Things I’ve Learned From Refugees

“I think about the trees, the flowers, the brown grass in the fields. They can all be patient, Certain that spring will return. They don’t have to hope, They can be sure. Hope is a thing made only for people, A scrap to hold into In darkness and in light” Home of the Brave, 246 The other day, I wrote about things I’ve learned about refugees from my work at World Relief. There’s been a lot of new information circling regarding resettlement, refugees, and statistics regarding the growing displacement crisis. While facts are important, especially true ones and ones written from a personal connection, ultimately I wrote down things that you could find elsewhere on the internet. At the end of the day, they’re still just the facts. And these people are so much more than facts. Interacting with people who have literally been forced to leave everything they know and arrive in a foreign land, often alone and not speaking the language, has done more than just teach me a few important tidbits about the refugee crisis. They have taught me about bravery, resilience, humility, hope, and hospitality. The people, not the facts, have chipped away at hardened pieces of my soul and shown me more of the grace and love of Christ. They aren’t just numbers, pieces of the resettlement system, or the faces supporting the new refugee Olympic team. They are some of the strongest, most courageous, most genuine people I’ve ever met. And here’s just a brief glimpse of some of the things they taught me this summer: • Our presence is always communicating something – through our smile, our eyes, our body language, and the emotional state of our hearts. ...

How’s Your “Quiet Time?”

I’ve become hesitant to talk so frequently about having “quiet time,” “devo time,” or “time with the Lord.” Not because I don’t think it’s one of the most important ways we can spend our time, but because it’s not the most important. In our individualistic, western view of Christianity, it’s easy to adapt a solely personal and isolated view of our faith and relationship with Jesus. We can lose a value for cooperate worship, fellowship, prayer, giving, and service when it becomes, albeit subconsciously, a me-centered emphasis. There’s a fine line, which isn’t to say that spending time alone with God isn’t imperative or universally commanded (Jesus Himself makes it clear that He needs time in solitude and seclusion with just the Father). After all, my time alone with Jesus leads to some of the most necessary, precious, and life-giving moments of my day. However, sometimes I believe a lie about my time alone with the Lord. I’ve been fed this idea, through a variety of often hidden means, that every time I sit down before Jesus and force myself to be aware of His Spirit, usually with Scripture open, that I should expect something profound. I’m sitting before the God of the universe and I’m told to approach with a sense of expectation. If I don’t walk away with some incredible spiritual revelation about my life or someone else, what was the point? What am I supposed to tell people about my “quiet time” when they ask? The point of our time with the Lord isn’t anything more than our being. Stop. Period. It begins and ends with our willingness to simply show up and...

Just Be With Me

During my time in Asia, I visited this place called the Home of Hope. The name is kind of a misnomer, however, since the atmosphere seemed to suck every breath of hope out of my lungs. I remember my eyes stinging, whether from the equatorial sun radiating off the concrete slab beneath my dusty flip flops or from the literal stench of death, I’m not sure. Either way, I’m not sure anything could have prepared me for the holistic, embodied suffering I was about to come face to face with. I shuffled my eighteen year old body across the cemented field, fighting back tears as I smiled at the very bodies of dehumanization. Women literally left to lay out in the sun, crapping in their pants, and scratching the lice in their hair until they die. If there was anything that was going to strip any “savior mentality” view of service and missions away, this was it. Lotion bottle in hand, I was here to just love these women; there was literally nothing effective or practical that I was equipped to do. That sounded more romantic than it felt as I sat down next to a woman whose sun-leathered body looked older than her eyes told me she was. I motioned that I could rub lotion on her hands, if she wanted. Without hesitating, she pulled down a piece of fabric that could barely be considered basic clothing and patted her arms. Looking into her desperate eyes, I began rubbing lotion on her arms and chest, smiling awkwardly and fighting the urge to find a corner that I could lose it in. Suddenly and without warning, she...

Why am I Doing What I’m Doing?

At the beginning of the summer, I had a reflection due on Henri Nouwen's book In the Name of Jesus, in preparation for my summer internship (stop reading this and go buy that book right now!). Due to a lack of awareness about the deadline and an overwhelming amount of other work on my plate, I almost tried to write the reflection without having read the book. I read an online review of the main points, gathered the gist that a Christian Ed major would need to fake their way through a reflection, and started writing – ignoring the conviction gnawing at the back of my heart. The reason I knew I could write the reflection in my own words and with seemingly insightful thoughts was because, humiliating and humbling as it is to admit, I'd done it before. I've had four years of Christian high school and three years as a Wheaton College CE major. I know how talk the Jesus talk. You just use words like “journey,” “convicting,” “brokenness,” and “deepening my love for my Savior:” all without actually letting anything penetrate the callouses on my heart. A couple sentences into my reflection paper, I stopped my typing short. I was overcome. It was bigger than  conviction – this was a holy, terrifying fear. What was I doing? And did I realize how dangerous this was, not for my grade or even my integrity, but for my soul? I’m afraid – and I should be afraid – of going through the motions and then coming up with something “profound” for the sake of sharing my experience and having poetic language...

A Deeper Kind of Trust

One of my favorite stories in Daniel comes at the end of Daniel 3. It’s not about Daniel, but his fellow Jewish brothers, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Long story short, Nebuchadnezzar erects a massive, golden statue of himself that he puts in the center of Dura. Then he asks everyone to bow down to it. Naturally, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refuse, knowing the king is going to have them thrown into a fiery furnace as punishment. But that’s not even the part of the story that my soul finds so captivating and convicting. Before sending the men to what should be their certain death, he asks them why – why didn’t they bow down? Who do they think is going to save them? “If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” Daniel 3:17-18 It’s one thing to trust that God is mighty enough to save you. To believe that He can heal and provide and show up in amazing, unexpected, supernatural ways is to trust who He is as God. It’s another thing, a deeper thing, to trust in a God who can, but may not. What’s amazing to me is that Jesus demonstrates this same kind of trust on the cross. In Matthew 27, Jesus is hanging disfigured, bruised, and bloodied on the cross for our sins. The crowd and Pharisees begin jeering, asking...

8 Things I’ve Learned about Refugees

This summer I have the privilege of interning at World Relief, in DuPage/Aurora, Illinois. I’m working with the new arrivals and volunteer coordinators to get a closer look into what the refugee resettlement process looks like and how World Relief is doing it as a Christian non-profit. Suffice to say, the experience is doing more than building my resumé or further solidifying my desire to work cross-culturally. It’s changing my heart. Despite having traveled to over twenty different countries and being passionate about serving overseas, I didn’t know a lot about refugees before this summer. I thought I’d share some of the deeply impactful and often eye-opening things I’ve learned in my time working with refugees. 1.) There are 65.3 million people displaced worldwide; 21.3 million refugees. The UNHCR, or the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, has a myriad of terms to describe and identify the different situations of fleeing people around the globe. The UNHCR was only created in 1950, to help the millions of displaced Europeans after World War II. For someone to apply for refugee status, they have to flee from their home country due to a “well-founded fear of persecution” and life-threatening “war or violence” (USA for UNHCR). 2.) There’s a difference between a country that is hosting refugees and resettling refugees. Unlike internally displaced person (IDPs) who flee his or her home but stays within their home country’s border, a refugee crosses international lines in search of asylum. In countries where there is persecution and conflict, refugees often flee to neighboring countries. Turkey is currently hosting 2.5 million refugees, Pakistan has 1.6 million, and Lebanon has 1.1 million....

22 Drafts

My mom calls out as she heads up to bed, “don’t forget your devo for tomorrow!” Believe me, we’ve been here before. One of the many perks of being Lori MacMath‘s daughter is that she extends more than a little grace when it comes to turning these articles in. Thanks, mom. Except, per usual, I’m staring blankly at my screen. This time, twenty-two drafts stare back at me. Twenty-two. That’s a whole lot of unfinished pieces of writing, if you ask me. You could call it 22 ideas, 22 beginnings, 22 glimpses into something that feels much bigger than myself, 22 pieces of my heart, 22 stories, memories, and lessons of walking with the Lord. But for as beautiful and poetic and all of those things sound, at the end of the day they are simply drafts. Unfinished. Incomplete. Fragmented. Less than whole. Something I can’t post. So I sit here disappointed with the drafts. What constitutes this difference between post and draft? Resolution. Answers. Summary. The pastoral “3 steps to take home” climax at the end of a sermon. It’s the bow that gets tied around the present or having a 30-second elevator pitch. It’s what compels us to put puzzles together and why it bothers us when a piece is missing. We want completion, fullness, finality, and understanding. We know that all good writing has a thesis that ties the whole piece together. So what do you do when you can’t seen to find the thesis? When conclusions are elusive, summaries seem far, and life is full of more cliff-hangers than epilogues… Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us...

It’s Your Basic Identity Issues

Maybe insecurity isn’t an issue for you. But I’m betting that if you clicked on this post, it nags at one corner of your heart. Don’t must of us live under some weight of insecurity? It’s the nature of fallen humanity. There’s a fine line between being confident and arrogant. A tightrope between knowing there are areas you need to improve versus focusing only on your weaknesses. We often don’t measure up, whether to our expectations of ourselves or to other’s expectations of us. Yet when we are successful it goes to our head and pride can so easily seep in. Question: can you name five things that you like about yourself? Second question: what are the five (specific) things that define who you are? Are your answers the same? Which question was harder to answer? Do you actually believe your answers at the core of your being or are they your answers simply because you know they should be true or others say they are? It can be convicting to make a list of who you are, what brings you life, and what makes you, you. Not in a vague, Jesus-loves-me kind of way, but in a very tangible, specific, way of articulating the uniquely defining pieces of your identity. Not in a prideful way either. Because at the end of the day, a correct view of our identity is rooted in who we are, and who we are has nothing to do with us or some innate goodness. A correct view of our identity points directly and unequivocally back to Jesus. If you have trouble writing this list then consider going through letters...

A Wednesday Morning Prayer

Here’s why I love written prayers, poems, and stories: they often use words to explain the thoughts and emotions that we may not be able to fully articulate. As a visual, emotional, internal processor, putting how I’m doing or what I’m feeling into words is often a challenge. It’s not uncommon for me to voice something days or weeks after I initially felt it, after finally having worked it out in a way that can be expressed. Anytime I can borrow the words of someone else, I often find myself blessed and moved. It can make me feel less alone. It can put words to what I’m seeing or feeling. It can give a sense of eloquence and beauty to situations that often feel confusing and messy. A friend shared this poem with me recently and as it’s been passed around our campus, I’ve realized more and more about how well it speaks to where so many of us are right now. Somewhere I will probably be for the rest of my life. A place of trust. A place of unknown. A place of waiting. A place of tension between the newness and oldness of what I see the Lord doing. A place of faith. May you meet Jesus at the well today. __________________________________________________________ Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We should like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new. And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability— and...

It Is Well

You may not know the story, but you definitely know the song. This famous hymn, “It is Well with My Soul,” was written by Horatio Spafford in the 19th century. He was a successful lawyer in Chicago. He waited until his thirties to marry the love of his life, Anna. They had four daughters and a son. Their Christian fellowship included the family of Dwight and Emma Moody. They were living a beautiful life in ministry, serving the Lord and loving people well. Life was brimming with blessing. Until everything was shaken. Their only son caught Scarlet Fever and died at the age of four. Then the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 destroyed all of the investments they had spent years building. Horatio did what any good father would do. Sensing his family’s need for space and rest, he planned a trip to Europe for his wife and four daughters. Held back by some sudden, unexpected business, he would meet them overseas and then travel to a evangelistic campaign in England. Family, ministry, rest. He was only supposed to be a few days behind them and then they would be joyously reunited for a much needed time of healing. As he finished up work in the States, he got news that there had been a collision. The boat had sunk. His four daughters had drowned. Only Anna survived. With unimaginable heaviness, Spafford boarded the same means of transportation that had just claimed the lives of his beloved children. He knew that his grieving, devastated bride, the woman who had held her young daughters while the waves ripped them from her arms, waited for him on...