Today, I had the wonderful opportunity today to hear the stories of refugees from all over the Middle East through an organization called Voices of Refugees. VOR is an organization that provides services to refugees when they arrive in the U.S. They teach ESL, provide transportation, education, job services, and assist in many other helpful and important ways to provide their needs.
If you aren't sure about what's been happening in the Middle East, this is a great, comprehensive timeline that helped me understand: http://www.historyguy.com/list_of_wars_middle_east.html
Basically, since 2006, there has been a war in the Middle East which had affected a multitude of countries. Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Pakistan, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, and other surrounding areas. A lot of countries are affected, not just from the war but other issues politically, economically, and religiously. So, for the past ten years and previous to that, refugees are and have been seeking a safe place to move. A large population have traveled, and continues to travel, to/through Europe and to North America.
The stories I heard are incredible. Everyone we had the opportunity to speak to came to America after the war started. They all came here with no knowledge of English and no international licenses. They all had no idea if the family and friends they were leaving in their home countries would even be alive when they reached America. Two of the four refugees we spoke to now work for VOR.
It was so helpful to hear people's stories first hand, personally from them, because of all of the misinformation and assumptions the media makes. The first man we talked to gave us incredible advice. He told us "When you meet these people, offer to help them and be there for them. If you are rude and selfish then they will say 'I don't want the Jesus they have if He's anything like that. "You can't teach people to love. There is no class to take to learn how to love people". Let me tell you, I did not know I was going to church today 🙌So. Good.You can't just take a class and learn how to be a model of Jesus's love. It's a lifestyle. It's a choice you make everyday. It's so important for us to learn who Jesus is so we can imitate his love. And the first step to that is crossing the cultural, societal, religious, bridges and hearing people's stories. We have to listen, learn, and see people for ourselves, not make assumptions and judgements about people we don't even know. You can't love people from the other side of the bridge.
The rest of the stories we heard were heartbreaking. The devastation and loss was immense. I heard things I would have never known if I wasn't there, sharing a meal, sitting across the table with my new friends. Being there gave me an empathy I could have never gotten from watching the news or reading a paper.
When you cross the bridge, you say no to fear. You stop allowing Satan to distance you from people because you are afraid of the unknown. You stop letting labels and differences separate you from people who are just like you. You start to realize that God's love is for everyone, and you can only deliver it once you get to the other side of the bridge.