Andrew Amerson’s greatest passion is helping people in developing countries who are facing hardships beyond their control.
Currently, he is studying international affairs with a concentration in economics at Kennesaw State University, and he plans to continue graduate studies in economics.
The Evans native is writing a book about how the Church could benefit from greater levels of specialization in its approach to aid and missions work, and he has been carefully following the events in the Middle East.
Earlier this month, he returned from a trip to North Africa and the Middle East to do research for his book.
While there, he wanted to reach out to the refugees of the combat in Syria. He connected with the nongovernmental organization Heart for Lebanon and spent five days in the country distributing food and supplies.
He wrote about his experiences in his blog, The Five and Dime Economist.
Following is the blog post he wrote Aug. 6, in which he describes his visit with a family that fled fighting in Syria and is living in a tent in Lebanon.
He said the experience changed his life.
“This trip has further instilled a deep love for the Middle East and I hope to return to the area often,” he said in an e-mail. “I feel like the Western world should do more to understand this, at times dangerous yet always completely mesmerizing and beautiful part of the world.”
Amerson lives in Atlanta with his wife, Christina, who works for the nonprofit Living Water International.
The couple frequently travel to developing countries and plan to continue to search for ways to improve the lives of the poor in those areas through economics, health and missions work.
Aug. 6, 2014:
If you know me you probably know that I would be hesitant to use the words “life changing” about many events that I’ve ever witnessed. However, today I had the opportunity to witness something that will truly change the rest of my life.
This morning we woke up early and were not exactly sure of what our day’s schedule would look like. We were planning to go visit and distribute food and care items to Syrian refugees living in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon.
The problem was that there had been fighting between the radical Islamist group ISIS and the Lebanese government for the last few days, and we had to wait to see if it would be possible to even get in to the valley to make our visit.
We got the go-ahead when the group from Heart of Lebanon showed up at 8:15 a.m. and said the fighting had been pushed far enough away that we could get in.
We rode for an hour-and-a-half through absolutely gorgeous mountains and then down into the valley and ended up in a world that can’t be truly described with words. Throughout the Bekaa Valley you can see hundreds of tent cities where Syrian, and to a lesser degree Iraqi, refugees have made their temporary homes. The tent cities are not allowed to progress into anything resembling a permanent settlement because the Lebanese government doesn’t want the millions of refugees living in Lebanon to stay on a permanent basis. This leaves tents that are built out of scrap tarps and other improvised items that are spread out for miles and miles.
When we arrived we set to work unloading a truck and assembling supply and food kits that we passed out to several hundred of the 2,100 families that Heart for Lebanon serves. We were then able to visit with, pray for and get to know several of the families during our visit.
One of the precious families invited us into their home and had us sit down for tea. I was beyond moved to watch as a family who barely has any possessions left offered us a portion of what they did have in an absolutely awe-inspiring gesture of gratitude and friendship.
We sat down on the floor, where they insisted we sit on their best padded floor mats, and we then listened to a story that I never imagined I would hear from someone in a face-to-face, real-life setting. The widowed mother of three beautiful little girls and two boys told us how her husband was arrested and then beheaded by the Syrian government for aiding, but not actually fighting with, the Syrian rebel group who is trying to unseat the president. She then told us how a few days later, her oldest son was killed in a grenade explosion near their home. The now-eldest son, who is 16, whom we met, was captured by the government and was tortured by electric shock and beatings for days and the mother was thrown into jail for two months.
After she was finally released from prison, she and the family walked for days across arid land to make their way into Lebanon.
I’m not sure how this family has kept their composure or finds the strength to pray for peace in what certainly must seem like a lifetime of war to the young children, but they do. We prayed with the family and even though they grew up in the Islamic faith they told us they feel at peace when the people from Heart for Lebanon pray for them. They also said that Heart for Lebanon is the only group that doesn’t take money from people in the camp and are continuously serving them.
The only redemption for a story like the one this family is living is that Christians who are heeding the call to serve widows and orphans are doing just that in the Bekaa Valley and all over Lebanon. To hear a story of incalculable evil while being surrounded by people who are showing endless grace is like witnessing heaven and hell collide right before your eyes.
We told the family that we would continue to support Syrians who have fled the war and that we would make sure to tell their story and have people praying for peace in Syria in our home country and all over the world.
Please check out Heart for Lebanon at heartforlebanon.org
For those of you who gave to this trip and helped buy supplies, I want you to know that you’ve participated in aiding one of the most effective, professional and Christ-like ministries I’ve ever seen. They are certainly doing some of the most crucial work taking place in the world at the moment. From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU!
Thanks for reading,