This weekend, parties will be thrown, grills will be full, fireworks will be shot and fun will be had. It is good to celebrate July 4th. It is also good to do so sober mindedly, for the cultural and spiritual forces at work in our land right now are very strong, threatening to pull us apart at the very seams.
For many of us, the modern refugee crisis hit our radar in September 2015 with a viral photo of a little Syrian boy named Alan Kurdi, laying facedown on a beach after trying to escape to Europe with his family. If someone asked me to describe the typical refugee, my mind would immediately go to stories like Alan’s – a Middle Eastern family fleeing violence in search of a better life. But, refugees don’t come in just one shape or size.
By the name of our merciful God, who created all the human beings, I am very grateful for my kind, graceful, compassionate God. I am Noormah, I am 25 years old, and I am from Afghanistan.
My name is Kinan and I’m from Damascus, Syria. I live in Murfreesboro, TN together with my husband and two kids and I teach high school chemistry. My journey to be able to write that last sentence has been so long and hard that sometimes I can’t even believe my own story.
My name is Naseem and I am 18 years old. I arrived in Nashville, Tennessee back in November 2015. My family came to look for a better place to live, better opportunities to find work, and also to get the best education possible for me and my two other siblings.
Knowing the stories of immigrants and refugees in our own backyard helps remind us of God’s command to love the foreigner and it reminds us of our own status as foreigners in the world. It puts real faces and names to people that may otherwise remain as a news headline on our TVs.
On January 1, 1863 over 2 million slaves were set free due to the Emancipation Proclamation given by Abraham Lincoln. Unfortunately, that wasn’t all enslaved peoples. There were still approximately 250,000 more slaves in Texas who were still considered property. They had been declared free. They just didn’t know it yet, they hadn’t experienced it yet.
Over the past few years, we’ve talked a lot about listening. With the rise of racial tensions in America along with varying positions within Christendom on justice, women in ministry, and to mask or not to mask, pastors all over the country have been dusting off their sermons on James to call God’s people to “be slow to speak and quick to listen” (James 1:19) in such a noisy world.
It’s April 3rd when I’m writing this. 5 years ago, my earthly father passed away from this life and entered into the unhindered presence of Jesus. I was there by his side, along with my mom and siblings. It was one of the holiest moments of my life.
This Memorial Day creates an opportunity for intentional remembering, one that I hope we don’t miss. Perhaps you stop at one of the many beautiful veterans cemeteries in the area to pay your respects. Perhaps you take time to pray for those who have lost a loved one in service, or if you know someone, you reach out. Perhaps you go on a walk and just give yourself a little time of quiet and solitude in remembrance.