Although One Child Matters operates in many different regions around the world, the Middle East poses its own set of challenges. The following represent questions frequently asked by those who sponsor children in the Middle East. If you have other questions, please feel free to contact us.
Where do you operate in the Middle East?
One Child Matters has several projects in Jordan and Lebanon; some of our projects are located in the heart of major cities like Amman and Beirut, while others are more rural and isolated.
What does a child in the Middle East receive when they are sponsored?
Like other children registered in One Child Matters programs, children who attend our projects in the Middle East will receive nutritional assistance, health monitoring, and educational and learning opportunities in a safe, loving environment that allows the children to develop and grow. Some programs also offer life skills classes, such as carpentry or sewing classes.
Does my child learn about Jesus in the One Child Matters program?
Yes, but they learn more about the love of God in ways that differ from our other programs. Because many of these countries have laws against proselytizing and other overtly Christian activities, we share about Christ in a more private manner that is also more culturally acceptable.
How does my child learn about God when the programs can face scrutiny and even persecution?
The staff who serve the children in our Middle East programs are committed to sharing the love of God, and they do so in creative ways. When unable to share in word, they focus on deeds: being attentive, asking questions, and always offering a listening ear to the children who live with much instability; extending educational support and tutoring to ensure success in school; and working with the families to provide more tangible support for the children on a daily basis.
I read that I cannot mention Jesus and other overtly Christian phrases or Bible verses in letters to my sponsored child? Why?
There are several reasons behind this:
- The way laws in this region are written, religious freedom is not what we as Americans experience. There may be laws against conversion, thus anything seen as evangelism is suspect and even dangerous for those on the receiving end. We want to keep our staff and the ministry safe, and it is better if they can determine when, where, and how to share the gospel with others.
- We have found favor in these countries as an educational organization. Communications that may contradict that idea put our staff and ministry at risk. In the past few years, authorities have been quicker to completely expel organizations that operate with a religious focus, even if they are providing services to the neediest children. To continue to reach as many children as possible, we must screen our communications because we know the authorities in those countries are examining them, as well.
- As children learn more about Jesus, their parents may question what they are learning. Because many of our staff have Muslim backgrounds themselves, they have a cultural sensitivity that we do not. While we may have the best intentions, our choice of words may be offensive to a parent, who may contact authorities and put our programs at risk. It is best if the staff filters any communications, especially those that are seen by parents.
If I can’t write about spiritual things, what can I write about?
First, although you cannot mention Jesus or words like gospel, salvation, and other Christian terms, there are a few general phrases that are acceptable: God loves you (or even God bless you) and I am praying for you. Prayer is universally acceptable, so you can ask for prayer requests and even offer your own. As far as we know, mentioning God in the general sense does not arouse suspicion on the part of the authorities.
Other topics for your letters:
Focus on their daily life or schooling. These areas may pose many challenges, so sharing how you overcame issues (especially in school) can be very encouraging.
Write about sports, hobbies, or upcoming events like sports contests. This region is generally soccer-crazy, but other sports (such as basketball and volleyball) are growing in popularity.
Family traditions may be rich topics, but be sure to ask your sponsored child about their traditions as well.
More ideas can be found on our blog, missionofmercyblog.org/letters but keep the religious restrictions in mind. For the safety of our staff and ministry, we reserve the right to not forward on any communications that do not meet our guidelines.
What are some of the opportunities available to children who attend One Child Matters programs in the Middle East?
In addition to meeting a child’s basic needs (nutrition, healthcare, educational support) the programs offer fun activities not normally available to children living in poverty. These may include field trips and summer camps, special holiday parties that include meals and gifts, and birthday celebrations. Many parents do not have the means to celebrate a child’s birthday – to receive such attention counteracts the message that they don’t matter.