And so it is that I imagine a rogue military unit sweeping in from Ohio and occupying Fort Wayne (insert your city here). They seize control of the city in every way possible. Laws are ignored. The federal government looks the other way. Soon, the leaders of this unit give instructions to start "cleansing" the area of Hoosiers and anyone who is not a native Buckeye. Men are killed, women are raped, and children witness it all.
Somehow, I make it out alive with my family.
In an utter state of confusion and desperation, we depart with others en masse (and by foot) to Canada where we're sequestered in a camp with only the shirts on our collective backs. One week there turns into a month, and then a month into a year. We spend ten years in this camp, and only the lucky among us eventually get a ticket out.
Again, I'm blessed, because my family is intact, and all at once we're sent to Bolivia to start a new life without fear of persecution. They explain that we'll be safe in Bolivia, and that it will be a place of refuge for us.
But we can never return to Fort Wayne.
We try to explain to the Bolivians that we're legal and we're in their country for a reason but the Bolivians don't understand people from Fort Wayne and many of them want us to leave. We don’t look like them. We don't talk like them. We're straining their system.
Yet we're all human, aren't we?
So, we do the best we can in a new culture and a strange land. Our college degrees mean nothing here but we try to get jobs and learn their language and customs, while still trying to preserve some of ours.
It’s not easy, but at least it’s better than what’s happening back in Fort Wayne.
Sound too crazy to believe? Try telling that to a refugee.
As you may or may not know, when an individual receives the designation of refugee, he or she is given the gift of life. This may sound a little extreme, but we're not dealing with some casual term. Rather, to be named a refugee is to receive a title of huge significance, granted by the U.N. High Commission to a relatively small group of people who have fled an oppressive government, war, genocide or some other unrest in their country. By contrast to the potential death sentence one might be under by staying (or by being forced to return to the place from which they fled), to become a refugee is to be granted life. As wonderful as that is, though, a new life still comes at a cost -- for those who receive this status can never return to the world they once knew. You may think that's not so bad considering what they're leaving behind, and that's true to a certain extent. It doesn't make it any easier, though. Most people love their homeland, despite the circumstances causing them to leave. Somehow in the midst of all of this, they have to find their way.
I say all of this simply to point out that refugees are among us. The world is growing increasingly flat. The mission field is no longer a distant option that draws near only through missionary furloughs and Sunday night slide presentations. We are all human. Make a friend in a refugee and offer a helping hand. Be welcoming. Before long he or she won't be a refugee anymore, but rather, your friend.
And, if you ever wonder what it's like to be a refugee, read the above story again, and simply insert your city.