Nour is one of the new faces at our art group today. “I love drawing”, she says, “but I never get time to do it at home”. Her tangled black curls bob with each stroke of the pencil, with each sip from her tiny glass of tea. And she begins to share about the life she left behind.
Once, she was a law student in Syria. She was prevented from finishing her degree, first by her abusive husband, then by the war. She recalls the bombs falling as she fled with her two young children. In this new city, which is both haven and hostile, she must now raise these children as a single mother. Nour has no job. She speaks little of the local language here. Until recently, she felt scared to leave her home. “It’s hard”, she says, in what must be the biggest understatement of this refugee crisis.
With her children now in local school, Nour is finally finding time for herself. She heard about the art club through the refugee centre where she gets occasional help with food and clothing. Here, she has found that time to sit with her pencils and a cup of tea. She’s found other women who know what it is to run and hide and raise children alone.
But she tells us she’s found something else. One day, some of those women bring Nour a cake for her birthday. She smiles awkwardly through the singing and then proceeds to cut generous slices for us. As we’re eating, she says to us, “It’s different here. There is joy that comes out of you that is so different”.
We marvel at this because so often we feel ordinary and small in the face of the extraordinary needs of refugees. But maybe what Nour has glimpsed in the art room is the extraordinary love of God who cares for her. A love without strings attached, which grows in community, and which is stronger than bombs or language barriers or fear.
Erin is serving long term in West Asia. She is passionate about melding art and loving community for therapeutic and kingdom-building purposes.
All names have been changed.