I don’t want Syrian refugees to come to America

But if our gospel is veiled,it is veiled to those who are perishing.

 

 

 

 

I don’t want Syrian refugees to come to America because I’m afraid

A Syrian refugee woman invited us to visit her home, but we were lost and this time it wasn’t my fault. Sitting inside the stuffy car my right eyelid drooped from the 90 plus degree temperature. My hair blew when I pointed the passenger side air-conditioning vents toward my face. I glanced at the driver of the rented Hyundai and it occurred to me, I don’t know her last name. However, I do know she drove in this country for the first time 3 days ago.

Instead of pursuing the American dream she navigates this foreign land and sits behind the wheel with a permanent look of satisfaction on her face. You know, the kind that flows out of a soul full of Jesus.

Lost and looking for the lost

She hit redial on her cell phone for the fifth time to get repeat directions and remained unfazed when it was time to admit we were hopelessly lost. Who could blame us? None of us read Arabic, the streets were not marked and directions were confusing. “Turn right at the third street.” Define street, please. Is that an alley or a street? It was hard to tell.

I wondered out loud what to do. Lost in thought, or perhaps praying silently, she ignored me.

My Right Side Up Life (3)

After fifteen awkward minutes of silence, her eyes went wide as a grin spread over her face. “That’s it!” she exclaimed. After driving in circles looking for a coffee shop, we were parked beneath the neon sign of an old fashioned pot. Don’t need to read Arabic to figure that out, just need to look up, literally.

Psalm 121:1, “I will lift up my eyes to the mountains-where does my help come from?” NIV

Finally

We arrived at the run-down, cinder block home and I blinked back tears as she told her story (click here to read). Through the translator, I said, “I am so sorry for what you have been through. I want you to know we care.”

SHE ALREADY KNEW

“I know you care because you spent so much time finding me.” Hmmm, isn’t that interesting? No one would blame us if we gave up, yet the source of our frustration was proof of our commitment.

Do you see delays and inconveniences as opportunities?

Could it be the very thing frustrating you is what God intends to use for your blessing and good?

Delays are God-designed detours to accomplish His purposes #Syrian refugees #compassion… Click To Tweet

She thanked us for caring and declared, “All Christians care and I am grateful all Americans stand with the Syrian refugees.”

Uh oh…

DON’T TELL HER THE TRUTH

She receives humanitarian aid and Christians help her people. After all, isn’t that what Jesus commanded?

Matthew 25:35, “For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger and you took me in.” HCSB

She practices English so she can work when she gets the opportunity to come to the United States and every American she meets is there to help, or like us, simply listen. There is much value in listening to someone’s story, but it costs our most precious commodity-time. Frankly, I’ve been stingy with my time for most of my life.

Isaiah 58:19, “Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.” NLT

LISTEN FOR A MOMENT

I am afraid for Syrian refugees to come to America because I am afraid for them to know the truth – not all Christians care, are eager to help or willing to listen. And Americans? Well take a few minutes to scroll through social media and you get the idea. I love my Syrian friend and I don’t want her to know. That’s why I’m afraid for Syrian refugees to come to America.

3 John 1:8, “We ought therefore to show hospitality to such people so that we may work together for the truth.” NIV

She imagines making friends and socializing, after all, she gladly opened her home to complete strangers. Who will welcome her into their home? Even worse, who will invite her to their church? Where will she be welcomed dressed in the only wardrobe she has ever known.

I’M AFRAID

God commanded us to go to the uttermost parts of the world and now He is bringing the world to us. Will we neglect the lost? Please don’t think this is a political stance on accepting Syrian refugees who are not properly vetted. My opinion doesn’t count in that debate anyway. Eric Costanzo expresses his sentiment well (click here to read). Syrian children will change your heart. I’ve challenged you here before.

My question is not whether she should come; my question is, will you welcome my friend if she does?

Will you invite Syrian refugees to your church? What about your home?

Will you shatter her perception of Christian Americans with hateful prejudice because of the evil my friend and her people are trying to escape?

Will you veil the gospel?

2 Corinthians 4:3, “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.”  ESV

I’m afraid for her to come, but if she does, will you make sure she is not disappointed?

What does this look like to you?

Wh

Another grueling day at work. The hours are long and sales are down. Okay, let’s face it, sales are always down. Good grief, a successful rock salesman in the desert couldn’t make this business work. Wait, this is a rock sale in the desert, only it’s not successful and he’s not a man. In fact, he is little more than a toddler.

1 John 3:17, “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” NIV

WHAT COULD I DO?

I was up on my high horse when I passed the pitiful sight. Actually I was even higher, I was perched on the hump of a camel. I first saw the child sitting in front of a board displaying rocks. His head and eyelids drooped. He couldn’t have been more than four-years old. Five hours later, the desert sun left his hot, dehydrated body laying in front of the same board, same rocks. He was glassy-eyed and covered with flies. Dear God, my dog lives better than this. All I knew to do was pray to the God who sees..

Genesis 16:13, “Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, ‘You are a God who sees‘; for she said, ‘Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?'” NASB

HELP!

Fortunately, my friend used her able-bodied legs which placed her in a position to help. She stopped and handed him her water bottle. Unblinking, he reached out his dusty hand, turned it up and let the lukewarm liquid slide down his throat in one gulp. With pleading eyes, he tapped his fingers on his cracked lips. She unzipped her backpack and found a protein bar. He gobbled it down.

Matthew 10:42, “Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won’t lose out on a thing.” MSG

WHO IS HE?

Who is he?

What does this look like to you?

Does he look like a baby terrorist?

Or does he look like a child created in the image of God?

Luke 18:16, “But Jesus called them to him, saying, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.'” ESV

WHAT DO I WANT YOU TO DO?

I'm not trying to be political. I'm trying to be human #syrianrefugees #compassion #rtp Click To Tweet

You don’t have to agree with me, but for Christ’s sake, will you pray? Have compassion on a hungry, thirsty child who is forced to work an unproductive job at the age of four. If you stay in the saddle of your horse or on the hump of your camel, you aren’t in a position to do anything..

Romans 12:3, “For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one.” HCSB

LOOK AT YOUR HEART

I’m not trying to persuade you to do anything except care. I know you do, your heart would have to be dry and cracked to not care about this child. Together, we can be a voice; a voice for those who have no voice. A voice of God’s and compassion for every tribe and tongue and nation, including Ishmael’s descendants. Not a political voice, a human voice.

Proverbs 31:8, “Speak up for those who have no voice, for the just of all who are dispossessed. Speak up, judge righteously, and defend the cause of the oppressed and needy?” HCSB

What will you do?

Will you dare to speak up?

Even if you disagree, I invite you to comment and sign-up to receive my weekly posts in your inbox. Enter your email address and I promise, I don’t always ride camels or stand on soapboxes.

 

You’re not going to like how this ends

There is no fear in love;but perfect

What will churches do about Syrian refugees?

Come with me on a journey. Consider yourself warned; you won’t like the ending, but I hope you will come anyway because maybe we can change it. Maybe….

IMAGINE

Cars flow through streets like water around rocks. People glide along crowded sidewalks. My ears are assaulted by cars honking, speakers blaring half-price sales and people occasionally  shouting. It feels oddly natural here. I am so welcome and comfortable; it’s surreal.

A little girl takes my hand in both of hers and I kneel down in an attempt to understand what she said. Unexpectedly, she plants a wet kiss on my cheek before she skips away to wet  the cheeks of my friends.

Who does that?

Heat radiates from the rotisserie and disperses the smell of roasted chicken. My watering mouth distracts me from the  complete stranger approaching. A ride home? She stiffly climbs into the car with her heavy package snugged near her body. Her humble neighborhood is not welcoming, but she is. Though we accept her invitation to come inside and have juice, we decline her offer to prepare dinner knowing she couldn’t afford needed medication.

Who does that?

Our hosts were new in town but they visited a nearby grocery store to buy powdered sugar ten days earlier. On a return trip, the clerk recognizes them and apologizes for accidentally overcharging them. He waited more than a week for them to return so he could refund their money.

Who does that?

We tear open grease-stained sacks and pass out napkins as ten hungry souls gather around the restaurant table. Wait, there’s another sack, and another? We receive four times more food than we ordered and have leftovers for the next two days. When the bill comes, the price is the same.

Who does that?

Rummaging through a rack of scarves, she selects a solid green one with fringe on the ends. Unzipping her wallet to pay, the clerk puts up a hand and refuses her money. He declares it a gift. Two stores later on our shopping excursion, a bangle selected from a bin also becomes a gift at the register.

Who does that?

The life-changing project requires eighteen man hours of labor, not counting the time spent gathering supplies. Where does one find a 3-ring binder in this city? The clerk admits he doesn’t carry them but gives directions to another store. Seeing our blank expressions, he leaves the store attended only by our group and walks out. He makes the purchase himself, and returns with the vital supply.

Who does that?

You may not want to know who is so kind and eager to show generosity and hospitality to strangers. You may have preconceived ideas about these people who live in a foreign land; people who have lost their homes and jobs and live in a conflict that intensifies every day in a country I can literally see on the horizon;  people who are resilient and hopeful despite unspeakable loss and tragedy.

A people clad in hijabs, turbans and burkas.

That’s who does that

What you see portrayed on the evening news is not what I saw with my own eyes. Eighty percent of Syrian refugees are women and children.

What do followers of Jesus do?

James 1;27, “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” NLT

IF we are true followers of Jesus Christ, we are commanded to care for them.
These people want the same things we want. They want productive jobs to provide for their families. They want education for their children. They want peace. Their number is growing while the war in their homeland rages on.

Will we let fear make them unwelcome?

I wish you could see what I saw. I wish you could see the warmth in their eyes. I especially wish you had a little saliva on your cheek. Then you would know. And if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you have compassion for these widows and orphans and families.

IMAGINE

A brown-skinned man lives with his wife and sister in a house full of children. He is unemployed for the first time in his life and cannot provide for his own family, much less his extended family who depend on him. His wife is beautiful, but you can only see her almond shaped eyes. Actually maybe all you see is that scary looking black hood she wears to cover her flesh. We are afraid she is a terrorist, but in reality she is fleeing the terrorists we accuse her of being.

We always fear what we don’t understand, so we glance away when we see them in our hometown. We complain when they open a community center where they can fellowship with people of their own culture. We refuse to receive the poor, helpless and needy into our communities.

Who does that?

Professing followers of Jesus Christ, that’s who. People whose lives are marked by every creature comfort imaginable: safety, food, clean water so abundant we flush our waste in it, lives of ease and by international standards-luxury. We sit on cushioned pews in air-conditioned sanctuaries and pray for the lost.

What will we do when they knock on our doors?

Who does that?
What will churches do about #Syrianrefugees ? #rtp Click To Tweet

We have been remiss in going to the uttermost parts. We have largely ignored the ends of the earth. But they are coming; many are already here. Perhaps God is bringing them for such a time as this. Maybe He would do anything to keep from losing one.

2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish but everyone to come to repentance.” NIV

Please know I am not making any statements on government policy. I am simply asking you to examine your own heart and speech. You can share this if you are brave enough to be a voice for these people.

You need to hear

  1. You need to hear
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

EVERYTHING CHANGED

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

SYRIAN REFUGEES

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.