A letter to a refugee

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

You don't know me, of course. But I like to think of you as a friend. I've seen your face in the newspaper and on television. Sometimes you've looked tired and desperate. Other times safe and hopeful. Sometimes I've seen pictures of you or others trudging in small family groups, carrying as many belongings as you could, and I've found my heart trudging along with you.

Maybe you're looking for safety because you're persecuted due to your race or nationality. Or maybe you're persecuted because you're a member of a particular social group or have a specific political opinion. Whatever your circumstances, you have a right to feel God's love and protection.

Because I've taught English as a second language to a wide variety of people new to Canada, I've come to know many refugees. This has been a privilege because of the many good qualities they express, especially courage.

A Laotian Canadian recently told me that one night he swam about 1-1/4 hours across the Mekong River to escape the communist regime in Laos. Some time later, he swam back to bring his family across. Using a pocket knife, he and his wife, again at night, built a raft out of banana wood, just big enough for their two children, ages one and two. Then they swam with the small raft across the river. They stayed in a United Nations refugee camp in Thailand for five years before their application to move to Canada was accepted.

I asked my friend if any particular idea helped him while he and his family were in the camp. He said that, though they barely had enough food, they had survived on hope.

Hopefulness is active. I think of another refugee I know, from China. His dangerous overland route at a certain point required that he stay in one building for three months and then in one room of that building for another three months until he could safely move on. All he had to eat every day was rice. And all he had with him to take his mind off worrying and to help him pass the time was a small Chinese-English dictionary. He read it from cover to cover three times before he felt he could safely continue his journey. He eventually moved to an English-speaking country, and his labors to learn English were rewarded.

Another quality that I've admired in refugees is their love of life and their willingness to move forward even after having suffered greatly. A woman whom I know was brutally tortured because of her political views. Yet after she and her husband had reached safety, she began almost immediately working to improve the political conditions in her country.

If I could share a few ideas with every refugee in the world, I would have the following message translated and given as something that I have found most precious during some of my darkest moments. It's in an article called "Angels" from the book "Miscellaneous Writings" by the founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy: "When angels visit us, we do not hear the rustle of wings, nor feel the feathery touch of the breast of a dove; but we know their presence by the love they create in our hearts. Oh, may you feel this touch, - it is not the clasping of hands, nor a loved person present; it is more than this: it is a spiritual idea that lights your path! The Psalmist saith: 'He shall give His angels charge over thee.' God gives you His spiritual ideas, and in turn, they give you daily supplies. Never ask for tomorrow: it is enough that divine Love is an ever-present help; and if you wait, never doubting, you will have all you need every moment. What a glorious inheritance is given to us through the understanding of omnipresent Love! More we cannot ask: more we do not want: more we cannot have. This sweet assurance is the 'Peace, be still' to all human fears, to suffering of every sort" (pgs. 306-307).

Wherever this may find you, God's angels - His spiritual ideas - are right there with you, calming, encouraging, guiding, and inspiring. They're helping you not to despair. God's love is powerful enough to lift you and your family up. Powerful enough to move you and your family forward to freedom.

I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.

John 14:18

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