Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Traveling the Refugee Trail

Refugees in Greece

A refugee family in Greece.

From Greece to northern Iraq, God is providing opportunities to serve families seeking hope.

Over the last twelve months I feel like I have traveled the refugee trail. I am not a refugee and cannot claim to understand the pain and trauma a refugee experiences, but it has been a sobering privilege to meet them at various stages of their journeys and sit with them and hear their stories.

Before I began serving in Iraq I served as an intern in Greece. I found myself shivering in a small container handing out essential items like hygiene kits, blankets, and warm socks to newly arrived asylum seekers on the Greek island of Lesvos. A few smiled, some were dazed, and all look tired from their journey.

A moment of joy in a refugee camp in northern Iraq.

A moment of joy in a refugee camp in northern Iraq.

So many refugees were relieved to have finally made it to Europe, only to realize that they still had months or years of waiting to find a permanent home. Every Samaritan’s Purse program in Greece seeks to give dignity to these refugees. For example, cash grants offer families the dignity of choosing how to meet their family’s needs. Hygiene facility repairs and shelter maintenance within refugee sites promote dignified living conditions.

After I joined the team in northern Iraq, we were working in a village close enough to Mosul to hear the bombs. While we listened, and watched the smoke rise on the horizon, a Kurdish staff member recounted how she had fled in the middle of the night when ISIS reached the trees a few miles from her village. Sitting next to children at the Samaritan’s Purse Emergency Field Hospital with amputated limbs and bullets in their small bodies, I asked God, “Why?”

Sitting by the hospital bed of an 8-year-old girl wounded by ISIS, God gave me Galatians 6:9-10: “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” While this passage did not answer all of my questions about suffering, I felt comforted and strengthened.

We continue to serve others even when it seems like the need is too great because that is the opportunity God has given us. The Lord of the harvest has promised that it is not in vain. God does not ask me to take the reins from Him and orchestrate world events, but rather to be faithful with the people He has given me the opportunity to serve.

As a servant of Christ, I cannot ignore this imperative. I cannot allow fatigue, discouragement, or a desire to see immediate results stop me from loving the neighbor God has placed before me. We do not know how long we will have an opportunity to serve refugees as they courageously make their journeys.

I pray that God would awaken my heart and the hearts of Christians around the world to serve refugees.