“Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:25-29, NRSV)
Amid all of the turmoil and news that has been inundating me these past few weeks, I received a Facebook invitation to an event. It was sent to me by one of the gentleman I attend church with and would be taking place in Akron, OH.
What was this event? It was for a 48-hour prayer vigil being held by World Relief Akron. The purpose of prayer? Intercession for refugees and immigrant families as our new administration tries to figure out how it would like to handle new refugees coming to the United States.
Initially I didn’t think much about this invite other than giving it a passing glance. We have all been inundated with news stories and events and conversations on social media regarding the refugee crisis, especially in Syria. I just couldn’t at that particular moment absorb one more thought on the matter.
I have been seeing stories and posts from groups and people who were all for a refugee ban and their reasons for supporting legislation that would enforce this.
I have seen just as many stories and posts from groups and people who are against any measures that would prevent refugees from coming to the U.S. and their reasons for believing to not allow refugees and immigrants is wrong.
We continue to witness the clashes between these two groups on television, in public conversations, and on social media. So, when this particular invite notification arrived I chose to ignore it for the sake of preserving my sanity.
I began to feel as if God was telling me to reassess that invite, and to take a second look at it. It felt as if this was something I needed to attend.
Prior to this event I have never attended anything like this outside. I have never been part of a march or held a picket sign for peace, or other similar activities that a lot of the Anabaptist community have taken part in over the years for peace and social justice causes. So, it was with some trepidation that I set out with a couple from my church this past Sunday afternoon.
Fear, I must confess, was one of the things I was feeling. Fear that with all of the emotions that have been running so high in our society that some violence might come from groups that opposed refugees. Perhaps it was a little over dramatic on my part, but I wondered if I would be somehow harmed in some way while there.
Isn’t that funny and awful at the same time? I was feeling sorry for myself that God was telling me to attend a prayer vigil and feeling fearful about going at the same time.
The very refugees that I was going to pray for are facing real dangers EVERY SINGLE DAY!!! Especially the women and children! People that are stuck with no country to call their own and no idea of where they will be ending up.
My fears (unfounded as they were) almost prevented me from going. I needed to set them aside and trust in God. This was the lesson given to me to learn.
In a coffee shop that was in the middle of being remodeled, a small group of strangers gathered together in Akron, OH. People of different denominations, backgrounds, and beliefs bowed their heads together in prayer.
Prayers for safety for refugees. Prayers for the heartaches being felt by families who have been torn apart and separated. Prayers for mommas who are desperately trying to provide shelter, food, and clothing for their little ones the world over. And prayers for the immigrants who are already living in our communities that they may find acceptance and love here.
Human beings united in the common cause of praying for other human beings.
Should refugees be allowed to come to the United States whether they are Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, etc.? Should there be a limit to the number who can come? Should they not be allowed to come at all?
I don’t have the answers to any of these questions or any solutions for how to fix these real problems that are affecting very real people. What I do know is that I can continue to do something. I can pray for all the people who find themselves stuck as refugees and also for immigrants who are just trying to find a new way of life in a strange place.
Somewhere there is a new home for these people. I can pray that they find safety and a place to begin again. But most importantly, that they can begin to find peace and healing.
My neighbor isn’t a specific race or religion.
My neighbor doesn’t just live in just the houses around mine.
My neighbor is everyone.
Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” ( Luke 10:30-37, NRSV)