One of the blessings and the challenges in this work are the conversations with people who have been forcibly displaced. Most of those ‘conversations’ happen by way of email, but having been at this for 3 years now, there are more happening via Skype, Facebook Messenger and phone.
I would like to share 2 of those conversations with you here. English is not their first language. In order to protect their identity I have changed their names, but I have preserved their words, their message to us …
Bonnie is a young single mom who has fled to South Africa. As she says, “Their dad abandoned us, and he doesn't even care about his children.” After a few months of emails back and forth, of her telling me about the difficulties of life – looking for work, needing food, her children wanting to attend school – and me responding with kindness but honesty about my inability to do anything practically helpful for her, she wrote:
“It has always been helpful and a blessing speaking to you...because I feel like when I speak to you, I have peace and I forget about everything.... I will keep on praying to God to open the doors of blessings and that he should also protect and bless you where you are.
I really appreciate you because you speak to me kindly and lovingly even though you don't know me...you always find a way to console me. Thanks so much.”
I asked her about what it is like where she lives, what her church is like and if she has a Bible…
“Yes there are a lot of asylum seekers here where I live...my church is big and I have a bible that I read every day before sleeping or when I have nothing to do.”
Aron is a father of 5. When he lived in Pakistan, he owned his own business which employed several employees. The family fled to Bangkok to save their lives from the hatred & violence of extremists in 2014.
This past year has held new trauma for Aron and his wife in that their oldest son went out from their tiny room one day and was arrested for overstaying his 6-month visa. He was put in the notorious. After only a few days there he was deported back to Pakistan. No one in the family was informed by the police about this action. The family tried to contact their son through other friends who visited people in the IDC and were informed he was not an inmate there. They appealed to the UNHCR regarding his whereabouts and learned that he had been deported. Can you imagine?!
This young man, who hadn’t been in his homeland since he was 15, found his way back to the family’s old home and ultimately ended up in an uncle’s house. After only a few days, extremists who had been looking for his father, learned that he was back in town and came to the uncle’s home, demanding to know where his father was hiding. Their son was attacked and his uncle, who tried to intervene, was attacked and killed by extremists. This young man has fled again and is presumably living with other family at this time.
In October, when the Thai immigration conducted a major crack-down on visitors over-staying their visas, Aron wrote:
“Hello, how are you? I hope you and your family is fine. Today we are really worried. Today in one building there was about 100 people including kids and women who were arrested by immigration in the morning and the immigration send them in detention center. There is one place ... immigration caught 5 families from there. We are really, really worried about the bad situation of refugees. The situation of detention center is pretty bad; even there is no space for sitting.
We request you to please pray for those people. God open the door of freedom for them and give them patience. Pray for us that God protect us in any way, as he was protecting us in past. We believe one day God will open the door for all Pakistani persecuted refugees because he is our rock and hiding place, our strong tower. These difficulties will not separate us from God. Even we became more stronger in Christ.
Pray for my wife; she has a fever. Today she didn't go to church. She attends Oasis class also (in a local Thai church) on Wednesday. She has life group class on Friday. On Saturday, we have prayer meeting in our building. My wife teaches the women. Pray that God give her good health, so she can continue her classes.
Pray for my elder son … God protect him where ever he lives. May God bless you and take care.”
In November, this father of 5 wrote after a reference to Asia Bibi: “In Pakistan they have death for us and here they have detention center for us. Life become so dangerous. My kids don't have future. How long I can hide them in one room? I am really upset. From Pakistan I come to protect them but here also have a lot of persecutions. I trust God he can do everything but after God I hope that you can understand my pain. I am so tired now about this situation. I am facing this problem about 5 years. I do a humble request to you - please take a step for us.”
I responded, endeavoring to encourage but again with no practical help. Aron replied:
“We are really thankful to God. He is protecting us about 5 years in this bad situation. We have God's hand upon us. We are thankful to you also because you giving us reply back and encourage us. Everyday we pray for you and for your church that God help you in all the work which you doing for us.”
Perhaps you know that throughout history it has been God’s people who have seen a need and have been the ones to step into the gap and bring an element of relief and hope to the suffering in the world in their time. Have you noticed that God has his children strategically located all over the globe, in every facet of life?
God doesn't task us to fix every problem - He is the One who has that covered, but He does ask His children
- to "be a neighbour,"
- to "welcome the stranger,"
- to live out the same generosity and kindness that we have received from Him,
- to "help" the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the one needing clothes, the sick, the prisoner.
Wouldn’t it be exciting to step out in faith, to follow in the footsteps of Gideon - battling an army larger and better equipped; or Noah – obediently doing what God says even though we can’t see how it will all shake down in the end; or Daniel - living differently than our neighbors to honor the One Who has redeemed us for Himself.
I often wonder ... if each one of us stepped into the mess of injustice, if each one of us reached out a hand to someone who needs kindness as much as they need anything, if each one of us gave what we could of our time or possessions or compassion ...
What would God accomplish for His kingdom and for the glory of His name through His people today?