Shoes and Tuesday nights – I wish that I could just kick both of them into an unwanted and ignored corner where my soul would find peace because they are unexpected and unwelcome interruptions into my comfortable life. For one, I feel dislike. For the other, I feel desperation.
Tuesday nights are refugee response night and I don’t like Tuesday nights. We gather together from a multitude of geographic locations where we skype into our Hungarian kitchen to discuss the refugee situation across the Balkans. For me, it takes a supreme act of will and courage to sit my body down at that table and listen to those reports.
Covered in my warm blankets, in my cozy house, with a full stomach and girls tucked into corners with homework and a kitchen of dirty dishes waiting for their immersion of hot sudsy water, I experience a disonnance that I hate. From Greece, from Serbia, from Hungary, from Croatia the stories march across my dining room floor bearing unwanted and unwelcome circumstances that create within my heart a crushing impotence. I cannot birth peace. I cannot birth heat or lodging. Often, I cannot even birth compassion. Meanwhile, in my small corner of the planet, people are literally freezing and that makes me want to drop-kick every syllable of injustice into oblivion. If only I could, but, I can’t, so Tuesday nights tear me up … and you can read that two different ways and reach the same destination.
And then there are the shoes or the lack of them. A couple of months ago before the snows swept the Balkans but the winter chill had already set in, I pulled line duty. It means I stood by a line of men waiting to get their food and I chatted with them. An older man from Afghanistan engaged me in conversation and we found common ground in our shared rusty Russian language. In the process, he showed me his shoes that had carried him from Kabul to Belgrade. 5,412.9 kilometers. 3,363.42 miles. 63 hours of travel by car. Months by foot. His shoes were in tatters. His shoes were torn. There was little soul left. And he asked me for shoes. And I said “no”.
I said, “I’m sorry but I cannot give you shoes tonight.” And he looked at me with a soft smile and he said, “It’s okay. I understand.” But how could he understand? How could he know that we had been told not to give out shoes because the numbers of refugees were increasing every day and every time the numbers increased the authorities grew more fearful. And as fear grows, it scoots compassion to the edge of a great cavern called Safety.
Safety said no shoes for anybody unless you have shoes for everybody and how do you have shoes for nearly 1,000 people in the size that they need? So, “I’m sorry but though your souls are tattered, I cannot give you shoes tonight. I hope that you sleep well in that warehouse where you live with open fires to scare away the night chills and the rats that nibble on your toes.”
Torn shoes. Torn souls. Bearing tattered people out of a war-torn world. I don’t like Tuesdays.
But maybe there is a church out there or a Bible Study group, or a compassionate soul who could grab onto grace for Tuesdays? Maybe, just maybe, somebody somewhere would say that Tuesdays and tattered shoes are mountains that CAN be moved with a word of faith and a prayer for mercy and a generous hand. And maybe, just maybe, they would be right because I remember a man of miracles who fed folks with fishes and bread and turned water into wine. That mercy man said that if a someone asks us for a cloak, we should give him our tunic too. “Jesus, I know an old Afghani man who needs some shoes. In these freezing temperatures, I think that he would take a cloak and a tunic too.”
So could we move Tuesday mountains, you and I? Maybe, just maybe, I could welcome Tuesdays back to my table and maybe it would be full of refugees with warm feet and found souls.
If the Lord taps your heart today, here is the link to give money for shoes, for clothes, for food, and for other aid for refugees across Central Europe: in Greece, in Macedonia, in Albania, in Bulgaria, in Serbia, in Croatia, in Hungary, in Romania, in Poland, and in Denmark. This donation is specifically for Central Europe’s Refugee Response / Courage for the Journey.
If this post causes you to think of practical ways that you could respond locally: 5 Helpful Things You Could Say to a Syrian Today
As a end note to the story … later that night when the food lines had ended, the elderly man was quietly approached about his shoes. To be honest, it was a good night. It was a night when everybody who lined up to eat received food. In fact, some people got in line for seconds and there was enough.
Even more than his shoes or his Russian, it was his story that impacted my heart as he told me why he fled Afghanistan in fear. “Years ago, he said, I worked for the American businesses as a contractor. It was a good job to provide for my family. But, when the Americans left, my connections to them made me a target. It was very dangerous for me and for my family. So, I fled and here I am.”
For more insight about the refugees in Belgrade, Serbia where suffering is currently intensifying, watch my facebook page and our Courage for the Journey facbeook page where we post and share from others who are working with refugees. Follow and share this blog.
And thank you.
With a simple ‘thank you’ that is not simple at all, but bears a heaving, heart-filled, soul-felt, sigh of ‘thank you’ for joureying with us. It gives us courage for this journey. It gives them courage for the journey.