We’ve been reading about it in the news for quite awhile. We mostly knew that they were here. But it still didn’t feel that close. Until now. 20 refugees are now a part of “our school”. Which means they are “our kids”. Why? Because New City made a commitment several years ago to Mission Ave. Elementary, we made them our school and their kids, our kids. We prayed, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on Earth as it is in heaven.” And then we asked, “What would it look like if God’s will was done in Mission Ave. as it is in heaven?”
We have worked hard over the last 4 years creating a beautiful relationship with the staff and students at Mission Ave. Elementary. We’ve created a mentor program, we’ve supplied backpacks, clothing, food, gifts. We’ve performed a memorial service and prayed with teachers. I’d like to believe we’ve brought a little heaven on Earth to that school. I know that we have “Shined” a light into the dark hopeless places that existed there. But there is still so much to be done.
And now, there are the sojourners. They call them refugees, and there are 20 of them. Innocent children with faces and names, and giggles and smiles and tears. Some with a fear that you can feel, even though you don’t know what they’re saying. And New City has been there. Providing backpacks and supplies, food, clothes, shoes, and loving support the best we can.
But it is time for more.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment” (Matthew 22:37–38). Loving God implies loving the things he loves. Deuteronomy 10:18 tells us that God “executes justice for the fatherless and the widow and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.” It is no surprise, then, that the very next verse is “Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:19).
We were once sojourners and yet we still are. We’re in a land where we don’t belong. Don’t you sense that? We belong to another place. This home is a temporary placement for us and we are outsiders. We are like them.
I have tried to wrap my mind around the atrocities that have driven these families from their homes. I’ve tried to imagine leaving everything behind, taking my children and walking miles and miles to what I hope might be safety. I’ve imagined consoling my children’s fears. And then flying half across the world to a safer place and hoping for a better life.
This safety though doesn’t always provide needed relief, if you imagine life now through the eyes of a child. I’ve been dropped off at a school that is so incredibly different from everything I’ve ever known. The only person I know is my brother and they’ve taken him far away to another class. I don’t speak their language and they don’t speak mine. There are no translators and no one looks like me. I struggle to explain that I need the bathroom or that I’m scared. I don’t understand one thing anyone is saying. I must eat weird food that I don’t recognize. I don’t know what is happening here day after long day. I just want to go home. But there are these volunteers here who do not speak Arabic or Swahili but they are kind and warm and that feels familiar.
There is one thing that becomes apparent very quickly as you serve the sojourners. We all communicate love. And it brings a sweet relief to the face of a fearful child, like nothing I’ve ever seen. We have the capacity to be the people of light. The light is in us after all. We have the capacity to share the love of Jesus just as we have learned to do all along at this school- without words. Just love, no agenda, not some kind of bait for a gospel presentation. Just Jesus in his truest, simplest form- LOVE.
Church, we need you right now at Mission Ave. We have created a program for the refugee children at the school that gives them a break from the classroom. We are attempting to teach them basic English, we’re giving them a chance to spend time with their siblings and other children who speak their language. We are being love.
We need many more volunteers to continue and expand this program.
The school and our volunteers are overwhelmed with the number that has now risen to 20 beautiful children. Unfortunately, APS does not have the needed resources of translators and tutors that can serve these children well. The children have been dropped into a mainstream classroom and there is no support for the child or the teacher. What we are finding is that by the afternoon, they need a break and so that is what we seek to give them- a break and most importantly love.
Please consider becoming a volunteer at the school one afternoon a week and serving in this program. The need is big, but our God is bigger.