Here in Oregon, as we prepare for the total solar eclipse on Monday, a friend told me she is planning to go to the Oregon coast from Portland to get the best view possible. I wrote her saying I’ve faced the Taliban in Afghanistan, Saddam Hussein supporters in Iraq, and Al Shabaab in Somalia, but she was much braver than me to be fighting the crowds on the Oregon coast on eclipse day.

In Lebanon, its citizens have also endured an influx of one million people. We call them Syrian refugees.

On a more serious note, I couldn’t help but make this comparison…

In Oregon, we consider the anticipated influx of one million people, a 25% increase to the state’s population, to be a mixed blessing. We call them tourists and visitors.

In Lebanon, its citizens have also endured an influx of one million people. We call them Syrian refugees.

In Oregon, although we expect some inconveniences, we talk about the boom to business and the local economy. Travel Oregon advises hotels, car rental companies, camping areas, bars and restaurants, and other businesses to expect huge crowds ready to spend their money to see the total eclipse – a once in a lifetime event. We are preparing for increased traffic and an increased need for public services. Portable toilets, water, and first aid stations are in place. The state’s welcome centers are staffed and our emergency systems are ready. Oregon state officials are saying, “We are ready.” The welcome mat has been laid out.

In Lebanon, the country is overwhelmed. The Syrian refugees are not coming to view a once in a lifetime event like an eclipse. They are fleeing Syria to save their lives from the ravages of a prolonged war, and they are in need of all basic, human services – housing, food, medical care, sanitation, medicines, and education. The welcome is muted at best.

A volunteer helping provide medical care and check-ups for Syrian refugees

Both staff and volunteers help provide medical care and frequent check-ups for refugees. Hundreds of refugees volunteer as Medical Teams International-trained health volunteers.

Medical Teams International breaks down barriers to health for the Syrian refugees by working in informal refugee settlements in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, providing health promotion programs and ensuring the Syrian refugees have access to medical care and life-saving medicines.

Sadly, the average stay of a refugee worldwide is 17 years. In Lebanon, there is no end in sight.

For Oregon, the good news is the one million visitors will leave to go back home.

Pray for refugees worldwide and for Lebanon in particular, and consider giving to Medical Teams International so we can continue showing radical love to Syrian refugees.

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