When I look at the bustling and complex backdrop of the European cities where I encounter people on a refugee journey, I am amazed that any of these people have had the resilience and strength required to make it this far. Having fled persecution and violence by crossing deserts, seas, and endless miles of terrain – a dangerous journey that often covers a period of years -- these forcibly displaced people finally arrive in a safe country only to face a whole new set of challenges. They are strangers in a foreign land, weary but often hopeful that they will be permitted to stay and begin the daunting journey toward a new beginning.
Last week I was once again privileged to sit in a room full of such courageous people. One young man entered the room for the first time wide-eyed, his face betraying the weight of his travels. He had only arrived in the country two days before, and he was just trying to figure out how to navigate this new place and language and where to look for help.
One volunteer asked this newcomer about his journey and heard about the many challenges he had faced. At some point someone commented on how difficult his journey must have been and how challenging it was to make such a trek alone. But the young man quickly replied, “I am never alone because God is with me.” This intimate sense of God’s nearness and presence is not typical of the worldview of most people from this young man’s country, so his bold assertion made everyone take notice.
It turns out our new friend had learned about the God of the Bible in secret in his country, and he had believed wholeheartedly the promise of Jesus to never leave him alone. When a person knows and lives in this confidence, it changes everything. Knowing God’s presence with him changed everything for this young man on his journey to freedom, and I believe that same awareness of God’s nearness and love will sustain him in the trying days ahead.