Skip to content

Don’t walk off the beach

July 23, 2019

It was a simple request; one I had heard many times before.  “Hey Scott, would you proofread my paper?”  I had worked with this particular student since he was in second grade and now, he was in high school.  This young man was a refugee, resettled in the United States through  World Relief DuPage/Aurora, in cooperation with  Refugee Resettlement Program of the United States State Department.starfish parable

I sat down to read the paper and literally had to fight back the tears as I read a synopsis of his life story.  He wrote of hearing machine gun fire as his village was overrun by rebels.  He wrote of the death of family members at the hands of rebels and the nightmares that sometimes still haunted his sleep.  He wrote of the many people who had helped him along the way.  And asked the question: “If I had not been able to come to America would I have gotten an education? Would I have learned to play soccer?”   For me it was heart rending, for him it seemed more or less matter of fact.  I made a few corrections and told him it looked good.  “Okay thanks!”  He submitted it to his teacher electronically and bounded out of the room, “See you next week!”

That was several years ago, and I have not been the same since.  I have supported the cause of refugees.  I have led our church in opening our facilities for Citizenship Workshops where immigrants from all over the area come to complete their citizenship papers.  I have been trained to facilitate the completion of some of those papers.  I have been amazed at what someone will endure and how long they will wait to become a citizen of this great nation.

But that night put a face to the process, and I was changed.  I could not stop thinking about the millions of children just like my young friend who would languish for years in refugee camps where the conditions are deplorable.  In recent days I have thought of children trekking across rugged waste land, swamps, and forests hoping to make it to a place of safety, and I am moved.

God consistently reminds us to take care of the most vulnerable, as he also cares for them.  In the Bible they were the “widows, orphans, and foreigners” (Lev. 19:33-34; Dt. 14:28-29; Ps 68:5; Mal 3:5; James 1:27).  I cannot save all, or provide for all, but I can do my part when I can. One thing, I can do for sure is use my voice.

I have learned from my friends who are involved in ministry to immigrants and to refugees that there is the real threat that the United States of America could completely shutter the Refugee Resettlement Program in 2020.  Already we have reduced the number refugees allowed into our country to historic lows.  Many who have been negatively affected by this reduction, are brothers and sisters in Christ fleeing persecution for their faith.  As a follower of Christ, I cannot be silent and let this continue to happen in silence.  We must be a nation of compassion.  I must be a person of compassion.  I must be a pastor of compassion.

It is very important to bear in mind that I am focusing my thoughts here on refugees.  People who have fled their countries for their very lives and have gone through the most rigorous of vetting processes, that can take a couple of years.  (This website includes a good graphic of how the vetting works Refugee Vetting Process).

I have heard the protests that we can’t save or help everyone.  I agree.   But we should not then just turn our backs on all of them.  There is an old, overused story about a man walking along a beach in which hundreds of thousands of starfish had washed up on the shore.  A little boy was walking along and tossing starfish back into the surf so they would live.  The man, with a typical air of adult practicality said, “Son you can’t possibly save all these starfish, there are just too many.”  As he tossed yet another starfish into the ocean the boy simply said, “I made a difference to that one.”

If our current administration chooses to go the route that many are fearing they will go and closes the Refugee Resettlement Program, then as a nation we have simply walked off the beach.  I for one cannot stand by and let that happen without adding my voice to the many who, more eloquently than I, are pleading with  the administration to not only keep this program, but return it to previous levels so that our nation can lead the way in compassion.  For the sake of my young friend, and millions like him. Don’t walk off the beach.  In the name of Jesus.  Don’t walk off the beach.

From → Uncategorized

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: