Beirut is a sprawling urban city with glittering glass skyscrapers but its green spaces are few. Like any family with small children, the many refugee families who live here are always eager to let their children explore nature but it’s not always so easy to find a place where they can run and play freely. The University Church saw this need and realized there was a simple solution: invite them to a Family Day on the Middle East University campus. “Our beautiful campus is an asset when serving the community,” said Silvana Biaggi, Children’s Ministries Director.
Together with Sara Saunders, Middle East University’s Service Learning Coordinator, they came up with the theme 2+5 = ?, a play on the Biblical story of the 2 loaves of bread and 5 fish. They wanted to teach the children that God’s math is different from human math. “When we give God the little we have, He multiplies it,” Biaggi explained. Then, after enlisting the help of more than 50 volunteers and donations for supplies, they began to invite the families to come and enjoy a fun-filled Sabbath afternoon on campus.
When May 13 rolled around, so did two busloads of refugee families from the community. God’s math had indeed multiplied as 150 Iraqi refugees and 70 Syrian refugees arrived, many of whom were already connected to the Adventist Learning Center in Bourj Hammoud which provides education for refugee children. The students, church members, neighbors and friends were kept busy running the stations, leading out in the games and crafts, and preparing snacks for the hungry children.
Sara Saunders, Service Learning Coordinator, said, “Activities like these are an opportunity for our students to learn to put faith into action, giving of themselves to show love to others. No one paid them any money for the hours and energy spent with the kids, but they were rewarded by observing the visitors’ joy.” Following Jesus’ example of mingling with the people, Family Day was a wonderful opportunity to share God’s love with our friends in the community, reminding us that the kingdom of heaven belongs to the little ones (Matthew 19:14).
See a short clip from Family Day online.