My friend wrote a book about refugees. A refugee is somebody who seeks or takes refuge in a foreign country, especially to avoid war or persecution. As a Christian, I am like a spiritual refugee. I reside in this world until I can make it to my heavenly destination. I don’t ever want to go back to a life without knowing God’s presence. Neither do I want to stay long in a place that is indifferent to God or constantly discrediting Him. I am making my way home, and some days I long to be there already.
A similar longing is also expressed by the author of Psalm 84. In verse 1 and 2 he says, “How lovely are your tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! My soul yearns, yes, even pines and is homesick for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh cry out and sing for joy to the living God.”
A comparison that gives value to this longing is found in verse 10.
“For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper and stand at the threshold in the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.”
Knowing God can become so valuable to some people that they often say that if all the bad things happened simply to bring them to God then the pain was worth it.
Helena Smreck, my friend and fellow classmate, has captured stories of refugees who have come to know the love and kindness of God in her book, Kingdom Beyond Borders. Twenty years ago, Helena became a refugee. When that happened, she bumped up against the ministry of International Team missionaries in Austria and learned about how God loved her. She learned she had a place of belonging in the family of God. She became a believer in God.
This week Helena’s first book has been released. She says she wrote it out of gratitude for all who work in the Kingdom so missionaries can share the gospel of hope to lonely desperate people. It is a collection of testimonies of refugees who pass through the Helping Hands Ministry in Athens, Greece. The ministry is a combination of many organizations and individuals helping. The stories of these lives touched by a loving, living God are amazing. These refugees are individuals who have left desperate situations in their home countries, mainly countries in the Middle East, and some from Africa and Eastern Europe. All strive to get to a place that will be hospitable to them and allow them to be more free.
I learned through my friend’s book that many refugees move through Greece and on to several more countries before they are finally granted asylum. As refugees settle temporarily in Athens, the Helping Hands ministry offers showers, shelter, seeker’s Bible study, meals, young believers retreat, clothing “give –away,” Jesus film, English or Greek classes, and Bibles in their own language. With all the various countries represented in the refugee mix, as well as the mix of workers from several countries, the potential for global impact is huge.
The book is designed to be studied in groups and is made up of different testimonies of the refugees and discussion questions and challenges at the end of the chapters. The proceeds of the sales go directly into the ministry work.
If nothing else, this book will open our global eyes to the lives of our fellow man. My friend says it best, “I firmly believe that if we allow ourselves to see the refugees as people with names, families, histories, as parents hoping for a better life for their children, and most of all, as our brothers and sisters in Christ, our world view will shift. We will no longer see the divide between us and them. Instead, we will see that this world with its resources has been given to us to share. Statistics can be overwhelming and, truthfully, we can’t help everyone, but we can be the catalyst of change for some. There is no telling what one changed life can accomplish for the Kingdom.”
The Kingdom. God’s Kingdom has no borders. All are welcome and have been bought with the same price, His son Jesus. It is better to stand at the door of His courts than to dwell with the wicked. Psalm 84…. be a refugee.
“….blessed is the man who trusts in You, leaning and believing on You, committing all and confidently looking to You, and that without fear or misgiving!”
“O, God, how amazing is Your touch and plan for each human life on this earth. If only they would ask You. Your concern, power, and networking are beyond comparison! Help us to grasp, as much as we can, the huge-ness of Your scope and yet still see how You stoop to beckon us to Your side with personal touches every day. You ARE our soul’s haven!
God be with the Helping Hands Ministry in Greece. The news tells me that the days ahead for Greece are troubled. Be with the workers there. Protect and cover the helpless and hopeless with your love and light. Be so obvious that none will be able to turn away.
God be with us in America. Shake our complacency about others. Get us off our high horses and down into the grit and true greatness of the days You give us to live. Eyes and ears that hear and see only Your purposes, not our own profile and whining. For Your glory and power, Amen.”
(Here is the link for more information about the book, Kingdom Beyond Borders, by Helena Smrcek http://www.kingdombeyondborders.com/ )