Recently I took a trip to London. I’ve been to London a few times but this trip was special. I was there to attend the Hillsong’s Colour Conference. The conference was such a moving experience of love and understanding towards humanity in general. There’s nothing that quite explains the feeling when you pack a room with 11,000 women who are all crying out the name of Jesus.
I wanted to talk about one moment in the conference that really stuck out to me. There was a moment when a few women read letters they had written to their 16-year-old selves. Many spoke of the struggles of identity and self-conscious woes that many 16-year old’s face. But one woman talked about something completely different, she spoke of being a refugee.
Her story was simple but packed with truth.
She talked about how her family was forced out of their native country of Iraq when she was young, due to political war. Her parents, young professionals, found refuge in Australia, where the girl felt very different. She didn’t look like the other girls in her new surroundings. Also, she didn’t dress like them, she didn’t act like them, talk like them, have the same beliefs as them. She was the outsider, the refugee. But this girl had grown to hate her differences over the years, hate her appearance, hate the very faith she’d been brought up in that left her feeling empty.
Then one day a group of girls invited her to church, girls who didn’t take pity on her or see her as a refugee, but girls who saw her as a friend. She said yes on the promise that hot boys would be there. But, it was in her yes, that she found Christ, for in that visit she committed her life.
What struck me most about her story was that it is relevant to what’s happening now. Also, I related to her. You see we all start out as refugees, outsiders, strangers to God and his character. But it is God who sees past the outsider and take them in, the wandering and weary. He shows hospitality and kindness and offers shelter and opportunity.
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The problem with the word refugee is that it has such negativity to it because of the context of politics and issues in the world. The word refugee itself is dehumanizing, and has been changed to be something that strikes fear. In fact, there is a word for this in Greek, called xenophobia, or the fear of the outsider or rather fear of strangers. The truth is the bible never calls Christians to be fearful of outsiders, Jesus himself sought after them relentlessly. The word used to describe this in Greek is xenia. Xenia: the concept of hospitality or showing generosity and courtesy to those who are far from home.
He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow. He 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
Currently the world is facing the biggest humanitarian crisis since World War II. Many have deemed it a topic too big to handle and too far to care for perhaps taboo to even discuss. But the truth is we, the church, have the opportunity to change the narrative. We can humanize what has been dehumanized, we have the power to be a voice for the voiceless.
The world is not the garden that God intended by any means. But, while we’re here there are still people in need of someone to run alongside them. During the conference, there was a big part about the refugee crisis happening. What brought light for me, was hearing the stories and seeing pictures of families and children.
Why I’m Sharing This Refugee Story
What made me realize that their stories are still worth telling was when they said that these weren’t people who were refugees because of poor choices they made, these were doctors, lawyers, teacher, families, whose homes were destroyed due to bombing and war. But despite their circumstance, these are still people, they are us, our brothers and sisters and as such we still have a deep responsibility to them.
You see, this is a complex issue without any clear solution but we can do is spark the conversation. Now is the church’s opportunity to regain some of its credit it has lost over the years and stand in the gap. Now is the time to create plans and open doors, create programs and show the world there are still people who deserve to be fought for.