June 20th is World Refugee Day. It’s a day to honor those who have been forced to flee their home countries and recognize their courage. It’s also a time to recognize the ways in which we can create opportunities for refugees and welcome them with open arms.
Honoring the vulnerable
The arrival of June brings with it a day that’s pretty important to World Relief. If you’re like I was, it might not be a day you’re particularly familiar with – but maybe if you stick around for the rest of this little article, the lack of familiarity won’t deter you from understanding the importance of World Refugee Day.
World Refugee Day (WRD) comes around every June 20th and the UNHCR (the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) defines it as “an international day designed by the United Nations to honor refugees around the globe.” It’s a day that’s like few others because it’s one where we not only get the chance to honor a group of people who have overcome odds we can’t even imagine, but where we also get to acquaint ourselves with people who are very different than you and I.
People who have a different cultural background than us.
People who may worship a different Deity than we do.
People who eat different foods than we do.
And that makes me think about Jesus.
Not around, but through
When we think about Jesus, so many images come to mind. Walking on water, healing the sick, and teaching the masses. Out of many images and scenes of Jesus’ life though, one that particularly stands out to me is when Jesus had a conversation with a woman at a well:
“So He came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink.’”(John 4:5-7)
The story goes that Jesus was on His way to Galilee and “had to pass through Samaria.” (John 4:4) Scripture doesn’t say exactly why he had to pass through there, but what it does make clear is that Samaria was avoided as much a possible by Jews of the day. See, Jews hated Samaritans back then and Samaritans hated Jews just as much. So when we see Jesus not only pass through Samaria when He could have gone around it, but also sit down for a drink of water at a well in Samaria, we know something’s up.
The choice to walk alongside
“How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?”(4:9)
You can almost feel the shock and confusion in her voice. If Jesus’ presence at a Samaritan well wasn’t enough to defy cultural barriers, his speaking to a Samaritan woman surely was. And that, I believe, was Jesus’ point.
Jesus sat down for a drink of water with someone who was different. Someone who had a different cultural background, who worshipped differently, and who lived a very different lifestyle than Him.
And that, I believe, is something World Refugee Day invites you and I into – dinner, drinks, and conversation with people who are different, and honoring them as well. On a bright, warm, June day like today I would challenge you to give it a try – I promise you won’t regret it, and it may even change another’s life (read the whole story: John 4:1-45).
Join us on World Refugee Day for a time of fellowship, devotion, and prayer – for one another, our community, and our world
Spencer Conner is the Church Mobilizer at World Relief Quad Cities. He is originally from Atlanta, GA and has served as a Student Pastor in several churches between North Carolina and Kentucky over the past decade. Spencer is married to Beth, World Relief Quad Cities’ Community Engagement Manager, and they live in Davenport, IA with their golden retriever, Tuck.