It was a muddy and miserable Saturday night. Cold. Rainy. The kind of rain that caresses the earth all through the day and leaves your bones shivering at night. We were in a field that somehow had become the unmarked space between two European countries. They were two countries that two decades earlier had known their own kind of war. The political powers that guide nations and carve the narrative of history had called it a ‘conflict’, but that conflict resulted in rivers of blood, mass graves and an awful lot of lives that called themselves ‘refugee’. With that story now a history still vividly alive in the walking wounded, this place, these countries had now become the crossing point for another refugee crisis. The people we were ministering to had travelled from the Middle East. It was the Autumn of 2015.
The line that marked an invisible border was visible in the powered stance of black uniforms and riot gear and cattle fences.
While thousands of people waited on one side of that fence, we had run back and forth through the slippery, thick mud to a station offering diapers to mothers. It was a trek, even in the best conditions and these weren’t the best conditions. Carrying a size 0 diaper back to the mother of a very new human, I heard the sharp ‘Go. Go. Go.’ That tore jagged rips into the air. They were loading the buses again.
Handing the diaper to the grateful mother, we took our positions again behind the uniforms, behind the cattle fences, behind the sharp, stacatoed orders of, ‘Go. Go. Go.’ and we waited.
The crowd pushed. The guards barked and they pushed. And then the scream came – the scream of a mother being separated from her 8 year old little boy. The boy tried to go back to his mom. The mom tried to come forward to her son. A volunteer picked up the boy and tried to hand him back over the fence. And a man with power and force and a uniform marked a spot in the mud where a family had just been separated.
I will never forget the wails of that mother or the cries of that little boy.
I will never forget the useless act of trying to comfort that boy, or the heartbreak of that mother when her eyes locked with mine over the border, over the cattle fence, over the head of the men in riot gear.
Nor, will I forget the fact that it was repeated over and over and over again, day after day.
And maybe you, like me, want to know the end of that story. Did they find each other at some point? Or did that little boy who had made it from the violence of his village become a photograph on a wall with 10,000+ other children who were orphaned by this war?
We want a happy ending because it somehow assuages the guilt that we feel over our silence.
June 16, 2018 Jaclyn Gallucci posted an article in Fortune with the title, “1,995 Children Have Been Separated From Their Families by Border Patrol, DHS Confirms”
That is 1,995 children over a 6 week span of time.
That is 1,995 slices of anguish cutting through the air.
I find myself struck by the irony of reading this article on Father’s Day in the US, which is also World Refugee Sunday.
I remember standing beside my husband, a father of 4 girls, at that European border three years ago, helplessly comforting families and working to see them reunited. Past midnight when our shift was over, we lowered our soggy bodies into bed, our minds replaying the flood of events. “I don’t care how big the stick is that you carry. I don’t care how hard you hit me. I don’t care how loud you scream. If I’m on the other side of that line, the second that you separate me from one of my girls, I’m going to do everything in my power to bring her back into my arms,” he said.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently used Romans 13, to remind Christians that we are to obey the law.
As an ordained minister and as a missionary having served 24 years in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, I agree with Mr. Sessions. My obedience to God and my love for Christ compels me to obey the laws of my government and the governments in the countries where I serve. I will obey those laws. That obedience does not exist in a disconnected vacuum.
The whole of Scripture also requires me to speak from my place of economic and cultural power and when and where possible, to utilize my power as a microphone for those whose power has been ripped from them.
The whole of Scripture requires me to act on behalf of the widow and the orphan, tying works of mercy to works of piety that result in right religion (James 1:27).
The whole of Scripture removes the excuse of confusion and clarifies for me that my silence makes me culpable. He has shown you, o man, what is good and what the Lord requires of you, says the prophet Micah. (Micah 6:8)
And the whole of Scripture invites me to accept my identity that begins in a garden and quickly and tragically moves into a journey out of that garden. By the third chapter of my Genesis, I have become a refugee.
The whole of Scripture invites me into relationship with and aligns my destiny with the very Jesus who was sent into exile in Egypt as a refugee.
Indeed, the whole of Scripture reminds me that my story is about a Kingdom border and the gracious mercy that I find there in Christ.
So we, the people of God today, we are called to set our faces with the great cloud of witnesses that have gone before us who wrestle with what it means to bear the story, to speak Truth, and to act justly within our generation and for our generation.
I hear a challenge that is both sobering and hopeful in the words of Mordecai when he addressed Queen Esther, “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)
May God give us wisdom, courage, and compassion as his people. I urge you to use your voice today on this Refugee Sunday for those who cannot speak for themselves.
Over the last 9 months, I have had the privilege of working on a cross-denominational project with a core team of 4 to produce a Dialogue Guide for Refugee Sunday called The Peace Between . Click here for the Peace Between Dialogue Guide and the film.