A word from Pastor Mario:
After days aboard the boat from Africa, they’d arrived in a safe haven. The pleasant refugee camp we visit. (If we dare call a refugee camp pleasant.) Situated in a shady, wooded campground, a short walk from the beach. They’ve landed in a good place. And there they sat in a group, waiting for the day to pass. Hoping, as always, that the new day would bring the greatly coveted documents.
They (Bakiary, Pa, Keuenta, Musa, Dadda, Ousainou, and Serigne) spoke freely of their plight since leaving their home and homeland in Africa. From Gambia and Senegal, to the perils of Libya. Only to spend 3-4 days at sea aboard a tiny boat. With no food and little water. Yet strangely enough, for a trip for which they did not pay. It appears Libya was simply anxious to get rid of them.
Not one of the men here named is over 25. But their eyes and their features show an age well beyond their years. They spoke of their experiences as though they had been victorious. They had not been killed or maimed, and they made it across the sea.
Yet they seemed confused, and above all afraid.
Around the camp, we saw other groups of men just like them, sitting or standing about. Each group from a particular place. Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Senegal. There is little mingling among the groups, each separated as into mini nations.
All accept the free books and reading material readily. Owning a book of their own is evidently a good thing, even if in a language they don’t know. Our prayer is that they will be able to understand. But only the Holy Spirit can break through hearts full of fear and sin.
The extreme poverty they lived is unbelievable. Survival was, and still is paramount. God does not seem a real part in many of their lives. Most don’t seem to see his unseen hand guiding them. Or recognize that he is the one who has brought them safe thus far.
And these are the ones who have made it through. Yet their eyes and expression lacked the serenity that accompanies a real triumph. They never, it seems, even consider the unseen hand guiding their lives — present even in their current situation.
Would I see that unseen hand? Would you? Or would we, too, be afraid?
If we went through some of what they’ve been through, would we be fearful? Family members killed, imprisonment, ever fearful for their very lives. Alone with no one to turn to. The dangerous sea voyage. How we would we feel?
How strong would our faith be?
Would I see that unseen hand? Leading, guiding, and protecting, even in such dire circumstances and situations. Would you?
Or would you be afraid? And I wonder, would I?