day. From the joy Hannah exudes and time that she devotes to her ministry, she is the last person I would expect to have such difficulties facing her. While doing her best to support an overworked husband, traumatized daughter, and unsaved family in Syria– Hannah has found purpose in impacting women with the love of Christ even in her own hardship and mess.

Many of the women in her classes have also been through trauma, loss and heartbreak, and when I taught my own class, Hannah told me the heart-wrenching stories of each student. When Iwasatalossforhowtobring comfort to them, Hannah was the one who gave me advice. As someone coming from their culture who has been in their exact situation, she can encourage the other refugees in a way that I never could, because the loss and heartbreak Hannah is going through uniquely equips her to minister to other refugee women.

Preparing for Lebanon, my prevalent question was how can God use me to minister to these refugees? I just wanted wisdom and experience that I knew I didn’t have, but once I began my class and Bible study, I found that God used my youth to help me connect with my students who are close to my age. Just like Hannah, my experience uniquely qualified me to teach and disciple those like me.

This upside-down way that God works is exactly what we were talking about during the SOULS conference and our series Upside-Down Kingdom. We talked about how the values of God’s kingdom are the opposite of the world; when the world says it’s all about me, my temporary possessions and my happiness, the Bible says we are to become the least, to have joy when we have nothing, and to look toward His eternal glory. We see this in how He uses our perceived ‘weaknesses’ to advance His kingdom. When we become the least to serve the least, we get a picture of what Heaven will look like someday - a place where anyone who believes has a home, regardless of socio- economic status, race, history or mistakes made. When it comes to serving, we often hold ourselves back, thinking our contribution would be insignificant. But God says we are wonderfully made and uniquely gifted to serve Him. Just like in Hannah’s life, God uses whatever we bring to the table to advance His Kingdom.

* Hannah’s name has been changed for her privacy