Our friend Janell has spent the last month with us. We have had some amazing journeys to DC and NYC for New Year's Eve. The adventure she is about to start is one we sadly can't go with her on, but we can send her off with a bang.
Janell is going to the front lines of the Syrian Refugee crisis to the island of Lesbos, Greece with Adventures in Missions, alongside Samaritans Purse, the Red Cross and the UN. Lesbos is receiving the highest number of refugees daily, the trip there you might have heard on the news where dozens have died just in the past month. Convicted by the crisis, Janell is heading over to help the refugees, being one of the ones picking shivering children out of the overpacked life-rafts, threatened by hypothermia or starvation; wrapping many in NASA blankets; shuffling many quickly to the Red Cross medical tents. We were thrilled when she decided to go, helped her setup an awesome new website (www.janellking.wordpress.com - click to see how to support her as well), talk through travel details, and pray with her as she discerned the next steps in support raising for the trip. We couldn't wait to see the support for her by her friends and family to send her off well.
But that's not really what happened.
I'll let her jump into the details below.
I remember the image like it was yesterday. Do you know the one I’m talking about? The image of the little boy’s body washed up on the shores of Greece. Do you remember the waves of outrage the image caused at the atrocities happening in Syria, and how quickly people moved to respond? No? Most people don’t. The news of ISIS and terrorist attacks and the waves of fear of the refugees have long swept over the images of death and suffering experienced by the people of Syria.
I've been sharing about my heart for the refugees to friends, family members, and complete strangers. The response has been surprisingly negative. The first response usually looks something like this:
“I mean.. You can help them just as long as they don’t come here.”
“That’s so sad. Those muslims are dangerous though.”
“Why would you do that? There’s enough people here in America that need help. Why go all the way over there helping THEM?!”
“We can’t help them. They will bring their religion and their oppressive antics over here. America is already over-run by foreigners. They don’t belong here. Tell them to go to Asia or something.“
“Girl, do you have a death wish? You can’t go help. It’s too dangerous.”
“America needs to stop playing big brother. It’s not our problem to help. They got themselves in this mess, let them figure it out.”
I’ve spent the last 6 years traveling the world, experiencing a plethora of different cultures, religions, beliefs, and ethnicities. I’ve lived amongst the poorest of the poor, held their dying children, whispered love into the thrown-away, abused and neglected children of society, listened to stories of those infected with HIV/AIDS (as well as genocide victims, survivors of rape, widows, etc.), watched as revival gangs bloodied each others bodies, prayed for miracles of food when feeding hundreds of starving people, and experienced first hand what a drought looks like and how precious water is.
My journey across the world has shown me that we cannot take our privileges for granted, nor should we let these privileges be an excuse for not responding to injustices all around us. I have also learned that we can learn so much from those who are different from us.
I have friends of all kinds of religions - friends whom I deeply love and respect. This blog is specifically for my brothers and sisters who call themselves believers of Jesus, although I hope in some way this speaks to everyone.
To me, the response to the refugee crisis is a simple one. I’ve been confused and so heart broken over America’s response to love those who need help- especially the church.
I’ve attempted to uncover some biblical truths for those struggling with compassion and empathy in hopes to bring understanding to our mandate and response as believers. Take a look at what the Father tells us to do:
1. Love Refugees As Yourself
When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. (Leviticus 19:33-34)
2. Leave Food for the Poor and the Foreigner
When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. (Leviticus 19:9-10)
3. God Loves the Foreigner Residing Among You
He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. (Deuteronomy 10:18-19)
4. The Sin of Sodom: They Did Not Help the Poor and Needy
Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. (Ezekiel 16:49)
5. Do Not Oppress a Foreigner
Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt. (Exodus 23:9)
6. Invite the Stranger In
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ (Matthew 25:25-36)
7. We Were All Baptized By One Spirit
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. (1 Corinthians 12:12-14)
8. Love Your Neighbor as Yourself
For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself." (Galatians 5:14)
9. Have Mercy on Your Neighbor
He asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise." (Luke 10:29-37)
10. Jesus Calls Us to Love our Enemies
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matthew 5:43-45).
11. Jesus Was a Refugee
“An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him’” (Matthew 2:13-15).
Jesus chose to walk this earth, not as a King, Chief Priest or wealthy landowner, but as an undocumented child refugee to Egypt.
If our Lord deliberately chose to identify Himself with refugees, we should not be too quick to overlook the significance—Jesus was in solidarity with those fleeing persecution.
There is a chance that some of those who seek refugee status have some connection with violent radicalism. What then is your response to an enemy? On this, Jesus is very clear… Love your enemy. You can argue that this is naïve. You can say that it is unrealistic. But you cannot argue that Jesus called you to something different. Jesus showed us how to love our enemies - not seeking to preserve His life, but to lay it down. Are you willing to pay such a high price for loving like Jesus?
Now is the true test of our faith. Will we also care for immigrants, refugees and foreigners, or will we turn our backs, saying it’s too hard or too dangerous?
The world is watching. Will the church rise up in this hour to be true love in action? Will we model the radical love Jesus asked us to live by? Or will we sink back into fear, discrimination, hate, racism, and war?
What will you choose?
This blogpost wrecked me, as I'm sure it did you. It got me thinking about how we see people far off and different, and make compromises in reasoning for why to not help. Why to not see them as our neighbor. But let's do an experiment: look at the story of the Good Samaritan one more time, with some substitutions of the current situation in Syria, modernizing the parable of Jesus a bit. I'd like to title this experiment...
What Could a Modern Good Samaritan Look Like?
"And behold, a lawyer stood up to put Jesus to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Bible? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A Muslim was going down from Syria to Greece, whose government were robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a politician was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a humanitarian aid worker, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Christian, as he journeyed, came to where the muslim was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, providing medical care, food and warm clothing. Then he set him on a boat and brought him to a new country and took care of him. And the next day he took out his credit card and gave the number to the customs & immigration office, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, charge it to my card.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
[Adapted from Luke 10:25-37 / Changes in italics]
What if the Syrian Refugee is our neighbor? Are we walking on the other side of the road?
Our call as Christians is to the marginalized. The inconvenient. The illogical. Will we answer the call?
Scripture says that the good samaritan looked upon the man and had compassion.
Janell is selling T-Shirts that have the word "Compassion" on them. They look awesome. If you would like to help Syrian Refugees in a tangible way, support Janell by buying one of these t-shirts here, or donating directly through her website here.