Can you ever remember a time in your life when you found yourself in a situation where you felt completely helpless and hopeless? Most of us can easily remember times when we felt helpless. Perhaps it was during a drought and we just could not get the much needed rain to grow our grass or water our cattle, and there was nothing we could do about it. Perhaps it was during a flood when everything we had would soon be underwater, and there was nothing we could do to prevent or stop the water from flowing. It may have been when we or a loved one faced an illness or injury that was either debilitating or terminal. For others it may have been when we lost a job, found ourselves in overwhelming debt, went through a painful divorce, or any other event or situation that got to the point where we no longer had any control or power to change the situation.
Probably, a lot fewer of us have ever really experienced situations where we experienced complete hopelessness – at least for an extended period of time. Even in the toughest times we have access to resources and/or knowledge to give us hope for a brighter tomorrow. We have so many things to give us hope for a better future in this life: world class health care and medications, education, insurance, government assistance, economic opportunities, friends and family, a strong military, church, etc. These all offer important, but only temporary hope.
The greatest news is that we have the opportunity through the truths and the promises of Scripture to know God the Father who created and sustains the universe and everything in it. We can know and experience the forgiveness, unconditional love, and the sacrificial and substitutional death, burial and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ so that we can know we have eternal life regardless of what happens to us in this life. We can know and experience the presence and the power of His Holy Spirit who lives in us and comforts us and gives us His peace even when all hell is breaking loose in our lives and in the world.
I recently returned from a trip to Jordan where I was part of a small team working with just a few of the almost 2 million Syrian refugees who have lost everything they owned and fled for their lives into Jordan. Millions more have fled to other neighboring countries. They have all been forced by the violence and bombings of war to leave their homeland, their jobs, their family, their dreams and everything familiar to them to live in refugee camps when their communities were destroyed.
Those who fled to Jordan were the lucky ones, but they still found themselves living in tents in a massive refugee camp in Mafraq Jordan (Al Zaatari Refugee Camp if you want to Google it) or in tents or crowded into one-room makeshift apartments in the surrounding communities outside the camp. They walk in with nothing except what they can carry on their backs. Syrian snipers are patrolling the border trying to kill them as they flee for safety. Many have been shot or wounded without having received any medical care. Many have lost family members or had to leave them behind not knowing what their fate would be. All of them have left everything and will probably never be able to rebuild their lives as they have known it.
Zaatari Camp is the second largest refugee camp in the world – 2.8 square miles and houses over 160,000 refugees. Six hundred refugees are still walking in each day. The other 1.5-plus million refugees have been allowed to move outside the camp in squatter tent villages or crowded into one-room apartments. It is Jordan’s fourth largest city, but still does not have running water or sewage, and electricity is scarce. The United Nations and other Christian and relief agencies provide each family with a thin mattress, tarps to make tents, a butane or kerosene stove, and some basic food supplies for a few days. After this initial period, the refugees are given a $26 coupon each month by the United Nations to purchase basic food supplies and fuel for their stoves. If medicine or hygiene products are needed, the people have to sell one or more of their food coupons to get cash to purchase these items. On average, they get $17 cash in exchange for a $26 coupon, so you can see how meagerly they live.
Crime in the camp is especially high. So high that the Jordanian government has basically given up trying to police the crowds so they just guard the perimeter of the camp. They just do not have the manpower. Life inside the camp is governed by whichever gang-like militant group has the most power. Rape, abuse and other crimes are common – so common that the women and girls cannot go outside to go to the bathroom at night.
Because of the sanitation issues, many of the children get sick. During the harsh winter they experienced this year, many suffered and died from the cold. When it rains, the camp becomes a mud hole of filth. When it is hot and dry, it is a dust bowl. Much has been done to improve the camp’s living conditions, but this is still how it is today after the improvements.
Life outside the camp is better, but the people are still traumatized, still living in severe poverty, still lacking medical care and hygiene products, the children are still unschooled, trauma still goes on, law enforcement is still inadequate or non-existent, and children are being taken or purchased for $100 by foreigners to be enslaved in the most grievous ways. The people still feel absolutely helpless, but, worse than that, they feel absolutely hopeless.
One little 11-year-old girl, we will call her Susie, felt so helpless and hopeless that she doused herself in kerosene and set herself on fire. Had it not been for one of our team members and our driver being down on the street to strip her clothes off, she would have died. As it is, she is still in the hospital with second- and third-degree burns over half her body. As she writhed in the street in pain, crying and screaming with nothing left on her body except hanging skin and her panties, we learned she had heard she was going to be raped again that night so, in her seemingly hopeless situation, she chose to set herself on fire.
I could go on and on, but still could not adequately put into words the absolute hopelessness these millions of people and millions more like them deal with every day without a glimpse of how things will ever be any different for them.
The Good News is there is a God who loves them and who has a plan for their lives. He loves them so much that He sent His only Son to suffer and die in their place so they could be set free. He rose from the grave, conquering death so they could have life and hope for all eternity in a place called Heaven where sin will be destroyed, every hurt healed and where God will personally wipe away every tear from their eyes.
The sad news is that these people do not know of this God or what He has done for them. They do not know Jesus purchased them through the shedding of His blood. They have not experienced the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit who can give them peace greater than their understanding or circumstances. They do not have access to God’s plan nor His promises found in Scripture, because they have no access to Bibles.
Through no fault of their own, they have never heard that God said, "I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV) The very thing they are desperately searching for right now: hope for a future! They have never heard Isaiah 40:31, "But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." They have never heard Romans 15:4, 13, "For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope … May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." They have never heard John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." All these, and so many more verses and promises of God, they have never heard because they have not had access to the Word of God, no churches, no Christian broadcasting – they know nothing about the only real Hope that any of us have – the only Hope that is eternal and keeps any of us going.
I have never before asked in one of these devotionals for help. But right now, the need is just so great and the doors are open that have never been open before for us to sow hope into the lives of these millions and millions of people by providing them with electronic Bibles and discipleship resources. We cannot let this great need go unmet, but we cannot meet it without the help of the millions who have experienced the Hope that only comes from Jesus Christ – THE Hope the people must hear about to possess.
Glenn Crumpler is is president of Cattle for Christ International, Inc. He can be contacted at 334-393-4700 (home), 333-4400 (mobile) or www.CattleforChrist.com.