By: Lora Batterson
“Nobody wants us.” That’s what Venus told me last year sitting in the dirt, in the small village of Idomeni, steps away from the Greece border that had been closed, cutting off her family’s pathway to a new life. She had arrived there with her two sisters and her mom days after the border had been closed. I crossed paths with her about two weeks later, when the reality of her situation was setting in. Her family couldn’t go back – their home in Syria had been bombed and it wasn’t safe. But now they couldn’t go forward because countries were shutting the door to the massive influx of refugees from the Middle East.
Almost a year later, the situation has gotten ever more complex, with a crazy election season and the situation changing daily both here at home and around the globe. What in the world are we supposed to do in the face of the largest humanitarian crisis since World War II? How do we lead in this sphere when the weight of it seems overwhelming? I have a few simple thoughts that will barely scratch the surface, but maybe give us the courage to keep moving forward. In the words of Wendell Barry, “It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. The mind that is baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings!”
1. LET YOUR HEART BREAK! Why? Because it’s the heart of the Father! In her book “The Broken Way,” Ann VosKamp puts it this way. “When the church isn’t for the suffering and broken, then the church isn’t for Christ. Because Jesus, with His pierced side, is always on the side of the broken. Jesus always moves into places moved with grief. Jesus always seeks out where the suffering is, and that’s where Jesus stays.” The Bible talks over and over and over about welcoming the stranger and the foreigner. The most well known passage is probably Matthew 25:35 where Jesus says “I was a stranger and you took me in…whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me.” I encourage you to seek out passages that talk about this and SEE FOR YOURSELF what the Bible has to say about it.
2. EMBRACE THE TENSION! I love the way Richard Rohr talks about “the struggle to forgive reality for what it is right now.” He talks about agreeing to live without resolution, but then goes on to say that the very nature of HOPE ceases to be a virtue if it leads us to a quick closure and we didn’t have to “wait for it with patience” (Romans 8:24-25). There is so much tension surrounding this issue that we have to be careful to not lose hope, but rather be willing to sit in the place of the that tension and allow God to work in our hearts.
3. CHANGE THE CONVERSATION! If we let our heart break for the things that break the heart of God, and if we are willing to live in the tension, then it’s time to change the conversation. It’s time for the church to stop sounding a lot like bickering toddlers and to start living out humility. Jesus was NOT the squeaky wheel. He was not the loudest voice. He lived in quiet humility and obedience to His Father (John 5:19) and this gentle STRENGTH turned the world upside down and reverberated throughout all of history. Our posture should be as one who belongs to Christ. What spirit am I bringing to the table? Jesus said “I came to serve, not to be served.” What would that look like in conversation? What would it look like if we came to the conversation to SERVE. When my friend, Venus, told me nobody wanted them, she wasn’t just talking about countries closing the door. She was aware of the conversations that were taking place. She talked about the fear & disdain that people had for them. Our words have life and they reverberate much farther than we realize. Let’s be women who give LIFE with our words.
4. PRAY! Don’t complain about leaders if you’re not praying for them daily. And don’t feign compassion for refugees if you’re not lifting them to the Lord in prayer. We underestimate the power of prayer! What if there is a life-giving solution out there that will only be birthed in prayer? What if there are visions and dreams and miracles that God wants to perform that can only be activated in prayer? We LOVE to sing the Hillsong work of art, “I touch the sky when my knees hit the ground.” Do we believe it?
5. TAKE INVENTORY! What is in your hand? Practically speaking, what can you do to help? At National Community Church, we’ve boiled it down to several areas. We are focusing on being a friend to the refugee in our neighborhoods, supporting the agencies that are resettling them, providing for physical needs in whatever way we can, promoting education and awareness in various settings, and providing outlets for refugee kids to have fun through sports. But the possibilities are endless! What can you do? Perhaps you are here for SUCH A TIME AS THIS!
Lora Batterson and her husband, Mark, pastor National Community Church, with eight locations in the DC metro area. Together they have three beautiful children and love living in the heart of Capitol Hill. She loves grabbing coffee every month with the other pastors’ wives who co-lead The Rising Conference together. She feels passionate about churches coming together in unity and about building bridges wherever there is a divide.
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