A bomb threat at the hotel where we were supposed to teach English caused us to cancel our classes one day. Thankfully, there was no bomb, and we could carry on teaching English here in Indonesia.
That’s the closest I’ve come to a bomb.
I’ve never watched missiles fall from the sky and wipe out my city.
I’ve never watched my apartment building crumble in a cloud of smoke, and wonder where I could go to be safe.
I’ve never lost track of family members—not knowing if they were killed in the mass destruction, or lying wounded somewhere, or taken to a refugee camp with no way of contacting them.
I’ve never been forced to leave everything I know and flee to a foreign land, giving up my dreams of the life I wanted for the new goal of just staying alive.
I’ve never been a refugee.
June 20th is World Refugee Day. It’s a time to take our eyes off ourselves for a moment, and consider our hurting “neighbors.”
Last year on June 20th, the United Nations reported that 2017 had record numbers of refugees around the world, 68.5 million people. That’s a new person displaced every two seconds.
God’s heart for refugees cannot be ignored. In the Bible, when a neighboring nation like Moab (modern-day west Jordan, but at the time an enemy to Israel) was attacked and had to flee their homes as refugees, God let us in on his emotions in Isaiah 15-16: “Oh, how I grieve for Moab! Refugees stream to Zoar…” The Moabites beg Judah, “Give the refugees from Moab sanctuary with you. Be a safe place for those on the run from the killing fields.” And God responds, “I’ll join the weeping. I’ll weep right along with Jazer, weep for the Sibmah vineyards. And yes, Heshbon and Elealeh, I’ll mingle my tears with your tears!” (Message translation)
Jesus himself was a refugee. His family fled Herod’s killing spree for the safety of Egypt. Aren’t we all glad Egypt took Jesus in, and didn’t turn him back at the border?
Taking in a refugee family can be a scary step of faith. Just ask Wolfgang and Chantal Massing, who were hesitant at first to disrupt their comfortable lives, but their faith in Christ prevailed. They invited a Syrian refugee family into their home and their hearts.
I love Chantal’s challenge to all of us: “Trusting more than fearing has got to be learned.”
On June 20th, what can we do to celebrate World Refugee Day?
- Pray for refugee families, for peace in their homelands, for just immigration laws that welcome the hurting and the stranger.
- If you know a refugee family, reach out to love them today.
- Check to see if there are organizations in your city that help refugees, and ask them how you can get involved. Chantal started by donating items—she wound up with a gorgeous Syrian baby who called her “Grandma.”
- Contact your government officials in support of legislation that helps refugees (ask me for more information if you’re interested).
My family has been blessed living in Indonesia by a wonderful Muslim family that took us in to live with them our first 3 months here, helping us to figure out how to do life in a whole new world. They became like a second family for us. Where would we be today without them?
Their kindness is exactly what Jesus expects of his followers when he charges us, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me…Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:35-40 ESV)