It was only about 9:30am but we found ourselves standing outside in 110 degree weather handing out water bottles and rice one by one to those who had been waiting all morning. The sun was blazing and the only shade anyone could find was standing close enough to the semi trailer we were unloading from. Our team had gotten to help some friends from another organization with a distribution. it was a new camp for us and it had only been open for about 4 months. This meant it had received people who most recently fled Mosul. These people had been under ISIS rule the longest and the newness of the camp also meant that they were met with less food, poor clean water treatment, insufficient bathrooms, and no air cooling systems not to mention a sentiment held by some that they were still apart of ISIS since they chose to stay so long.
As the morning turned to noon, the temperature rose with the sun and the lines continued to fill up as word moved through the camp that there was a distribution taking place. There was plenty of help so some of us decided to leave the truck and take a walk around. The kids followed us along the dirt paths, holding our hands, repeating the only few english phrases they knew, and almost knocking us over when they realized we were giving out candy. I looked as we passed each tent. It was nice to see some of the parents smiling, happy that their children had something to entertain them even if only for a little bit. Each row of tents was almost the same. They were small but still had to sleep an entire family or more. In some, the older people were laying inside trying to escape the heat; mothers were comforting crying babies; toddlers too young to join in the crowds stumbled to the front to see what was going on, men stood outside the entrance bored with no work or other place to go.
I found myself comparing each tent to another trying to peer inside without seeming too nosey. It was like I was driving through a rich suburb in America looking over the fence to see who had the nicest car or biggest flat screen, but in this case it was to see who had a fan, were there matching sandals outside the door, did they have any food stacked up in a corner, did they have enough mattresses?
In that moment, even though the kids were laughing, it was another rude awakening. I only got to see about 50 tents, but there were six or seven thousand more people in the same situation, some a bit better some a bit worse. Back at the truck there were only 1,500 bags of rice and cases of water bottles that might last a week. My mind started going through all the ideas of how to help. Which programs we could offer, maybe we could meet with someone at the school, what things could we distribute next time we came. I felt God stop me in my tracks and ask me not to move. It was as if he was saying “Stop walking, stop thinking of ways to help, just take a moment and believe that I’m God in the place.” Honestly, I wasn’t even thinking about that. But the truth is if I don’t walk into a place knowing that God is king over the situation and the people, then I can’t act in a way that would show people who God is. I will always fall back into the next best idea, or latest strategy by default. God didn’t call us here as a team just to meet needs but to show himself to those who need a living and loving God. Regardless of the country in which we live and situations we see everyday we can’t forget this.