Tag Archives: Refugees

Refugees Named Joseph

Living in the Spirit
August 8, 2017

Scripture Reading: Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28

[Joseph’s brothers] saw [Joseph] from a distance, and before he came near to them, they conspired to kill him. They said to one another, ‘Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him. . . But when Reuben heard it, he delivered him out of their hands, saying, ‘Let us not take his life.’. . . and they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it.

Then they sat down to eat; and looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels carrying gum, balm, and resin, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. Then Judah said to his brothers, ‘What profit is there if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.’ And his brothers agreed. When some Midianite traders passed by, they drew Joseph up, lifting him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.
–Genesis 37:18-20a-21, 24-28

How do we turn bad life experiences into good? I watch at least once a week news stories about refugees fleeing oppression in some instances certain death. These are human beings just like you and me with families they love. Some caught in the chaos of war, teach their children how to take shelter from bombs while trying to teach them to read because all the schools are gone. In Syria, a group of people* have formed to save as many of their neighbors as they can following a bombing. Some of these brave souls have lost their lives in the process, but they hold on to the sacredness of humanity in a world turned upside down.

I remember the shame I felt several years ago when I learned the United States turned away from our ports shiploads of Jewish refugees escaping Hitler’s regime. I feel the same shame as we turn away refugees or watch then die from the futility of escaping certain death if they stay in their homeland.

Joseph was a refugee sold into slavery who proved his worth to Egypt by saving them from famine. Jesus, Mary, and another Joseph also were refugees in Egypt. Jesus became our Savior who commanded us to follow the long tradition of the Israelites and welcome the stranger. When we have, we have most often been blessed. Yet, we hunker down in fear of terrorist while we watch refugees die. Whether we like it or not, ours is a country of immigrants and Native Americans, and we thrive not in spite of but because of our diversity.

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”**

Prayer: Lord, when we turn away refugees, we turn you away too. Forgive us; strengthen us O Lord to follow the example of The White Helmets and save those who flee oppression. Amen.

*See The White Helmets on Netflix or http://www.newsweek.com/white-helmets-new-netflix-documentary-follows-syrias-heroes-training-rescue-496633

**Words on the Statue of Liberty from The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus

All scriptures are quoted from the new Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

A Wandering Armenian

Wandering-ArameanEpiphany
February 8, 2016

Scripture Reading: Deuteronomy 26:1-11

When you have come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, and you possess it, and settle in it, you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place that the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his name. You shall go to the priest who is in office at that time, and say to him, ‘Today I declare to the Lord your God that I have come into the land that the Lord swore to our ancestors to give us.’ When the priest takes the basket from your hand and sets it down before the altar of the Lord your God, you shall make this response before the Lord your God: ‘A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous. –Deuteronomy 26:1-5

Sometimes I think we rather glamorize our ancestors in the faith. Perhaps that is because we have been saturated with movie versions of their acts. I probably would not have considered them as refugees, if our world were not so full of wandering people some of them from the neighbors of the current Armenia. There are not a lot of Armenians left after the Armenian Genocide that occurred during World War I. Our scripture today recognizes that, Moses apparently identified Armenians in his ancestry.

What impact does it have on a people to lose their land and be forced to live among aliens? Joseph did very well in Egypt, but 400 years later when the Israelites had multiplied, they became a threat to the people who had once welcomed them. That same thing is happening to those countries who have accepted in recent years, refugees from the war-weary middle east. How long will it be before they can return to their homes? As people charged by God to love we begin to ask how much and to how many, as resources shrink and the number of refugees increases.

There are no easy answers. It is an opportunity to hone our skills at loving, meeting needs as we can, encouraging systemic answers that are stubbornly not pursued, and leaning heavily on God to open paths of love not yet seen.

Prayer: Lord, show us the better way to welcome the strangers as neighbors. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Refugee

refugees4Living in the Spirit
October 26, 2015

Scripture Reading: Ruth 1:1-18

In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land, and a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to live in the country of Moab, he and his wife and two sons. The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion; they were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there. But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. These took Moabite wives; the name of one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. When they had lived there for about ten years, both Mahlon and Chilion also died, so that the woman was left without her two sons or her husband. –Ruth 1:1-5

It is an ancient story told many times in the Bible, leaving one’s homeland to survive. In the story above a family became refugees because of drought. Today refugees are created from war, various climate change events, oppression, and poverty. Our great challenge is to determine the best way to help people dealing with the issues that force them from their homelands. There are no easy answers. Is it better to help people remain closer to home in refugee camps with the hope that they well be able to return home soon or to move them from their culture to a strange land?

We non-native Americans in the United States are the descendants of immigrants some of whom were refugees although they may not have been formally recognized as such. Refugees are people by definitions who must leave their home area for their own safety or survival.* One of my ancestors came in 1630 as a pilgrim escaping religious persecution so technically he could have been considered a refugee, I suppose. I am not sure but one might have come to the US as a result of the potato famine in Ireland. That was the reason many of my hometown German neighbors traveled to the US in the late 1800’s. I don’t really know why my other ancestors came. I assume they were at least looking for a better life.

With refugees pouring out of the Middle East and Africa escaping war and oppression, it might be a good time to come to terms with the ideas of refugees for they are our neighbors and we are called to love them as we love ourselves.

Prayer: Lord, according to the book of Matthew you were a refugee in a foreign land when your parents escape with you to Egypt to save you from the terror of Herod. Help us to see you in each of the refugees we have an opportunity to serve whether near to their homeland or here in ours. Amen.

*http://education.nationalgeographic.com/encyclopedia/refugee/

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

People of Faith

faithLiving in the Spirit
September 28, 2015

Scripture Reading: Job 1:1, 2:1-10

There was once a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job. That man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil….

One day the heavenly beings came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the Lord. The Lord said to Satan, ‘Where have you come from?’ Satan answered the Lord, ‘From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.’ The Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil. He still persists in his integrity, although you incited me against him, to destroy him for no reason.’ Then Satan answered the Lord, ‘Skin for skin! All that people have they will give to save their lives. –Job 1:1, 2:1-4

Job is the story of a man who pledged his allegiance to God and never wavered from it. High drama, the story unfolds with Satan proclaiming any human would give all he or she had to live. God responds that Job would not give up his integrity.

We are watching a similar real drama unfold before our very eyes as refugees flee from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and northern Africa knowing they may indeed lose their livee in the fleeing, but also feeling having their way of being taken from them, living in constant fear of death and destruction, and watching their children starve is worse than death. No one wants to die, but there are worse things than death.

People would not face the dangers of such a journey, if they had lost all hope. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1) These refugees are people of faith. They may now call the Supreme Being they rely on the same name we do. They may not follow the same rituals and the same holy days but they are people of faith.

God calls us to love like Jesus loved and I can envision Jesus walking the path of freedom with each of these people, feeding them, caring for their illness and wounds, celebrating the birth of their children arriving at a most inopportune time. I can also see him meeting them at their final destination, making them feel at home, giving them opportunities for self-support and sustenance. We are the hands and feet of Jesus in the world today. Let us open our hearts to these people who still have hope.

Prayer: Lord, we ask that your presence be a blessing to all those who flee from terrors most of us have never know. Open doors of understanding for us and show us as we are to love them. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Clothed in Righteousness

Delight in the lordAdvent
December 9, 2014

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
   my whole being shall exult in my God;
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
   he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
   and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the earth brings forth its shoots,
   and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
   to spring up before all the nations. — Isaiah 61:10-11

The Isaiah perspective arises out of the experience of exile. As I watch the images of Syrians and Iraqis stream from their homeland, I get a limited sense of what being taken into exile might have meant. Of course the people of Israel and later of Judah were taken into slavery. While that sounds much worse than being a refugee, in some ways it assures a modicum of stability. At least as chattel, like an ox or a horse, a person has some worth to someone, perhaps enough to be fed. Refugees walk into a vast unknown future where they are most often seen as a burden. It is out of that kind of life situation that the writer of Isaiah 61 crafts audacious verses of hope and justice.

Our writer indicates that we, the readers, are a part of the solution. God has already gifted us with salvation and justice. We have been prepared to enter into a state of marriage where we share in full partnership with God in God’s work toward a world where righteousness is the norm. It is as inevitable as planted seeds growing into sources of nourishment. Those seeds will grow more healthily and produce more fruit, if we tend them well.

Prayer: Fold us into your loving arms and guide us to do your will in working for justice throughout the world. Amen

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Kindle Your Light in Us

lightLiving in the Spirit
November 13, 2014

Scripture Reading: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When they say, ‘There is peace and security’, then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape! But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness.— 1 Thessalonians 5:1-4

I do not feel too much like a child of light this morning. The world is too much with me. I guess it started when I flip on the local news yesterday evening and found a blow by blow description of a hostage take over by a former soldier at a local law office. It all ended peacefully without any physical injury, I am sure the jury is still out on emotional and mental ramifications. I don’t get why people like to watch that detailed reporting but it made me wonder, if we who live in the USA really realize that too much of the rest of the world live the reality of hostage taking and other such chaos several times a day every day. There are over 10.4 million people living as refugees in our world.* Yesterday the news celebrated the release of the only Ebola victim that remained in a hospital in the USA, making us Ebola free at least for a time. As of November 7, 2014, there were 13,241 cases in the three African nations most affected by Ebola with 4,950 deaths**.

Please understand our light needs to shine on every wounded warrior who has returned to the USA from war and every person in the USA who suffers from disease and we are not doing enough to address either. I guess my discontent comes from our motivations for addressing such issues. Our motivation has a whole lot more to do with self-protection and self-preservation than being a light.

In point of fact, our investing in the research necessary to bring about healing of bodies, minds, and souls is often a gift to the whole world as is the research of other countries. We might though be in need of an attitude adjustment opening our hearts to our neighbors around the world and sharing our light with generosity and love just as they share their lights from the darkest of places tending to the sick, the hungry, the homeless in the best way that they can.

Prayer: Kindle a flame of love
             Here in my heart, O Lord.
             Set all my soul ablaze
             With love and joy.
             Reaching to all in need,
             Pour out Your love through me.
            Kindle a life that burns for You.***Amen.

*http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49c3646c1d.html
**http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/outbreaks/2014-west-africa/case-counts.html
***Words by Ken Bible, inspired by a Celtic blessing Music by Ken Bible © 2005 by LNWhymns.com

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Curing the Sick

Living in the Spirit
August 2, 2014

 Scripture Reading: Matthew 14:13-21 

Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. —Matthew 14:13-14

Because we get so caught up in the story in our scripture today regarding the feeding the masses, we may miss this excerpt about curing the sick. Jesus was a healer. While most of us could recite a list of nuisance health related complaints from sinusitis to headaches to backaches and some are dealing with more serious life impacting and limiting illnesses, we often overlook the healing of our souls. It is interesting that even science is more and more linking our physical ailments to both our mental and spiritual health. I just read in the paper yesterday that people who give of themselves live longer, more productive lives. Perhaps this whole scripture is about healing.

Yesterday, the news showed a woman protesting the care of Central American children at the Fort Sill Army Base. She did not want her tax dollars wasted in such a manner. Some in our Congressional delegations are fearful that the continued use of Fort Sill as an interim place to house these refugees might lessen its ability to train soldiers. It is my understanding the facility was selected because the dorms being used were vacant. The Oklahoma Governor is demanding that the federal government keep its projection of only using the facility for 120 days. I wondered, if our political leaders have thought what might happen to Fort Sill, if we really stopped fighting wars. The dorms are empty for a reason. Could we actually be nearing a point when we will be beating our weapons into plowshares? What would the closure of such facilities do to the economy of our state? And what better use of these facilities could we make than protecting children from the ravages of the world?

People of faith have been ministering to refugees all over the world for years. Many of the countries surrounding the fleeing people have limited resources themselves. I take great satisfaction in knowing that my country, using my tax dollars, are providing the basics of life: food, clothing, shelter, and medical care for these children and youth. People of faith are also there for them, but so is our country. People of faith are still in harm’s way in the homelands of these children working to make their country safer and more self-sustaining but in the meantime we can at the very least see that these children survive.

Prayer: Heal our souls, so fill us with your love that we cannot help but love our neighbor. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.