Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Let My People Go!

I've been reading the exciting, real, dramatic, history-making saga of Moses and the Exodus.

At the same time, I've been listening to the news updates of refugees drowning as they try to cross bodies of water in unreliable, overloaded boats.  And grieving over the Canadian deportation of a dearly loved family after four years of very successful integration and assimilation into the hearts and lives of our community.  And watching the Syrian government drop bombs on its own citizens and the DRC conflict heat up again.

It occurred to me that I'd like to be a modern-day Moses, marching in to the powers that be and declaring, "Let my people go!"
Leading those who are trapped and bound and are crying out for help, to safety and a Promised Land -a future.  Sure, I'd be just as hesitant and awkward as Moses (definitely more so!), but if there was something I could do, I'd be game.

Can't you just see me, all grey-haired five feet of me, marching into the refugee camp atop a mountain in Rwanda and leading 20,000 refugees who've spent 16 yrs in waiting, streaming around the curves down the muddy mountain to freedom?

Or entering the slums in Nairobi, so dangerous that our hosts wouldn't even drive us into them, and declaring a future for all the Somali refugees? I'd like to lead out a river of women and children in the DRC who are fleeing the rebels and being shot down as they run.

I'd like to Pied-Piper-ish gather up all those waiting with faint hope for their claim to be approved in Canada and lead them to a YES.  Sounds rather glorious, doesn't it?  Honestly, I really do think it's more about those crying out for freedom than making a name for myself (I hope!).

I'll most likely never have a burning bush call to stand in front of Pharaohs, Kings or Prime Ministers, but there are two things I can do.  They sound so small, and even so... pat, but how I dare I diminish God's means of changing the world!

1.  Pray, plead, wrestle
The Exodus story in the Bible begins with:
The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God.  God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob.  So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.

Hab 3:2 
Lord, I have heard of your fame;
    I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord.
Renew them in our day,
    in our time make them known;
    in wrath remember mercy.

2.  Love the refugees God brings to Welcome Home, and join Him, inviting each one to a future and a hope...in Him.

Join me?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Déjà vu

Instant friends!

I was invited to dinner the other evening, (we had home-made cabbage rolls!) and one of the questions these long-time friends asked was, “What difference did your trip to Africa in spring make for the work you’re doing with refugees?”

It was good to pause and remember.  I remembered my flight over lands I’d only heard of and the thrill of recognizing landmarks as I sat transfixed, staring out my airplane window.  It didn't take long, though, for me to go from, “Wow, those are waves of sand down there- that’s Sudan!” to the sobering reality that one of our young women living at Welcome Home fled this place and right now, too many others are still suffering what I cannot see from my birds-eye view.  

It’s this connection between refugees I share my life with here in Canada, to the stories and images broadcast through all sorts of media, that is one of the most impactful results of my Learning Trip.  I see an ad to sponsor a child and see their counterpart in the children we’ve sheltered here in Kitchener.  I see a news story of a destitute mom struggling to survive and realize it’s the story of the moms and babies who have become my friends at Welcome Home.  I watch the news of Cairo and Syria and make the connection to the refugees who initially fled to these very places to wait for safe transit to Canada and are now living at Welcome Home.  I see victims of violence in Latin America flashed across my screen and my mind goes to my courageous friends who’ve risked everything with the hope of safety in Canada.

You know what I mean- you see your friend's adopted children in those photos, or your newly arrived neighbours or classmates in the news broadcasts.  Or, something as simple as seeing daddy in your  precious newborn son's face.  What we see calls to mind what we have seen.

Oh, and there are many beautiful images I see, too.  When one of our refugee friends tells me she sang in a choir, I remember the exuberance of the choirs I heard in the refugee camp.  When  a young mom expresses how much she misses her family, I remember that “family” means the community and the love that I saw demonstrated in the communities I visited.  When a parent will do anything to help their child succeed in school here, I call to mind the sacrifices made in the slums of Nairobi to pay for uniforms and school fees.

We have a word for this:  Glocal.  Global and Local all at the same time.   I can no longer plead ignorance or apathy. When we receive a child or a mom or a teenager or a single man, I now see more of the context from which they came.  I remember my time in a refugee camp and the day spent with desperate refugees lined up to make their claim at the UNHCR in Nairobi- the images, the stories, the smells, the feelings- and limited though my experiences were, they give me more of a “Before” as I give my life to affect the “After”.