Baptist Global Response

At 12, he should be in school, not selling coffee

Associated Project: Syria Crisis

By Eden Nelson

After walking along the Mediterranean Sea for about an hour, we decided to sit down on a bench in the shade. We watched the people pass, everyone excited for the perfectly warm day. Through the crowd, a boy around 12 years old walked from person to person, asking if they would like hot cups of coffee. His offer was unacknowledged by many.

In his right hand, he carried a pail holding his disposable cups, and strapped over his other arm were two silver coffee dispensers filled with traditional Arabic coffee.

Walking up to my friend and me, he asked if we would like a cup of coffee. We politely declined, but he continued to linger.

Tired from his long day, he plopped down on the empty space beside me.

In Arabic, I asked him his name, and he replied, “Zaki*.” I held a short conversation with him in my broken Arabic and learned he was from Syria and came on his own across the border. He had been in this country for two months and worked every day on the path by the sea, serving coffee to passersby.

“Kil yoom?” Every day? Yes, he replied, every day from morning to night.

Zaki told me he didn’t have any family here and lived on his own. My limited Arabic wouldn’t allow me to ask any more questions, so we sat in silence and he rested from his work.

After a few minutes, he poured a cup of coffee and handed it to me. He didn’t want us to pay him, though we insisted. He was simply offering this drink as an expression of friendship so he could tell a bit of his story to someone. He wanted to be seen.

As I watched him leave, he weaved in and out of the crowd as though invisible. They didn’t seem to care about the little boy who was trying to survive, selling coffee in the heat of the day.

He was not invisible to me.

The children who wander the streets of Lebanon for work can’t go unnoticed. As I walked Hamra Street, I could see a steady flow of children selling lighters, flowers, lottery tickets, gum, coffee, shoeshine services or facial tissue. They each sold something for the sake of survival. They had to work at young ages to provide for themselves or for their families who were refugees of the ongoing Syrian Conflict.

As little hands reached out to me for money to purchase their products, I faced a heartbreaking reality. I wanted to hand out money to every child I encountered, but I knew that wouldn’t save them. It might help them buy lunch or help their families for a while, but it wouldn’t stop the war in their home country. It wouldn’t bring back their missing family members. It wouldn’t protect them from the dangers of Lebanon.

What do we do? These children are the main ones affected by the crises, and they are losing their childhood innocence with each passing day.

How should we respond?

Jesus loved the children. He saw them.

As his followers, we should react similarly. We shouldn’t see these children as unfortunate casualties, but we should genuinely search for ways to meet them as they reach beyond their years to survive.

Each day, I ask myself how I should respond to this ongoing crisis. How should I respond to the great need seen among the children, the women and the men around me?

I plead that you do the same. Join me and Baptist Global Response in responding to the Syria Crisis. If you would like to be a part of the prayer network please email, To find out more about volunteering in Syria please click here. You can give directly to help Syrian refugees through BGR by clicking here.

*Names changed for security reasons.

This story comes from our communications partner,

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