A story of Hope
A Mural Project
The Syrian families we work with are settling into life in America. Most of them have been in the U.S. about a year and they don’t have the same needs they did when we first met them. Their lives seem more normal. More time is spent talking about school or switching apartments than about the distant war, but there’s always something that reminds us their journey to San Diego and to this point in history has been anything but normal.
This past year we worked on a mural with some families in City Heights. It was a collaborative project with local college students and artists to express the refugees' story. At our first gathering for the project, one of the families we had spent a lot of time with shared some of their story. we already knew Ahmed* (the dad) spent most of one year being tortured in a Syrian prison, but this day he voiced things we hadn’t heard. We were on the edge of our seats as he told about the night they were stuck in an abandoned house between opposing forces. The kids slept while Ahmed and his wife prayed they would all die together instantly (so the kids would never know what happened). Bullets and mortars flew back and forth all night, no one knowing a husband, wife and their three kids were huddled and hiding in between. When the sun came up and the shelling stopped, it was a miracle they had survived.
As we listened that day in the library, we were overwhelmed thinking about everything they had been through and then Ahmed made the most sobering statement… “Please don’t feel bad for me. I’m one of the lucky ones! There are so many people that have had it much worse. By comparison, we have been spared many sorrows. I made it to the U.S. with my wife and kids.” Then he told us a horrific story about a 16-year-old boy who was used as a human shield and strapped to the front of a tank. He watched the family chase the tank down the street begging for the boy’s life.
It is true that the refugees we work with are blessed to live in the U.S. because there are millions of others still living in the margins or in warzones. However, our friends carry the trauma of their journey and sometimes, however grateful they may be to be here, the bully at school or a lack of resources to pay their bills triggers memories of buried pain. It’s in these places we want to bring hope and light. As they gradually emerge from survival mode, they need as much support as ever…so we keep visiting, keep listening, keep sharing our love and faith. We also provide creative ways for them to express themselves. As we've seen in projects like the mural, it’s evident that having help to express their experiences in a validating way is important to the healing process.
A Picture Says a Thousand words
A print of the finished mural. . .