We hung out with refugees from Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan last Sunday after church and Ive thought of little else since that day. They were all such sweet, joyful people. Most of them touching our daughters’ blonde hair and kissing their cheeks. Each touching my arm or my hand as they told me stories of their walk, walk, boat, walk, truck, walk through war, poverty, cold, sea, storm, little food, darkness, and finally their arrival to Switzerland.
Little Ali, 10 years old, told me through broken english and Charades of how his family packed their things in a bag and walked from Iraq to a boat, even his little 2 year old brother “walk, walk, no sleep, no eat, walk, walk.” Then in a dramatic tale of hand gestures he explained how the boat tumped over and their bag floated away, his “mama cry, cry” and his father held tight to his 2 year old brother. My husband sat reading books to Ali and a few other boys, mostly 9 and 10 years old. They all kept a soft hand on each others’ shoulders or on my husbands knee as he taught them the names of farm animals in english. A syrian mom told me that her baby went days and days without milk or formula as they crossed Serbia with no food left until they finally arrived in Hungary where European Union funds provided food and clothing, but they continued on. A 9 year old boy told me his father was killed in Syria and gestured sleep and then toward heaven. A crowd of giggly, silly girls proudly showed me their new coats they had received from a clothing distribution center; each one beaming and gesturing what I assumed was snow. They haven’t seen it yet, but winter is coming.
Mothers and Fathers sat smiling, sipping “shay” which is hot tea in arabic, as their children ran around, happy to have activity other than simply waiting around at the refugee camp. Each of them were so thankful to have finally arrived in Switzerland and for any kindness and act of friendship shown to them. This is their home now. This is where they start over.
The church across the street from our house picks up bus load, after bus load of refugees from the camp and brings them to church for worship, songs, a hot lunch, and a small art project for the kids. They can help themselves to the clothing, jackets, and toys the church has on hand in a sort of garage-type store. The pastor and his wife are passionate about these displaced people. They love them, they pray for them, they feed them, they often times house them in the church building itself, they even employ them in the cafe that is linked to the church, as well as the school inside, where our daughter goes to pre-school. The majority of them speak arabic and some english. They’ll all begin to learn german soon, as they search for work, homes, and a new life here in Switzerland.
Because I am fascinated and in love with these people, I packed up my youngest daughter today and we walked about 30 minutes out to the camp. I had never been there before today, so I decided to go. People at every bench, railing, phone booth, fire hydrant, porch stoop, and windowsill were all sitting around waiting. Waiting on phone calls, waiting on papers, waiting on a word from home, waiting to learn a little more of life in Switzerland. Everyone waiting…but happy. I can’t explain how happy and glad they are. A kid was playing with a broken scooter and 6 adults sat smiling at him as he tried to make it roll. I said hello to a group of teenaged girls and they all said “heylo, thank you” and giggled. I handed out some oranges to little kids and I said “Marhabaan” which Ive learned is hello.
Its safe to say that our family will spend as many Sundays as we can, from now on serving and loving these people. I love them, I don’t even know them, and I love them.
I overheard my 4 year old explaining to her friend today that “a refugee is a person that had bad soldiers fighting bad soldiers and no good soldiers anywhere at their country, so they had to run away so they came to Switzerland because its good here.”
I have often said that the more you say yes to the Lord, the more adventures He sends you on. We began our adoption because of the Lord’s calling, and because of the adoption we had to move to this new apartment which happens to be across the street from Refugee Church Cafe and School. And wouldn’t you know it, one of the Iraqi families I met on Sunday had a precious little girl with Downs Syndome. I prayed silent prayers for her future as if she was my own child, as well as for the other sweet kids we’d met; Ali, Fatima, Hussein, and all their Mamas and Babas. I’m humbled and overwhelmed by the crazy things we stumble upon, but like I told the pastor’s wife, “Just come-up with stuff for us to do and we’ll keep saying yes!” Thats our life right now and its a beautiful adventure.