It’s amazing that just two weeks away can change our perspective on how it feels to be home! Returning to the familiar and engaging in our regular routine is so comforting. My favorite part of the day is waking up early, while it’s still dark and quiet, making coffee and sitting on the couch with my dog and my Bible. It’s such a peaceful and promising time. But imagine if circumstances forced us to be away from home for two years. Or twenty. Held apart from people and places we hold precious and dear. How do you think you might handle that?
Many of the refugees I met recently in Europe struggle to find a place that could feel even a little bit like home, living either in makeshift camps along a river or in old abandoned buildings. The dehumanizing effects of displacement run deep, and each year they spend searching for a place to call home weighs heavier and heavier on their souls.
As many of you know, I recently took a Vision Trip with three of my teammates from International Association for Refugees. This trip gave us the opportunity to meet with five teams in different locations across northern Italy and France, including Trento, Ventimiglia, Nice, Torino, and Bologna. We learned about the ways these teams are serving refugees, including providing Italian lessons, establishing friendships, and bringing tea and conversation to a small informal camp twice a day.
We met a group of Christians from Brazil who are engaging with the persecuted church in Trento, having cultivated a friendship with a local Pakistani pastor and his church community. The families from Pakistan fled Islamic oppression in their home country, and now find themselves once again in close proximity with Muslims in the local refugee camp. And they are afraid.
In another city, we met a group of around 300 refugees living in tents under a bridge, preparing to cross the border into France. They rely on a local Italian charity to provide their meals, and many of them wait up to a week for access to a hot shower.
A teammate and I got to speak with two young women, both from Eritrea, each one traveling without family members or friends from home. They are Christians, and they showed us the crosses they were wearing underneath their jackets. One said that if she gets the chance to continue school, she would like to become an accountant. Oh, I pray she does. It brought such a beautiful smile to her face!
As we left this makeshift tent village, we commented to a group of younger men and women how glad we were that they were safe and that we were sorry this was how it was for them. One young man replied, “But we are alive! Thanks be to God.”
Each of these stories is a reminder of God’s mission to transform this world from darkness to light and to reconcile the division and strife between His people. In this story, death does not have the final say, and His victory is already sure! But His body is hurting, and it continues to splinter and break from the devastation of violence and exploitation, abuse and isolation.
I know there is not a single location along the refugee highway where Jesus is not already present. I was assured of that through this young man’s words. They were a bridge of light between the indignity and exclusion he experiences now and the abundant and living hope he knows he has in Jesus. But we are still called to show up!
This was a sobering experience, even though we were traveling through my happy place, Italy. But this trip also provided much needed confirmation. I know I am taking steps in the right direction, and I am so grateful you and I are on this journey together!
As of right now, I am not sure what my next steps will be. I am praying for discernment as I consider each of these possible ministry locations and the work I could join the Lord in fulfilling. Thank you for your continued support, and I welcome additional prayers as I move into a new season: a new house in College Park and a new job!
In His love,