In his preface to Samara Levy’s book, Rebuilding the Ruins, the vicar of St Peter’s, Brighton, relates how a young woman came to speak to him after morning service, about Syrian refugees and how the church must do something to help. It was obvious that helping refugees was something she was absolutely going to do, whether her church joined in or not. God had asked Samara to “start collecting” aid for the Middle East. All she was asking of the vicar was for him to encourage church members to bring along their unwanted warm winter clothing on Sunday, to send out to a refugee camp.
What happened in the years following is remarkable – from collecting a few bin liners full of clothes in her back bedroom to launching an appeal for a multi-million pound hospital in Syria. This is her story.
Around Christmas 2013, Samara saw reports of Syrian refugee children in snow covered camps, wearing flip flops and summer clothes. These were the clothes they had been wearing when they fled from their homes in summer and they had nothing else.
As she looked at the pile of beautiful warm clothes and shoes she had been saving for her sister’s baby, she felt desperate to give them to those poor mothers and children who had absolutely nothing. She wondered how it would be possible to get them there
The idea of a lorry filled with clothes and shoes wouldn’t go away but the problems were enormous. “There were so many challenges to overcome, but I have seen many prayers answered, sometimes in the most miraculous ways. Halfway through my first collection it looked like an impossible mission, yet through prayer, in the end, I had more than enough to fill a lorry, raised more money than I needed, and sent the lorry off. That one lorry has turned into more than 100 lorries and containers in four years distributed to more than half a million people in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. To date there have been hundreds of people from many different communities involved in this project, and more than 350 churches across the UK that have organised collections. I have been so encouraged to see such a great number of people from different backgrounds, different faiths and no faith coming together to do something to show some love and care for these brothers and sisters of ours who are suffering so much.”
There is more. The charity she formed has sent 11 ambulances and a range of specialist medical equipment and provided four small field hospitals in Syria. They have also opened an outreach centre in Syria to encourage and work with orphans and widows left in the wake of the Syrian war, feeding and offering educational support and activities. They are in the process of opening a permanent specialist medical centre in a poor area, which will ultimately provide a range of specialist medical services, which should be operational very soon. There are also farming projects to grow and process essential food crops.
Samara is an inspiration, someone who against all the odds can do what most of us cannot. She is an ordinary woman, a wife and mother of two boys, committed to serving the poorest and the victims of war in Syria and the Middle East, demonstrating God’s unconditional love.
There is a plan to ask Samara to come and speak in Clitheroe in the New Year. For now, let us support Samara and her work with our prayers, and pray that when she comes to Clitheroe we can do a little more.
In her book, Samara talks about her spiritual journey and her awakening via an Alpha Course.
She challenges us:
- to use prayer and discernment to walk the call of God to serve Him and his Kingdom, to love the poor, to care for the sick, and to reach out to those in need
- to avoid letting self-indulgence come before serving others
- to choose God’s way and avoid giving in to the entitled, consumer-driven, materialistic society we are surrounded by, encouraging us to want more, deserve more, treat ourselves and feel that “we are worth it”.