What to say? What to write? No one needs my opinion on world events added to the cacophony of voices and noise, yet I feel compelled to speak. Obliged to write. To be a voice for the voiceless. If for no other reason so that they may be “heard.” I am referring to the refugees of the world.
The latest turmoil in which innocents are caught in the cross fire is in Afghanistan. My heart breaks at the images of desperation. The tears. The looks of terror. The cries of the people wake me in the night. They are in my dreams reaching out for help. No safe place to go. Running in the darkness. Fleeing from it as best they know how. Yet, there is no escape. Whole churches being massacred. Allies being hunted down. Women disappearing back into their stifling invisibility cloaks to avoid rape and beating. Vanishing off the streets overnight.
The whole thing is like the millionth sequel to a horror movie. How many times all over the world has human suffering taken the form of a refugee crisis? How many millions have died running for their lives? And what about the trauma they witness while fleeing? Family members killed before their eyes. Children separated from parents never to be reunited. Violence upon violence.
It is hard for us to imagine, as we sent behind our screens. We see for a moment, but then our daily tasks pull us away and into the rat race that is our country. It is incomprehensible to us what happens to others all around the world. I used to feel bad for whatever group was fleeing whatever war. Truly, I had compassion, but the news cycle moves on and soon the story was forgotten. Sitting in my house with as much water as I need gushing from 4 different rooms, where it takes less than one minute to fill a bucket, I had no comprehension of that kind of suffering.
Then I visited a refugee camp. No electricity. No running water. Only basic shelter, which is built from materials on the land, mud and grass. Beans and rice enough for a few weeks. No places of work. No transportation to speak of. No schools. Holes in the ground for toilets. Hours from any city. And this is the “safe” place.
Before arriving to the settlements, there is unmentionable trauma. The kind that causes nightmares and PTSD. Mothers giving their children to others in hopes they will make it somewhere away from the war and bloodshed. They hand them over walls, through windows, or hide them in the bush. Fathers give their money to their sons and point them in the direction of the nearest border, knowing they cannot all survive. Sacrificing their own lives for their children. Unaccompanied minors arrive by the thousands in an unfamiliar country, just trying to stay alive. Scared. Hungry. Exhausted. All this, before beginning to build a new life.
I have heard the stories from their mouths. I have looked into eyes where all hope was gone. I have felt the heavy blanket of depression weighing down whole families. The sorrow of having witnessed the death of a child, or a parent, or a brother or all of them. The lack of resources and the realization the “safe” life is only safe from bullets. I have been a witness to the harsh climate and conditions sucking the spark out of people who fought so hard to save their lives only to be stuck in limbo land. No wonder. I can barely survive in that climate for a week. I have such respect for those who endure daily and keep going. In addition to all this, now add Covid. In such a place, the disease wreaks havoc. Little medical care available. No way to get to a clinic. No vaccines to speak of. It merely adds to the suffering already consumed as daily bread.
Despite the hardships, there are pockets of hope. Pastors ride bikes to minister to the hurting. They carry the book of refugees, the Bible, to those who relate to the stories of Daniel, Ester, Ruth, and David. Page after page of men and women who were on the run, exiled, and captured. Page after page of how these people of God survived in foreign lands. The pastors bring stories of hope.
Teachers rise to the occasion to teach the children, so they will have a better future. They step up into overcrowded classrooms, out of their comfort zones to give students a chance to become educated and break the cycle.
Ministries take in orphaned children and care for them. Supplying love, food and shelter, and protection for the most vulnerable ones in the camps. Healers bring emotional healing from trauma. Being trained to minister to those who have seen and experienced too much.
Now, when I see a story unfolding like the one in Afghanistan, I have eyes to see things differently. My heart agonizes for the families. It breaks for the turmoil that is coming for them and the stories they are living. I cry out to God, whose heart is also breaking.
Please be with the people of Afghanistan. I pray your protection over them. Hide them from those who seek to destroy them with the palm of your hand. Give them safe places to take their children. In the tumultuous times, surround them with unexplained peace. Give them divine appointments with those who can help them along their way. Infuse them with hope. Give them strength to keep going. Provide for their physical needs, food, shelter, clothing. Help them as they operate in survival mode…to survive. To not give up. To put one foot in front of the other.
Protect their hearts and eyes from seeing horrors. Block their view of violence. Help them to run in the opposite direction. Direct their steps. Light their path. Lead them as only you can Lord.
Somehow soften the hearts of their enemies. Open their eyes to see the death they are bringing is not for the good of the people. Bring freedom to the country, somehow.
I pray for the women, who had found a measure of freedom. Who had learned to read and write and stand for themselves. Give them a way to continue their journey despite the oppression being thrust upon them. Infuse them with boldness to continue their fight. Give them wisdom and keen insight on how to move forward.
I pray for all those left behind. Our allies who have helped us, now stranded. For the people who are merely caught as pawns in a governmental overthrow. For those who chose to stay to help others rather than get out themselves. All those who are now unsettled and hunted. Distract the enemies from the hunt. Give them other matters to attend to.
Lord, I ask that Afganistan would continue to be close to your heart. That you would hold them. Guide them. Direct them. Free them. You are the hope. You are the peace. Pour it out on them now.