The media and the politicians weave a story much different than the one that I will tell you here. Where fear has cunningly colored words like ‘refugee’ and ‘Syria’, we have long stopped believing that good people cross borders in search of safe homes. We wonder at their motives. We believe the worst.
In the Autumn of 2015, Rafi and his mother, Lena, left war-torn Damscus (Syria). They were part of a group of 60+ Syrian Christians who were offered asylum by the Polish government in response to the devastation in their homeland, and were welcomed and befriended by Nazarenes in Poland.
Since their relocation, Rafi and Lena have started two new Arabic speaking Nazarene churches in Wroclaw and Warsaw, Poland. Rafi makes a weekly 8-hour round trip journey to pastor both churches and he frequently flies to the Middle East for course of study* classes. Lena travels twice a month to lead a growing women’s ministry and she is now taking her first online classes to complete the course of study. Both Rafi and Lena work, study theology, and study Polish language.
On Sunday, the Scandinavian District gave Rafi his first district minister’s license, and it gave Lena a local license.
The assembly where Rafi and Lena received their ministry licenses took place at the Nazarene Church in Denmark during the Scandinavian District Assembly. But truthfully, in composition, it looked more like the UN than a church assembly. Sometimes, God expands the borders of our imagination, he pushes our boundaries, and he creates new definitions for who we are and how we are called to be as a church.
At the assembly, there were Cape Verdeans who lead the work in Norway and Americans who minister in Sweden, Poland, and Denmark. There was a mixed-culture Finnish-South Korean couple who lead the work in Finland. There were Danes from the church in Denmark and Syrians who pastor Arabic speaking churches in Poland. And, there were children playing instruments with abandon while adults sang choruses – all of it looking a little bit like what we imagine heaven will someday be. But, the news and the politicians will never lead with this story. It doesn’t fit a narrative of fear and it doesn’t sell news and it doesn’t wage wars and it doesn’t consolidate power.
So, the story that I tell you here, is the good news of the kingdom: a story of inclusion and welcome. It’s a story of connectedness and color and language and culture – a story of diversity, if you will, though that word seems also to have fallen into disfavor. It is the story that Jesus wrote over and over again with his life and his actions and his words.
May the peace of Christ be yours today and in the tradition of Christ, may you take that great treasure and give it away, both to the neighbor and to the foreigner at your gate.
*in the church of the Nazarene, the Course of Study is a preparatory set of classes to be fulfilled before becoming an ordained minister.