Can we take our eyes off the politics and see the people?
Hear the stories of the Syrian refugees, then tell them the greatest story ever told.
We had only just met, but the kiss was deliberate; followed by another and another and another. I entered the dimly lit room and heard metal click as the deadbolt slid into place. I was directed to sit on a cushion in the floor against the wall in a room otherwise barren of furniture. Pale green curtains flapped in the breeze until the windows were shut, then the hot, stale air threatened to suffocate me. Occasionally I detected an unpleasant smell which reminded me of a car ride with adolescent boys after a soccer game played in the rain. Only then was the black hood removed. Respectfully, I tucked my feet under me and listened to every word.
Psalm 69:33, “For God listens to the poor, He doesn’t walk out on the wretched.” MSG
I am telling you my story so you can tell others ~ Fathiya
SO I AM TELLING IT
Thank you for listening with an open mind. Every word I tell you, I heard with my own ears. Put your preconceived ideas aside and listen. Listen with your eyes, your ears and your heart. You need to hear.
Fathiya* sat in the middle of the room-grateful for listening ears and caring hearts. The thirty-three year old lives in a run-down, second floor apartment. She cannot afford the rent but knows the landlord and he cuts her slack. Despite her culture’s emphasis on hospitality, she has nothing to offer us, not even a cup of tea. She hides her humility like she hides her face underneath the burka. Her husband is gone and she has not seen her three children in four years. This is not what she is used to.
She used to have a home
She used to have a family
She used to have friends and neighbors
She used to have the latest in fashion and technology
She used to wear gold bracelets
She used to live in peace
She used to live in a beautiful place
The dynamics are complicated, but the Syrian war has now raged for five years and it’s not getting better. Like all the refugees I met, she stayed in her hometown until it was gutted by bombs. Now she lives here with her twenty-three year old brother. He suffers from mental illness because he cannot escape the indelible image of his younger brother’s body being ripped apart by an explosion in their home.
She is just like me, or you. If she lived in my town she would probably have a house on Skyline Drive, shop at Dillard’s and eat lunch at Brick Oven. Maybe she would go to my church. We would be friends. Need a visual to understand what I mean by gutted? Click here.
She is emotionless as she retells her story. I am not.
Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” NIV
I don’t know what you think of when you hear that term. Do you take a political stance? Do you believe what they tell you on the news networks? Is your opinion based on emotion, fact or fear?
They had no choice but to leave their beloved country. Like everyone I visited, she reiterated how beautiful her neighborhood was and how peaceful her people are. She is uncertain where her husband is or if he is even alive. Her young teenage boys live in another country. Though she is sharp and ambitious, it is unlawful for her to work. She was privileged, now she is destitute. Nevertheless, she remains stoic, believing this is God’s plan for her life. Maybe it is.
Jeremiah 29:11, “’For I know the plans I have for you’-this is the Lord’s declaration-‘plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’” HCSB
LOOKS MORE LIKE DISASTER WITH NO HOPE
She gets food from relatives and humanitarian relief organizations but her refrigerator does not work and she needs medical care. “Six more days before you can see the doctor,” they tell her repeatedly.
Strangely she seems at peace. There is light and hope in her eyes, and gratitude. Her dream is to come to America, so she is teaching herself English. She claims to wear the burka to protect her face from the sun rather than religious reasons. While it seems extreme, her attire is as common there as wearing a baseball cap here in the South. Her brown skin is smooth and unwrinkled so apparently it works. Personally, I’ll stick with my Nike cap.
Luke 9:58, “Jesus told him, ‘Foxes have dens, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.’” HCSB
Dear Fathiya, you didn’t choose to be refugee, but Jesus did. He chose to leave His rightful place in heaven to live on earth to make a way for us.
WORK, WORK, WORK
She has worked all her life to pay off her sin debt. She has no assurance of her eternity until judgement day. She didn’t know Jesus already paid it when He died on the cross. She didn’t know, until we told her.
John 17:3, “And this is eternal life, that they know you are the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” ESV
She listened carefully and repeated the story back to us. She had never heard this before, but she believes in Jesus and listens because His followers are meeting her physical needs. She announced, “He could walk straight. He was a good man because He was strong. God made Him strong. We cannot walk straight, we walk crooked.”
Yes, He did for me what I couldn’t do for myself.
2 Corinthians 5:21, “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” NLT
SHE NEEDS TO SEE
She heard the truth with her physical ears now she needs to see it with spiritual eyes. She glanced at her cellphone and her animated demeanor fell. She rose to her feet and hurriedly explained we should leave because she is tired. I kissed my new friend goodbye, once on the right cheek, three times on the left. Maybe another day.
Her brother is coming home.
2 Corinthians 4:4, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” NIV
GOD REDEEMS ALL THINGS
Yes, maybe it is God’s plan after all. She heard the truth: the hope of eternal life, a free gift of salvation.
I pray you will join me for the next few weeks as I share first-hand the plight of Syrian refugees. Do you care?Listen to their stories #syrianrefugees #rtp Click To Tweet
To receive in your inbox, enter your email address. Regardless of your political views you need to hear, so do others. And she needs to see. Will you pray?
*Her name was changed for privacy.
Click here to see before and after pictures of her hometown. Maybe if you see with your eyes, you’ll start to understand with your heart.