Earlier this week, World Relief’s CEO, Tim Breene, asked us not to turn a blind eye to the incredible suffering of refugees and asylees worldwide. Indifference to pain and suffering on this scale, he wrote, cannot be the answer. In this same piece, Tim asked, “What then are we to do in the face of a refugee crisis of unprecedented scale?”
There are no easy answers to these questions, and no quick fixes either. And though we may not have all the solutions, we do have hope. Because we know there is one thing we can do - with all our hearts, all our souls, and all our minds.
We can love.
“Love your neighbor as yourself,” Jesus taught us. So what does that mean for us here at World Relief? And what does it mean in the context of our work with refugees? Yes, as a Christian organization, we strive to live biblically and to embody compassionate, unconditional love through all that we do. But how do we really put that love into action? And does it really make a difference?
Last year I was in a meeting when my colleague, Emily Gray, expressed our desire to love at every step along the journey, “from social security cards to birthday cards,” she smiled.
That phrase has stuck with me ever since. Why? Because it so perfectly represents the ways in which I see World Relief staff go beyond both what’s required and expected, in small (and often big) acts of love.
I’d like you to do something for me. I’d like you to imagine that you and your family have spent the last six years fleeing danger, with little more than the clothes on your back. You’ve lost friends, you’ve lost family, perhaps you’ve even lost hope. Imagine you’re finally given the opportunity to rebuild your life, yet upon arrival, as you try to read the airport signs in a foreign language, the realization dawns on you: This is only the beginning of the next struggle.
This realization could be devastating. It could be crippling. It could even be too much to bear. You had always imagined that once you found refuge, the pain, the loss, the hopelessness would be behind you. Yet suddenly the questions begin running through your mind… How will you learn a new language? How will you find a job and support your family? How will you get around? How will you pay your bills? How will you even know what questions to ask and who to ask? Imagine the overwhelming loss of control you might feel. The panic. The fear. The weight of responsibility.
Now, with this all running through your head, imagine a smile as you exit customs. Imagine a sign of welcome in your language. Imagine an embrace. Imagine a family, giving up their evening, to take you home in a warm car. Imagine that new home, well furnished, prepared for your arrival. Imagine your favorite food on the table. Imagine a community of other families like yours, coming together to welcome you on that first night. Imagine conversation in your native tongue – the answers to so many of your questions answered by those that have gone before you.
Now imagine the realization that you won’t have to do this alone. That from job placement, to English classes, to bus route training, to child care, to DMV lines and hospital appointments, someone will be with you. And that someone will show you love, compassion, and friendship at every step along the way. From social security card, to birthday card.
Has the fear subsided yet? Do you feel loved?
At World Relief, we’ve welcomed and provided support to almost 300,000 refugees since 1979. We love these strangers as neighbors because Jesus calls us to love. But we also do it because we know that’s what we’d all want for our own families. And we believe that every family deserves the opportunity to build a stable, secure life. Love is more than an organizational identity for us at World Relief. It’s in the DNA of our leadership, our staff, our partners, and volunteers.
Now let us return to Tim’s question: “What then are we to do in the face of a refugee crisis of unprecedented scale?”
There is much we cannot control. But that does not mean we have to stand idly by. We can continue to advocate, to love, and to speak out on behalf of vulnerable refugees all around the world. Because this, this we can control. This we can do.
We can love.
Francesca Albano currently serves as Product Development Lead at World Relief. With a background in Cultural Anthropology and a graduate degree in Strategic Marketing Communications, she connects her interests in societal studies and global cultures with her training in brand strategy and storytelling. Francesca is especially passionate about grassroots community development and the treatment and advancement of women and girls around the world.