On a trip to Jordan a few years back, I was able to accompany some local workers as they visited with Syrian refugees. The refugees lived where they could, with what they had. I remember going to visit one family, who lived in the basement of an unfinished home. The main floor opened to the sky, but at least the basement provided shelter. So this refugee family of maybe 10 or 12 (as best I can recall) called this place “home.” (And they had a TV in their “home” – and the kids were watching Tom & Jerry. Some things are universal, I guess.)
Even so, as we visited refugee families in less-than-ideal living conditions, without fail, they welcomed us. Warmly. Whatever they had to drink, they brought out. Though these folks had next-to-nothing, they shared whatever they had with us. They were people in need who we were there to help, and they were opening their lives to us. They were the refugees, but still I was the guest and they were the hosts. (Although, I did get to pass out candy to the kids. That was fun, cuz what kid doesn’t like candy?)
Three reasons this comes to mind this week.
One, this past Monday was World Refugee Day – a day to ponder and reflect on the plight of 21 million people in the world who are refugees. Today. Right now. 21 million! And more than half of those are children. Each day, nearly 34,000 people are forced to flee their homes because of conflict or persecution. That is approximately 1 1/2 times the population of Fern Creek, where I serve – uprooted from their homes. Every day!
But World Refugee Day isn’t just a day to think about this great need – it’s also an opportunity for us to say: How might God use me in this?
Which leads to the second thing I want to share. Some of these refugees are coming to Louisville. Some are already here. Fern Creek Christian, where I serve, is exploring ways to welcome these folks, and love them in Jesus’ name. So, maybe God would lead you to beyond pondering or posturing – to loving. A great way to start would be reading these two articles, which help put a human face on the refugee crisis: this shorter article from the Washington Post, and this longer article from a Christian perspective.
Finally, in light of my experience in Jordan with Syrian refugees, I can’t help but reflect on our common humanity. Most people in the world want many of the same things I want: peace, a decent job, and the opportunity to raise our families in a safe place. Most people don’t want to kill anybody – whether those “anybodies” are Christians, or Muslims, or LGBT folks.
There are plenty of people who use awful events like Orlando to advance their own agendas – agendas that are often about division, or fear, or isolation. Instead, let me encourage you to respond the opposite way – by asking God: How would you use me to love those who are different from me – whether they be on the other side of the world, on the other side of a political spectrum, or just on the other side of the street?