The body of a 3-year-old Syrian boy named Alan washed up on a beach in Greece. It was a horrific image. It was a terrible story, and we couldn’t shake it. We knew we needed to engage this global crisis but how? What would we do?
Then our friend named Shane told us that he was already working with refugees in Sicily. He was meeting people in the camps and on the streets; men and women from places like Somalia, Ghana, Eritrea, Gambia, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leon. He invited us to come to Sicily and see what was happening there. He invited us to meet refugees, hear their stories and offer love.
And so, last October my wife and I found ourselves walking the streets of Catania, Sicily, late at night, in the red-light district, talking with refugees, hearing their stories, telling them how glad we were that they made it safe, and getting to know them.
In the mornings we would travel to the camps and build relationships with young men, boys really; some as young as 11, who traveled thousands of miles on their own, across the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean in search of safety. Along the way, they watched people die terrible deaths and witnessed things they still cannot talk about it. They need someone to come alongside them, to love them, to hug them, to play soccer with them, to laugh with them, and sometimes, to cry with them. Their faces and names are burned into our memories. Their stories are burned into our hearts.
The entire week was heartbreaking, but God has given us joy despite it. We came home with more questions than answers, and yet we still have peace. Despite the terrible pain experienced by so many in this global event, we know that we doing exactly what we are to do.
We’ve told friends and family about the experience. We’ve told co-workers and neighbors. We’ve shared with church staff and pastors and this weekend I had the chance to present our story to the main campus of Grace Community Church. Over the course of two days and four services, I was able to share a brief snapshot of our trip and a little of our experience.
I’m so grateful for those who have helped us tell the story. I’m so thankful for those who have been interested in the problem and all who are willing to help.