Assignment: To pray for the world’s displaced people

According to the United Nations refugee agency, the number of forcibly displaced people around the world is over 70 million. It can seem like an insurmountable problem. But the idea that no one can be dispossessed of God’s love and care opens the door to inspired solutions and interactions that benefit all involved.

A few years ago, when our daughter started her first year of compulsory school where we live in Switzerland, she found a cheerful young playmate in her class. As we got to know the boy’s family, we found out that his parents, who are of Turkish Kurdish origin, live here on a refugee status permit.

On daily school runs we would have friendly interactions with this family. And there were times when our families would call on each other for mutual child care support. My wife was also able to offer language skills and assistance in developing the mother’s curriculum vitae. Before long, this woman secured a more permanent, full-time job; this, coupled with her husband’s job, enabled them to upgrade to a better apartment.

To me, these interactions were more than the result of chance; they were evidence of the unexpected ways that good operates in our lives when we are open to it. They began in the shadow of a European refugee crisis and later coincided with an assignment my Christian Science teacher gave to all her students: to pray for the world’s displaced people.

I started to actively pray about this topic one winter afternoon when I found myself walking uphill in snow while also feeling especially weighed down with my own workload and responsibilities. As I began to pray, I realized that this was an opportunity to get my thought off myself and prayerfully listen for healing ideas on the global issue of displaced people.

Immediately, these lines from a poem entitled “‘Feed My Sheep’” by Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, came to thought:

Strangers on a barren shore,
   Lab’ring long and lone,
We would enter by the door,
   And Thou know’st Thine own.
(“Poems,” p. 14)

The entire poem speaks of turning to the universal love and guiding influence of God, and of our need to humbly listen to it. Here are some of the thoughts that came to me over time as I turned to God in prayer about these issues.

I thought about the idea of home as a mental dwelling place rather than a physical one. Wherever we are, we can experience a sense of “homecoming” every time we become conscious of the divine presence. This “homeland” is a palpable consciousness of divine Love that can be felt by each of us. Affirming this for ourselves and others can contribute to solutions being found for meeting the needs of individuals, communities, and countries.

There is good at hand that can be tangibly experienced by everyone. This is a universal law of God. The man and woman of God’s creating, spiritual and complete, can never truly be dispossessed of any needed thing, and always have good to contribute. God has given each of us unique qualities and talents that, when nurtured, enable us to contribute to the productivity of the communities in which we live.

The book of Ruth in the Bible provides a good example of this. Following the death of her husband, Ruth astonishes her also-widowed mother-in-law, Naomi, by choosing to accompany Naomi back to her own country. Ruth assures Naomi, “Your people will be my people and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16, New International Version). Ruth’s actions and words convey a strong conviction that she’s placing her trust in God.

The story is a beautiful example of a stranger being cared for in a new land. Ruth receives permission to glean behind the reapers in the fields of a wealthy man named Boaz, who rewards Ruth’s loyalty to Naomi by instructing his workers to deliberately let fall additional grain for Ruth. In this story, Boaz expresses the inclusiveness of God as divine Love.

“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” by Mary Baker Eddy describes home in this way: “Home is the dearest spot on earth, and it should be the centre, though not the boundary, of the affections” (p. 58). Interestingly, this statement comes from the chapter “Marriage,” which suggests that unselfish caring for others can also be beneficial to our relationships with our nearest and dearest.

This inclusivity begins with opening the doors of our consciousness to inspired solutions, instead of barring our minds to what might seem like an insurmountable global problem.

As I prayed about these world issues, my life was helped, too. I felt my thought being uplifted, instead of being overwhelmed by responsibilities, and I was able to accomplish more.

Embracing the world’s displaced people in our thought and prayers helps free all of us from unhelpful stereotypes. Each of us can pray to feel the assurance that “your people” are in fact “my people,” to know that no one can ever be displaced from our loving Father-Mother God’s infinite care, and to let that love fill our own consciousness. This can result in unexpected inspirations and interactions that benefit all involved.

Adapted from an article published in the Jan. 13, 2020, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.

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