This article was written by Rev. Hugo Gevers, a missionary of The Selbständige Evangelische Lutherische Kirche (SELK). The SELK is a partner church body of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. The LCMS supports this project with financial gifts, as well as personnel in the field. Rev. Gevers wrote this article in German for the SELK publication, the Missionsblatt, and translates it for us here.
By: Rev. Hugo Gevers
People generally remain just as unimpressed by exceptionally beautiful things in our world as they remain unimpressed by the depth of darkness and cruelty. Instead we people are dominated and moved by the pace of day to day living and life’s demands on our personal lives. This is once again demonstrated by events in politics right now. Once again we are confronted by evil which seems to surpass everything that came before. People are being mercilessly executed. The terrorists do not even shy away from executing children! And in addition to this millions of people are now refugees. The refugees had to suddenly and without preparation leave everything behind: All their possessions, members of their families, their jobs, their education and everything else belonging to the identity of their person. They do this to save their bare lives! And to make matters worse the so-called „safe countries“ have hermetically sealed their borders. So the road to freedom remains but a dream. Europe has also closed its borders. Since the year 2000, at least 23,000 people have drowned or been killed on European territory alone. So in Europe we are able to continue in the delusion that all these things do not really touch us. And yet not all can be hidden from our attention. This is because some few people do succeed to cross the borders and are now living right in the midst of us. And so we are reminded of their plight. And this is good! Sometimes people who have become refugees become our own congregation members. It is in these times that the meaning of the Scripture “if one member suffers, all suffer together” (1 Cor.12,26) becomes very practical and relevant. Of course we will never be able to resolve the problems in our world. However we can offer our prayers to God. We can offer Him all our weaknesses and our worries about what is happening around us. We can also lend an ear to those people who have had to flee and to offer our empathy to them.
As part of a city wide initiative in Leipzig “intercultural week”, we opened the doors of St. Luke in Volkmarsdorf on Friday, 26. September. In this time we reflected on the latest news from Syria and Iraq. We wanted to empathize with people who had to flee from their homeland. Our congregation members were able to share with us their own personal experiences of being homeless. They also shared their feelings about difficulties they have here in Germany right now. A short presentation on the theme of refugees in the whole world together with a few anecdotes and a Persian poem from Ahmad Schamelo were part of the program. Ahmad Schamelo says “HOME IS WHERE I AM ACCEPTED.” Most refugees are not able to leave their home countries. However they are not accepted there. Sometimes their lives are not being tolerated and they have to flee to save their lives. However, they cannot go beyond the geographic borders of their own homelands. In this way they remain homeless within the borders of their homeland.
The congregation members among us who have become refugees are thus one part of a small minority, since they were able to find freedom in Europe and Germany. However even after arriving in Germany one is not always accepted here either. The road toward full integration is a long and tedious road. It is also difficult finding acceptance. Initially the language barrier is the biggest stumbling block for all migrants. But even after overcoming this huge stumbling block, there remain many cultural differences, which make it very hard to be accepted and to feel accepted here in Germany. Christians have a natural affinity toward those who are homeless. Are we not also pilgrims and strangers in this world? For our home is not in this world (Heb. 13:14). Also in other instances we have a natural relation to strangers. The Bible reads itself like a book for and of refugees. From the first pages of the Bible to the last the Bible has been written by people who have had experience of being refugees. Even Jesus had to flee to Egypt with his earthly parents because Herod wanted to kill Him! For this reason Christians have an open heart for refugees, even more so because Jesus personally identified Himself with those who are strangers. “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Matthew 25:31 ff).
A very lively discussion with all who attended was followed by prayer fellowship. During this time little paper houses which our children in Die Brücke had folded before, came into action. A tea candle was placed within each house and the latter was placed on a world map. With this we wanted to enact our prayer request that refugees in Germany and in the whole world would find acceptance and a home. Many took part in the open prayer fellowship. Thereafter a fellowship meal was offered in Die Brücke.