It all started as a normal Sabbath—I went to church with my family, and we had lunch with friends. Then I received a phone call: “Get prepared. There are several thousand refugees approaching the Slovenian border.”

There was never a question as to whether we would help. A few hours later, we welcomed the first refugees into our country.

They looked so tired. Many carried small plastic bags containing all of their possessions. I sat down together with a teenager who spoke English and asked why he was facing this difficult journey.

“I had two options: to kill or be killed,” he said. “I just want to finish school and live.”

It would be easy to pretend that the refugees are not here, that they are not “worthy” of our help. They are often labeled not only as refugees or migrants, but also as terrorists.

During my months of working with refugees, I have not encountered even one for whom Jesus didn’t die—no matter how dirty, scared, cold, hungry, smelly, mocked, sick, small, or badly treated they were.

We found pure joy in seeing a child smile, a baby dressed in a warm jacket, a father sharing food with his little ones, a woman discreetly being given products for personal female needs. Their gratitude was beyond words.

The mocking and threatening we received were beyond words as well. Some people did not approve of ADRA’s or my own personal efforts. I was called many names. Ugly names. I received threats as well.

Out of the negativity was born a determination to help even more.

The refugee crisis has shaken me and the society in which I live. We will never be the same again. I have traveled to many places and witnessed extreme poverty before, but the inequality and obvious social injustice were never so intense.

This experience changed me. Was I traumatized? I hope not. Blessed? Definitely.

Sometimes I would feel sad, even hurt. Seeing those who would not speak up for the vulnerable or unwilling to help them was painful. Meeting so many inspired individuals, however, made me feel rich and special.

Refugees are not so very different from us. We all want the same things: To survive. To live in peace. To simply be accepted. As humans. Nothing more; nothing less.

 

 

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