Spa Day in Mafraq, Jordan

They’ve got to be kidding. That was my first thought when we got the message from the team that had gone ahead of us to Jordan when they told us to bring beauty items for a spa day for refugee women.

A spa day? These women had big problems. They had left their homeland, their jobs, their extended families. They needed food, shelter, clothing, and heaters. They were worried about the well-being of their children. A spa day? It seemed so frivolous—almost embarrassing—but it turned out to be one of the most spiritual moments of our trip.

Spa day came. We loaded up the van to nearly overflowing with soaps and lotions, soothing face masks, basins and towels—and more than a little trepidation. Our plan was to have five stations: two for facials, one for hand care, and two for feet care. We really couldn’t do a traditional mani-pedi. Instead we would soak and wash their hands and feet, then give them a good massage with perfumed creams.

I was assigned to the foot station. I’m ashamed to admit that the thought of touching refugee women’s feet without gloves gave me pause. What would their feet look like, feel like, smell like? Even when I had a pedicure back home, the attendant wore gloves.

The women chosen for spa day were not just Syrian refugees—they were also the mothers of children with special needs. They were navigating the hardships of refugee life, including pain, trauma, hunger, loneliness, and rejection, while simultaneously caring for their child with autism or cerebral palsy or spina bifida. Some of their children had traumatic brain injuries from a bomb that went off in Aleppo. I could not—cannot—comprehend their burden.

We set up our spa day stations in a classroom after pushing the chairs against the walls. And the women filed in. Twenty-two of them. As the doors closed, they shyly took their seats until the interpreter chose the first five to come to our stations.

My teammate and I sat next to one another on the floor, each of us with a basin of warm soapy water between our legs. As I began to wash the first woman’s feet, I saw dust and dirt dissolve in the water. I felt her skin’s roughness and calluses. And I was filled with such a tender love. I felt the Holy Spirit pouring out of me in this act of service. I began to pray over this woman and her hardships, that God would show her favor and mercy, help her in her hopelessness, and help her carry her burden. I prayed that she might feel His love for her. I prayed just under my breath, and I could hear my foot-washing teammate do the same.

Some women shyly smiled, and some quietly wept. Some tried to grab my own hand and massage it at the same time I was rubbing their aching feet. “No,” I would say. “Sit back. Relax. This is for you, my gift to you.”
But really, it was their gift to me. As the women moved from station to station, I noticed their head coverings being taken off. They began to smile, hold our faces in their hands, and even kiss our cheeks. They told us in Arabic that they prayed God would bless us. But He already had.

Lord, thank You for allowing me to imitate You, to show love and tenderness to one who has suffered with a simple act of service. May I always remember there is blessing in humility and great richness in small kindnesses.
On spa day in Mafraq, Jordan, my heart was broken open, and I am still working through how to allow the stories and experience to change me. There are so many stories of pain and suffering, of joy and laughter. I continue to soak in the lessons from the people I connected with that day.

In her book Be the Gift, Ann Voskamp asked, “What if you were not afraid? Why not let the heart grow big with a love large enough that it breaks your heart and gives bits of you away? And maybe this is how your soul truly gets fed anyway? Know this: you are where you are for such a time as this—not to make an impression, but to make a difference. Transcend this life by giving yourself for someone else.”

Many people in Mafraq asked us, “Why are you here? Why did you come all this way?” And our answer was always, “God sent us to tell you and to show you that He loves you.”