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...

Casting Nets on Ordinary Days

“Walking along the beach of Lake Galilee, Jesus saw two brothers: Simon (later called Peter) and Andrew. They were fishing, throwing their nets into the lake. It was their regular work. Jesus said to them, ‘Come with me. I’ll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I’ll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass.’ They didn’t ask questions, but simply dropped their nets and followed.”  Matthew 4:18-20, MSG   How many times did they cast their nets into that sea? How many days of fishing had weathered their skin? How many conversations, laughs, frustrations had that boat seen? But something made that day different. That was the day Jesus stepped into the ordinary. I’m continually reminded that I don’t know the plans of the Lord. We don’t know His days or His hours. We live these “ordinary” days, casting our nets and pulling up fish (or walking to class and swiping into the dining hall), and yet the Lord is moving all the while. How many moments had they lived; had led up to the moment of Christ’s call? Moments that seemed monotonous, routine, insignificant. Moments spent waiting, wondering if there was more. Moments of laughter and frustration and tears that brought them to that specific boat, on that specific place in the water, at that specific point in time, where their hearts were in the perfect posture to drop everything for Jesus. We get into these traps of waiting for that moment. And while the Lord may be preparing us for something in the future, we don’t know that. What He does tell us is...

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...

Watch What I’ll Do

Today, I wanted to share something I wrote on my blog during Advent. The Lord met me in a rather unexpected way as I was wrapping presents for kids I don’t know, reminding me of His faithfulness with my little offering of obedience . . . Wheaton College does this Christmas outreach called Angel Tree. Students pick the name and gift request of a child whose parent(s) are in prison. On each tag is a note from the parent. Most of them read something along the lines of “mommy/daddy loves you! I’m so proud of you. I’m sorry I can’t be there this Christmas.” It’s okay if you need to take a minute to imagine what it would be like to be separated in that way from your family on Christmas. Feel free to take a minute to pray for these families. I needed a minute when I was reading them. I need a minute now. Not shockingly, I saw Jesus as I read these notes. But it gets better. I ended up picking out two girls, a three year old and a ten year old. It gave me an excuse to wander into the children’s clothing section and pick out the sparkliest pink sweater I could find. But that’s not the point. After multiple trips to Wal-Mart and Target, I brought my gifts back to the Office of Christian Outreach to wrap and return them. That’s where Jesus met me. After wrapping one of the gifts, I took it over to the desk coordinator. She commented on my wrapping and we talked for a second about how much life it gives us to really care about these presents...

Whatever is True

We all know Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” You’ve probably been in Bible studies where you’ve gone through all these adjectives describing what we should be thinking about. You’ve probably made lists of honorable, pure, and lovely thoughts you should be having throughout the day. Instead of going crazy deep into this verse, I’ve found myself stopping on the first three words: Whatever is true. What does it mean to meditate on what is true? How often do I choose to look at what is true, whether that’s the Lord’s truth in Scripture or what’s true about the circumstances He’s put me in? One of my strengths (according to StrengthFinders) is futuristic, so maybe part of it is that, but I think we all have a natural tendency to dream. It’s part of the reason we love Netflix, books, and movies. It’s why we think it’s fun to look back through photo albums or old Instagram feeds. We love ideals. We love imagining or remembering the best. There’s a necessity for hope when it comes to walking with Jesus and expecting Him to move. But what do we do when hope gets muddled with our desires? When what we want blurs the lines of what God is actually doing in our present? This is where He calls us back to what is true. What’s so freeing about meditating on what is true is that it doesn’t...

When You’re Called to Make Your Block

The other night, wrapped in one of my dad’s oversized sweaters, I had some much-needed introvert time. I found myself sitting on the floor of my bedroom with a peppermint mocha and some Christmas-themed worship music, flipping through old journals. I came across the following words from the middle of my senior year of highschool: “One day, I’m going to sit in eternal fellowship in Heaven and I’m afraid I won’t have any glorious stories to tell.” February 23, 2013 The truth that there won’t be any sin, crying, identity-issues, or comparison in Heaven (Revelation 22:3-6) didn’t stop my heart from questioning it’s worth before both the Lord and other believers. What was I doing and was it enough? Was I enough? Was I living in the fullness of the extraordinary life that everyone talks about having in Jesus? Because writing papers, meeting with middle schoolers at Starbucks once a week, and trying to keep up with a blog that no one really reads didn’t feel like enough. Depending on the Lord looked like my trusting him in small things and I just wasn’t convinced that a story of his faithfulness in having grace with my siblings or building new friendships was what someone was looking for on a testimony night. But then I came across this article. Have you ever heard of Bert Elliot? Me neither. He’s the brother of the missionary Jim Elliot. I was surprised that I’d never heard of Bert, given my admiration for Jim and Elizabeth Elliot. Honestly, there’s a chance I wouldn’t even be at Wheaton College if it hadn’t come up while I was reading The Journals of Jim Elliot the summer before my senior year. The Lord has used their stories and books to shape me in some pretty formative ways....

The Power of Prayer

I hate to admit it, but I sometimes go through waves when it comes to prayer. I wish I could say I am 100% prayer warrior all the time, but if I’m honest, I go through seasons. Sometimes I believe prayer has the power to change the world and the idea of praying unceasingly comes naturally. Then there are other seasons where, though not from a lack of love for the Lord, praying just doesn’t feel all that important. Prayer is always powerful, but sometimes it is easier to let that truth grip my heart and sometimes I have to fight for it. I’ve gone through moments in the past few months that have been the latter kind of season. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to pray, it’s just that prayer lost some of its priority and significance in my heart. As I wrestled through different life circumstances, I began to question the true impact or power of prayer. And then some seemingly small events in the past couple of weeks reminded me of the significance of prayer. The truth that the Lord hears and delights in responding to our petitions. The fact is that He loves to have our hearts aligned with His. With these recent musing on prayer, I found a post that I wrote my senior year of high school, a time when I believed and saw the tangible reality of prayer. My hope is that by dusting off some of these old truths, they will breathe new life into your hearts. It has for me. April 2013 “I have felt the impact of your prayers these past weeks....