A radiant smile overwhelmed the tears on the face of my friend as she shared about her husband’s imminent surgery for a brain tumor. This mother of three boys, a refugee, had already endured the permanent loss of home and country as well as the death, imprisonment, or disappearance of countless loved ones. Yet she was filled with gratitude to God for access to medical care even as she shared about her husband’s life-threatening illness.
From my perspective as someone raised in comparative affluence, freedom, and abundance, it was hard to understand how my friend could be so joyful in the face of what looked like overwhelming tragedy to me. Yet throughout her husband’s surgery and the years of follow-up therapy, this friend would regularly proclaim the goodness of God.
Recently while drinking coffee together she said again, “Rachel, everything in this life is a gift. How can I not thank God for the good things I have?” Where I would be tempted to ask God why, she has responded with joy and perseverance through yet another life-altering challenge. And it is not just this woman; I have often heard those who have lost everything humanly speaking declare the gifts and goodness of God in simple things I take for granted as “basic rights” and subtly have come to believe are owed to me.
The perspective and gratitude of this woman, as many other refugees I have met, have challenged my faith in ways I find difficult to put into words. Poverty takes on many forms, and the physical poverty of many refugees pales in comparison with the spiritual poverty that can grow from living a life of relative physical ease where we too often tie God’s character and love to the difficulty or comfort of our circumstances. We have so much to learn and gain from our refugee brothers and sisters whose faith has endured gut-wrenching injustice and Job-like sorrow. Let us listen well and learn from the faith and resilience of those who have truly walked through fire.
“…the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy….” 1 Peter 1:7-8
-written by Rachel Uthmann
You can get an informed overview of the global refugee crisis along with a biblical perspective in 6 minutes! The 2017 Introduction to the Refugee Highway is now available for streaming and downloading! You can find it in the IAFR Toolbox and on the IAFR Vimeo Channel.
Children inspire me in very special ways. I find they often feel the needs of others more deeply than adults, they see injustice in things we often overlook, and when inspired they can be amazingly generous in their desire to help others. Over 800 children from the community came to participate in the Vacation Bible School activities at Fellowship Reformed Church in Hudsonville, MI, this week. They played games, did arts and crafts and ate lots of cookies. They also learned about some global refugee realities.
As the children learned about the Bible, and the way it can guide us in our lives, they also heard that many refugees do not have a Bible of their own, due to the fact that they had to run away from their homes and leave most of their belongings behind. They also do not have access to shopping malls, book stores, or Amazon to purchase them while living in isolated refugee camps and settlements.
This inspired the children to raise money for bibles for refugees through the work of IAFR. Together, over 4 days, the kids raised over $8,000 to buy 800+ Bibles. This was far and away the largest amount of money raised in the history of the VBS program. They have sent us a message in their generosity: that we can all come together to help those who walk the refugee highway, and let them know that they are not forgotten.
Thank you so much to Fellowship and the VBS program!
-written by Jake Tornga