Sleep refused to come. It’s possible that it was because of the evening visit to wish my friends Eid Mubarak, a blessed holiday, as they finished 30 days of Ramadan fasting. A short visit, with “simple” hospitality– which meant only two cups of coffee, a cup of tea, a glass of soda, and sugary holiday cookies known as ma’amoul.
I shifted pillows, counted out deep inhales and exhales, listened to the 4:30 a.m. call to prayer sound from the neighborhood mosque.
And then I wondered if my restlessness was because of you. You, the friend from home, whose deep struggle I heard about just before bed. You, the family I recently met, striving to make life work with newly adopted daughters, separated from them by heart-sickening delays. You, Palestine… and you, Israel. You, Iraq and you, Syria.
You, ISIS. You, politicians. You, Hamas. You, reporters and re-posters and you, you who haven’t watched or heard or read the news in recent weeks.
Me, sharing these words to you, and running the risk of adding noise without insight. I don’t know where your situation is going, but I’m going to risk it for this reason: I think I know a place to start.
A friend of mine wrote a book called “The Power of Mentoring.” He retells the story of the prophet Elijah, tracing his history backwards. On Mt. Carmel, fire fell and a multitude saw God’s power demonstrated. Before that, however, Elijah camped by a brook alone during a desolate time, with birds delivering him meals twice each day. Next he invited one woman– a widow about to starve– to join him in trusting God for daily bread, and later for life to be restored to her dead child. He went to Carmel AFTER faith had grown in those quiet places.
I visited a fifty-person fellowship earlier in the month. This anonymous congregation, ten years ago, had noticed local needs and decided to live out His love. They asked. They visited. They brought aid. When war came close to them, they were on one of the main escape routes through which people fled suffering. The fellowship kept asking, visiting… loving. Today, this small congregation has served thousands of displaced, and local, families.
They receive grants from organizations as varied as Samaritan’s Purse and the European Union. They are consulted by governments and other-faith groups, because they were loving the region before the eyes of the world were on them.
They did not, however, start by reading an article called, “Ten Steps for Responding to a Refugee” or “Three Things to Say to the Suffering.”
They started by loving those in front of them. In the upheavals of this time, when I think of you and can’t sleep– broken people, beloved people– I pray that love abounds for you. I pray it rescues you from the destructiveness and darkness that plague us, and ushers you into light.
And I pray today that we are saved from the allure of delay, and the inoculation that comes from information laced with disengagement.
Love the people who are in front of you. The ones close are often hardest, and acknowledgment may not be present. Love strongly anyway. Love daily, without waiting for a crisis to prompt your action. Love widely, keep your heart soft when you watch the news or receive the updates. I don’t know where it will go from there… but let’s begin.
Rest comes with surrender. I fell asleep as dawn broke, accepting the fact that I am unwilling to wait until I know its end before I begin the story.