In my circles, we hear about the refugees flooding Europe from Syria and the Middle East, driven out by ISIS, and we're horrified. We want to help. We want to learn more.
I was a bit surprised to realize that the opinion of my circle wasn't the norm (though I guess I shouldn't have been). Scrolling randomly through Facebook one day showed me that most people's opinions are that this is just another ISIS tactic to infiltrate the world--that the refugees are terrorists in disguise, not to be trusted, not to be helped. Or that even if many aren't, it's not our problem. We have an immigrant problem of our own, I saw one lady say on a friend's post. We need to deal with our own issues before we go taking on theirs.
That, my friend, is a dangerous, dangerous philosophy. That, if you carry it out in all aspects of your life, is an excuse for turning a blind eye to any problem--because seriously, when will we not have something to deal with already? Does that mean you let every other atrocity go on, unchecked?
Last week, my husband and father were in Bulgaria, and they went to the refugee camp there to interview some of the refugees. Do you know what they found?
They found people who just want respect, who want to be treated as people, not as a disease. They saw people who manage to smile and joke and talk of their hope of going home, even while they admit that they still have family in Syria, and they haven't heard from them in months, don't know whether they're alive or dead.
These people said over and again, "Syria is beautiful. Syria is wonderful. Syria is even better than the United States. Until DASH [the local name for ISIS] we all lived in peace. We all helped one another. Of course I want to go home. As soon as it's safe, I'll be there. We'll rebuild."
I'm not sure Americans understand that--that these people aren't fleeing by choice, aren't trying to find a new life in Europe or America or anywhere else in the world. They're just trying to survive, to help their children to survive. Their goal isn't to stay in those countries to which they flee, it's just to earn a living there until they can go home. That's the ultimate goal--to go home, to a place they swear is the best place in the world.
Are there terrorists trying to take advantage of this? There are. Bad people will always try to take advantage of the hardships of others. But those people will find ways in no matter what. To those who live in fear of that, I say this:
41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; 43 I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’
44 “Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25)
When I stand before God, I don't want Him judging me for the thousands of innocents I chose not to help for fear of the few evil men among them. When I stand before God, I don't want to be on the left hand, begging and pleading and saying, "But Lord, I might have helped an enemy by mistake!"
I think He has an answer to that, don't you? Love your enemy. Pray for those who persecute you . . . if your enemy is hungry, give him food. If he is thirsty, give him drink.
Already there are stories coming out of terrorists who were trying to do what we fear . . . but who, being met by the love of Christians in the camps, changed their minds. Because never had they seen such love, and they couldn't deny it.
Christianity has an opportunity here--to show the world what it really means to serve a loving God. A merciful God. A God who loves you so much that He would make the ultimate sacrifice. That's a love that changes people. That's a love that changes the world.
Are we willing to shine that love into the darkness? Or do we turn our faces away and pretend the darkness can't reach us here?
Over the next few months, I'll be sharing opportunities as they become available--opportunities to support those ministering to the camps, and hopefully to take some more active roles too.
And if you'd like to see more of what my husband and father did last week, you can listen to their presentation to our church this coming Saturday, October 24, at 11 a.m. We'll be broadcasting the service here: FGSDB Live Stream
Please, please join us in praying for the thousands of displaced Syrians. Pray for their safety. Pray for their provisions. Pray for their hearts and souls.
If by chance you're ready to give right now, you can donate through our not-for-profit organization, the Appalachian Relief Mission. Just put a note that it's for the refugees--we'll be sending money to our contacts at the camp in Bulgaria (the poorest country in the EU, just FYI). https://www.paypal.me/anarmoutstretched