A Refuge is a place of being safe or sheltered from pursuit, danger or trouble. Segmenting the word, we see the prefix re- means again and the Latin root is fugere which means to flee. Therefore, a refugee is one who flees again, to a safe place, sheltered from pursuit, danger or trouble. How many of us have sought such a place in our lives? Maybe not a physical fleeing of danger, but emotionally, spiritually, or mentally we have all been refugees. We have looked for safety in relationships. We have tried to escape bullying. We have run from those who twist things from truth to lies. Humans hurt humans. It is a law as reliable as gravity. We have all hurt people and been hurt by them. Not one of us is exempt from it.
Because of this truth, many of us have tried to offer safe haven for others who are hurting. We invite them for coffee to pour out their troubles. We open our doors and offer our beds to those who have fallen on hard luck. We sit with them. We pray with them…all the soul weary refugees. All those who have been battered in spirit. We recognize the need for refuge, because we ourselves long for it. A safe place to rest our souls.
Matthew 11:28-30 is a promise of rest, I have held onto throughout my life on the weary days. He offers refuge, a place where I can sit in his presence. A place where I feel the arms of the God around me, comforting me and shielding me from my woes. On my most difficult days I long for this place of solitude and comfort. My heart needs such a place.
“Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my burden is easy to bear and my load is not hard to carry.”
Then I imagine how much more I would need it if my physical body was threatened and traumatized. I hear stories of refugees told in hushed tones and tearful voices. I see them fighting for survival and I can’t help but feel their longing for a safe place; a place to rest and just be. This place is illusive in our world today. There are wars and predators who use fear as a weapon against humanity. Bullets send the message of death loud and clear, and so the people run, in search of refuge. Torture and rape make death seem pleasant if one had to choose which way to go. Eyes see and ears hear horrors which are a blight on the souls of those who carry the silent burden of trauma. Nightmares wake them, refusing them peace even in sleep. Oh, where is the place of refuge? Where can they go to escape? Crossing borders and entering camps creates a false sense of safety which only lasts until the food runs out or disease ravages.
I look at the Bible characters of old. Joseph was a refugee who saved his people. Abraham left his home behind before he knew where he was going. The children of Israel fled the slavery of Egypt following Moses. Ruth fled with her mother in law to a foreign land. Mary and Joseph ran from Herod. Fleeing oppression is nothing new. It is as old as time. Just because I have not seen it doesn’t mean it hasn’t been there all along. Working in a refugee camp in Africa has opened my eyes to the oppressed and down trodden, the traumatized and the survivors. It has given me eyes to see. Watching refugees on the streets trying to feed their children in South America has broken my heart. I have liquid prayers for all those on the run. On this World Refugee Day, I have no other recourse so I pray.
Please provide a true refuge for for all those who are in limbo. Give them the grace to live in the harsh environments in which they find themselves. Feed their children. Help them find jobs and shelter. Surround them with community who will help and lift up. Pour hope into their hearts and infuse their minds with the truth that they are loved. Lord, bring peace. Bring stability. Replace their desperation with faith. Give them beauty for their ashes. Use this time to build them into strong people. Give them hearts of tenderness to replace their hearts of stone. Somehow, someway, give them the ability to forgive those who have stolen from them, harmed them, and betrayed them. Only you can heal their hearts. Bring your healing touch to them. Send healers into their midst to reconstruct all the shattered pieces of their souls. Lord, there are too many fleeing. They are everywhere wandering and wondering when they will ever find their way home. Increase their trust in your goodness. Help them Lord to find freedom in the journey somehow. You are the provider so I ask you would supply all their needs according to your riches and glory. Go before them to prepare their way, behind them to cover their backs, beside them to walk as a friend. Show them who you are and whose they are. Lord, Bless the refugees. Amen.