When I came in Syria, although perfectly informed during the training sessions, I still had in mind all the ideals of a young man going on his first humanitarian mission abroad. But after a week, reality caught up with me. A wonderful and exhilarating reality, because it teaches humility and joy.
Indeed, I thought I would participate in grandiose projects, rebuild the houses of poor Christians in the East with the sweat of my brow, under the cheers of the delirious crowd, etc.... First mission once I arrived in my antenna: sorting a few hundred kilos of rubble to extract a few thousand small plastic boxes, so that a monastery could use it again. And it lasted three days.
After those three days, I had a great discussion, with the projects officer and a second volunteer, about service, commitment and usefulness.
It was then that I understand. I was useless. I wouldn't change anything for anyone, no matter what I would do.
And it was precisely this uselessness that gave me the freedom to serve. Because once I got rid of the utility injunction, I could fully enjoy the time I spent with the Christians in Syria, and remember that the most important thing was not what I was doing, but to do it with them or for them. And to offer them the only thing that really mattered: my joy of being here, in their community.
So I spent a month and a half in Syria, mainly in the village of Maaloula, clearing, sweeping, harvesting, playing, sharing, laughing, discovering and exchanging with the inhabitants.
Through all these missions, I progressively met a soul: that of Syrian Christianity, proudly manifesting its faith, covering itself with crosses; roofs and bell towers of churches tattooed on the wrists of men.
This Christianity composed of those Men who have remained, whatever reason for it, and who speaks so little of a wound that it still alive.
For this is how the Christians of the East appears to be in front of me: never denying their faith, but speaking of what they have endured in His name only rarely, with as many clouds in their voices as in their eyes, and always in a simple way. No, definitely, they don’t seem to be sad people. They, who are always smiling and ready to shine, have never missed an opportunity to offer me something.
I, who had come to give, I leave satisfied. As the former volunteers had predicted. How can the human warmth of the moments shared during the work can be reported through this few words? How can we describe the greatness of the shepherd who covers his table with food for five volunteers, who came to help him for a few days for the harvest, when we guess that he himself would not eat this in a week? What intense moments, that those spent around a cup of the famous Syrian coffee, questioning our hosts about their lives, their families, their hopes, and delivering ours in return...
No, definitely, it is impossible to write all this down, no matter how much time I spend choosing my words. The only solution is for you to come and see for yourself.
Jean, volunteer in Syria & “Knight of the Krak.”