Making Refugees Feel Welcome in Midst of Misery
In Iraq on behalf of Open Doors, Lydia writes about the current situation. There to support the local Open Doors team, she also came to bring a message to the Iraqi people that they are not forgotten.
“After having arrived in a hotel in Erbil, I’m looking down from the window of the hotel onto a tent camp. The tents in the yard of the Chaldean Catholic church are housing refugees, most of them probably from Mosul. Behind me in the hotel room is a grand bed, and, because of the heat, the air conditioning is buzzing. The contrast is huge.
At the other side of the road, tents are setup in the burning, hot sun. Temperatures can easily reach 113 degrees here. People seek shelter in the shadow of trees, or sit underneath pieces of tarpaulin, tightened between some tents.
I asked myself what I am doing here. Can I really make a difference? I feel myself intruding on their situation. Who am I that I can just have a glimpse and see their sadness, their needs, the loss or even bereavement, while I’m going back after a while to my safe country and home? I notice that doubt sets in very quickly.
Then I realize God is much bigger than that. We are here for a purpose- and a good one. We can provide churches and partners with the means to help thousands of displaced people with humanitarian aid, such as food, water, toiletries, mattresses, and much more.
We also have the opportunity to let the refugees know that people all over the world are praying for them. Tell them that they are not alone in this battle; that in our prayers, we are with them.
This morning I read an encouraging message from a colleague; “I’ll pray to you Psalm 91:9-11-Yes, because God’s your refuge, the High God your very own home, evil can’t get close to you, harm can’t get through the door. He ordered His angels to guard you wherever you go.”
We wouldn’t be acting like God’s children if we let ourselves be talked down or be afraid. So I will go downstairs, cross that street, and tell them they are loved and being prayed for. To my surprise, I was quickly welcomed.
I stand by in awe as Pastor Douglas of the Chaldean Church is inflating little swimming pools for the children. The pools are filled with water so the children can cool down, have some fun, and keep up their spirits. At the same time, a group of people are standing in a line to receive shoes that are being distributed by workers from the church.
Several minutes later, I watch as Pastor Douglas begins to arrange games for the men. The tug-of-war competition was hilarious because the rope was too thin. When the two teams started pulling, both teams landed on their backs when the rope snapped.
Pastor Douglas tells me that his purpose is to keep the people busy so there will not be time for them to worry. He wants to make the people feel welcome; making them feel like this is their home… for hopefully only a short period of time. He does not want to call it a refugee camp. And it is working! I see smiling faces all around me. Even my own heart is lifted up.”
Father, sometimes we are besieged by news of war, and riots, and death around the world … even in our own land. Thank You for this story of joy. Thank You also for Pastor Douglas, who is ministering to those who have suffered loss of homes and belongings – and for some – loved ones. Thank You for Lydia who has gone to represent us, to encourage them, and to let them know we are praying for them. May these moments of joy fill them with a lasting joy that comes only from Your presence in them. Thank You for the hope that this time of displacement may be but for only short time. And, thank You further for the reminder, for them and for us, that this world is not our true home; we are but pilgrims on our way to glory. In the name of Jesus, who even now is preparing a place for us in heaven, Amen.