Hope and home for refugees

A Christian Science perspective.

While the developed countries of Europe and the Northern Hemisphere are coping with refugees assimilating into their societies, waves of family groups in poverty-stricken Latin America and war-torn parts of Africa and the Near East are yearning for security and protection.

I used to process refugees in Western Africa for resettlement in the United States. I met people longing not only for better lives but for basic rights and freedom from fear. At times, their stories were so graphic and compelling that I wanted to just wrap my arms around them. What comforted me during these times was the promise of God's infinite care for them. This statement in Psalms says it all: "Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there" (139:7, 8).

I knew as I spoke to each refugee that God, who is Love, had never abandoned them. I knew that the divine Father-Mother of all was loving them – loving all His-Her children. That is a concept that became truer to me during my 18 months of refugee casework. I went to bed every night praying for the well-being and protection of the people I talked to. It was the only way I could keep peace of mind; otherwise, the accounts I heard could have haunted me, and I wouldn't have been able to help them.

One woman's story of fleeing the civil war in Sierra Leone was so upsetting that even retelling it brought back the horrors of her vulnerability at the hands of the rebels. But it was my job as a caseworker to build her story into a file so that the US immigration officials would approve her case.

I remember praying as this young woman dissolved into tears and refused to say any more. It helped me to know that God is actually Father and Mother, as Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Monitor, wrote in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures": "Father-Mother is the name for Deity, which indicates His tender relationship to His spiritual creation" (p. 332).

I reached across the table and gently put my hand over hers. This touch seemed to comfort her. I told her that we needed to finish her story so I could complete her file and make a strong case for the immigration officials. I assured her that she was safe, and that her future was bright. She immediately responded. Calmly, she described the rest of her escape. Her case was reviewed the next day and approved for US resettlement. She found me that afternoon and thanked me. I thanked her for sharing her story, and wished her well in her new life.

The hope expressed in a hymn by Désirée Goyette in the "Christian Science Hymnal Supplement" (No. 444) is a benediction for all of us, whether we help in refugee affairs or send our prayers out for peace and security to all our brothers and sisters:

Governed by Love, you're safe and secure;
I am forever beside thee.
So rest and know wher-e'er you go,
Home and heav'n cannot be denied thee.

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