We are all refugees, every last one of us.

I live 450 miles from the Pacific Ocean, in a house that is mine, in a neighborhood that is clean, in a nation that is democratic. I went to school, all the way through a university, even, so I know how to read and think and deduce and reason, and the news of the world is easily accessible to me through every screen within my reach. I live in a first world democratic nation and I live 450 miles from an ocean, so the news I read about millions of refugees protesting in front of train tracks and drowning in the ocean and risking their children’s lives to leave a home where their children have no lives:
This news causes me little harm.

It is upsetting in the way that a car crash with victims I did not know is upsetting. It is upsetting in a way that says, yes, this is all bad, this is very sad. But those are people far away from me and I have problems here, too, and there’s nothing I can do to change a corrupt system run by evil people, so I’m gonna concentrate on my own kids and my own problems and wistfully recall the days when things didn’t seem quite so bad.

IDOMENI, GREECE - SEPTEMBER 02: Syrian and Iraqi migrants sleep on railroad tracks waiting to be processed across the Macedonian border September 2, 2015 in Idomeni, Greece. Since the beginning of 2015 the number of migrants using the so-called 'Balkans route' has exploded with migrants arriving in Greece from Turkey and then travelling on through Macedonia and Serbia before entering the EU via Hungary. The number of people leaving their homes in war torn countries such as Syria, marks the largest migration of people since World War II. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Or maybe I will rail against the evil people and feel sorry for the victims, for a little while, and then when the news cycle changes, I will go back to forgetting all of the oceans and all of the people, and hope that something changes, someday.

This is all easy to do. And it is tempting to do, because I am lazy and fearful and nervous about my place in the world. But as a Christian, as someone who claims that Jesus is real and that my life is not my own, as someone who says I believe what Jesus said? I cannot merely acknowledge wrongdoing and wring my hands in worry, or start exhorting the importance of a judicial and bureaucratic response to crisis.

Instead? I have to start moving.

You know what bothers me about a guarded or apathetic response from Christians concerning the tortuous existence of war-torn people? It’s the fact that in order to be flippant, dismissive, or even just choose to be ignorant concerning the facts, we must first forget our own desperate need. If we want to close ranks, murmuring with righteous indignation,

“But they have to do it legally,” or, “This isn’t our problem,”

we must first tuck away the notion that we are nothing without Jesus.

What fools we are to imagine ourselves anything but refugees, clinging to the side of a boat in a desperate search for home. When we see the pictures and hear the stories of these refugees, we ought to absorb the wild plea in their eyes and recognize that plea in ourselves. We ought to cry out for justice, wail with grief for the plight of those without a home, because we are they. We ought to come alongside them as fellow travelers. Fellow sufferers.

We ought to grasp the reality that the physicality of their situation is an outward expression of the desolation and longing in each one of us, and consider the fleeing ones not as other but as ourselves.

Syrian refugees

Because we all long for home.

We are all desperate for permanence.

We are all willing to climb aboard a flimsy boat without worrying about a life jacket, a boat by many different names:

More money.
More friends. 
More love. 
More sex. 
More fame.
More safety.
More comfort. 

We are all willing to climb aboard our own useless dinghy because we don’t think there is any other choice.  So how can we believe anything about ourselves besides the fundamental truth that we are just as far from home as those who cross the wild waves?

A Syrian refugee carrying children, walks in Turkey, in Akcakale, southeastern Turkey, as he and others flee intense fighting in northern Syria between Kurdish fighters and Islamic State militants, Monday, June 15, 2015. The flow of refugees came as Syrian Kurdish fighters closed in on the outskirts of a strategic Islamic State-held town on the Turkish border. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

refugees 5

The gospel is the answer for every refugee. Those who are drowning in the Mediterannean and those who are drowning in sorrow. Those who have nothing and those who have everything. The Gospel lets us all walk on water. The Gospel parts the sea. The Gospel says, You are not yet home. You feel displaced, desolate. But listen! Hope has come. God has set eternity on the hearts of man so that we can live in peace amidst the chaos, knowing our true home awaits. I can have peace in this place because I know who I am and Who loves me.

We are all refugees wandering this life-

but we are not without hope.

I pray that I will never forget the truth of my situation. May I never let the comforts of my walls and my floor, my paycheck and my mobility, erase the pulsing memory of who I am. I am a refugee. I cannot look at any other refugee with anything but solidarity and a quickening need to take action.

But also: I am a refugee with hope, because I know that home is coming.

refugees 7

Be careful to examine your response to the visceral images and ugly realities of the broken and abused, those who seek refuge:

Do you respond as a fellow refuge seeker,
a brother or sister who knows the longing for
life and hope?

Or do you respond from the padded throne of those kings
who have forgotten their own humanity,
their own great need,
have rewritten their prosperity as a construct of their own hands rather than
a gamble
based on birthplace and significant social imbalance?

refugees 3

My security comes from God alone. Every breath. Every movement. Every heart beat. The table I am typing on and the children who call me mother: none of it belongs to me. I am a wanderer who aches for home, and I ache with those who wander beside me. Break my heart again and again, Jesus, for those who are chased and those who are lost. My fellow travelers. My people in the room next door and my people across the sea. May I exist in the reality of my condition and reach out beyond myself to those whom the world considers least.

Remember, remember, wanderers. Let the pain rise up in you like a bile as you consider what evil has done, and let Hope triumph one day at a time in your response. Remember the frantic poverty of your own humanity, and be courageous in the face of scandalous apathy.

The world makes us all wanderers;
the Gospel welcomes all home. 


Three tangible, immediate, realistic means to help: 

  1. International-  http://wewelcomerefugees.com/
  2. Local-  http://www.gatesofhope.net/
  3. Local-  http://www.anaidaho.org/

*All images linked to original source

17 thoughts on “We are all refugees, every last one of us.

  1. Oh, my gosh, Jessie. I wrote about the migrant/refugee situation in SATURDAISIES this morning — and after reading this post just now, I am realizing that THIS is what I wanted to tell the world. My goodness… this. I love you, and I’m quickly turning into a crazy-psycho-stalker-fan. I’m sharing this with everyone I know. Love you so much. Thank you for your wisdom and your words.

    Daisy Rain

  2. I read this multiple times just to savor the words, the language, the visceral and vivid images you’ve created. Man oh man, this is good. This is beyond good; it’s powerful and real and compelling. Daisy is a weirdo, you should note that now, but when she is a fan she is the best kind of fan. I’m so thankful she shared this post with her circle. I love that you close with three tangible ways to get involved. Thank you. I’m in.

  3. Daisy is right. I’ve been wondering about the dearth of Christian leadership speaking out on this horror. We’ve been too busy worrying about Kim Davis. My post this morning was leading up to it but you hit the nail on the head and through our hearts. Press on.

    1. Eleanor McConnell, for what’s next, please refer to Jessie’s three resources as to how we can lend tangible help to those who have fled their countries. Such a great question! Thanks for asking! 🙂

  4. That is, quite honestly, a terrible article; full of prose and empty (albeit passionate) rhetoric. Do you realize that the people with which you so desperately try to relate are predominately Muslim and give not a damn about your Gospel? Is it only through Christian faith one can find the humanity to ache for these people? This article is a self-righteous, arrogant attempt to instigate people to action by guilting them through their faith. Compassion for humanity comes from something much greater than one transitory religion. Your claim, “there is hope for everyone in the Gospel”, is maddening. What of “the Gospel”? Should those poor souls only be saved (literally – from the ocean) only for opportunity to later proselytize them? How can you be sure your religion is the right one? What if there is only hope to be found in the Qur’an? “Oh, well my faith says…” Yes. So does theirs. Using faith as a motivator to do what is right is appalling for the fact that- at its base- it motivates from a place of fear and hope for some eternal reward. It is not selfless. It is not loving. It is ethnocentrism sparsely cloaked. Your religion, way of life, and worldview are not superior to anyone’s. And they are certainly not capable of saving anyone, anymore than theirs are of saving you. If your gift for writing was used to mobilize the masses rather than solely, instigating fellow religious zealots, a lot more good would be perpetrated than whatever is being accomplished by this sermon.

    “Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”
    -Winston Churchill

    1. Thanks for taking a moment to respond to the post. It seems like you are making an absolute truth claim that there is no religion or God, and that morality ought to be driven by some sort of rationality rather than by faith. Although there are some philosophical heavy weights that have dealt with your argument pretty thoroughly ( look at Rawls and Habermas on religious reasoning), I would appreciate your putting up with our conversation as I try to motivate from the perspective that I inhabit, to the majority of folks that make up my audience. And please use your own considerable talents to build an audience that would reach those to act “morally” who are irreligious.

      1. Allow me to digress and apologize for the brashness of my post. Perhaps 11:00pm is too late for me to objectively consider information. I failed to consider the intended audience and am embarrassed and regretful of my response. I can see where my words might be construed as a claim of absolute truth, which was irresponsible of me. I know not of absolute truth other than I absolutely have made an ass of myself. As I have reread the post, I see that it is in fact full of love and compassion and, to my true self, that is all that matters. Please accept my humble apology as I am just a man, full of imperfections, trying passionately (though occasionally jadedly) to leave the world just a little better than I found it.

    2. John, the author is trying to call fellow believers to action, not disenfranchise the non-religious or belittle them. All people of all (or no) faiths can reach out to help the helpless. The goal is not to proselytize, but to help others. If our actions cause them to seek our faith, fine. However, that is not the goal.
      Some of the most impassioned people I know are atheists. Religion doesn’t hold a lock on humanity and that is not what is the importance of the article.
      Approximately ten percent of the Syrians are Christian but their religious beliefs or lack of them should never play into the need to help them. Many CINO (Christian in name only) have stated we should not help because they are Muslim. What I took from the article is we should help because we are all human.

      1. Thanks Ed. Upon further reflection (and after a good night’s sleep) I came to my senses and read the article for what it actually says, rather than what I thought it said. I have apologized for my brash response and I thank you all for your grace.

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