"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)


world refugee day

A refugee camp is not a place you want to be.

It smells.

If it's early in the camp's development, there's probably open sewage.

There may or may not be a place to bathe.

There are diseases. The nasty ones. Cholera. Dysentery. Malaria.

Food is often cooked out in the open. If it's dry, this raises the risk of fires. If it's wet, it can be hard to get a good fire going.

If people are living in housing at all, it's a hastily-constructed hut. Or a tent made of plastic sheeting that the aid agencies hand out.

Refugee camps can sit there for a long time, so long that they become permanent settlements. Then, they get a little better. Do-gooders start schools and clinics become established.

But it's still not a good place. There aren't many jobs. Refugees can't work outside of the camp. It's boring.

Today is World Refugee Day, a day set aside by the United Nations for us to reflect on the problems faced by those who have to flee their homes, often on a moment's notice.

Have you ever thought about what that would be like? Soldiers suddenly arrive in your small town, and you have to run with just what you can grab in the thirty seconds after you realize you have to leave. Maybe you manage to get your kids, but what if one of them is playing at a neighbor's house, or at school, and there's just no time?

What if you didn't have cell phones, or a car, or enough cash and food on hand to keep your family going? Could you walk to safety for a week, two weeks, a month, a year? What would you do if you couldn't go back, if you weren't allowed to work in the place where you ended up, if no other country would take you? Would you sit in a refugee camp, year after year after year, wondering what happened?

This is not the stuff of some Hollywood-created nightmare. This is reality for 16 million people, and most of them live in Africa. The problem is getting worse.

Over at Inspired to Action, we are getting ready to start the 40 Day Fast on Monday. Over 60 bloggers will participate, with one or two sharing about a group that helps those in need each day. We scheduled everything last night, and it's going to be amazing. If you follow along, you'll learn about some organizations that do great work, and about ways you can help to alleviate the suffering of those people in our world who lost out on the lottery of privilege and safety.

One of the bloggers will be writing about refugee relief work on July 14. I'll look forward to learning about her suggestions for ways to help refugees.

But for today, I hope you'll remember that not everyone in this world is secure in the blessings of liberty. I hope you'll be grateful for the security we enjoy here in the West. And I hope you'll commit to helping refugees in whatever way you can, be it by volunteering to help those refugees who've been resettled in your community, giving money to groups that work with refugees, or even just remembering to pray for those who lose everything.

Jesus was a refugee. And I can't imagine that he wants us to turn our backs to those with whom he shared in this kind of suffering.


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