This past Sunday at the church/cafe/refugee oasis that is across the street from our house, I handed out forks, spoons, cups of water, napkins, and big bowls of salad to each table; about 90 refugees this time, possibly more including all the kids running all over the place. Some refugees are thankful and enthusiastic, some are dazed and exhausted, some are impatient and greedy; all are hungry and weary. I had the privilege to meet an Iranian Christian refugee who recently fled ISIS and made the journey to Western Europe leaving his whole life behind, many of his loved ones dead or now dispersed.
When I met him he was jubilant to have just experienced his first western church service. He was beaming and grinning from ear to ear, his crystal blue eyes, (a surprisingly common eye color of many of the Syrian, Iranian, Afghani, and Iraqi refugees) piercing eyes that expressed how thankful he was for the food, the fellowship, the new jacket. But he said his one need was for a bible. He spoke perfect English in addition to his native Farsi.
The church had plenty of bibles in German and Arabic but none in English. “I have a bible in english you can have, I can run home and get it,” I said. “Oh no. No I cannot take your bible,” he pleaded. I assured him that we have more than one. I tried to count-up in my mind how many bibles we actually have; it’s easily more than two per member in our house and two of those members can’t even read yet. “Its ok! Don’t leave! I’ll go and get it.” I ran home grabbed one of our spares (eye-roll at myself and the ridiculousness of the thought of spare bibles just laying around my house as if I’ll get tired of the one and just use another. Not to mention the app on my phone that has literally every English translation of a bible there is.)
I ran back and handed it to him. He gently held the bible. He ran his fingers over the words “Holy Bible.” He turned the pages in gentle awe. Then he said, “This is the words of God. For us.” And smiled a huge smile at me. He asked me to write my name in it and the date. So I wrote To: his name, From: my name, and God Bless You, because every bible I’ve ever been given (again, eye-roll: graduations, birthdays, Christmases, etc seriously, tons of bibles, y’all) whoever gave it to me always wrote “God bless you.” He touched the words I had written and goes, “oh, God bless you as well.” And shook my hand firmly. It was as if I had given him a treasure.
I was immediately convicted. How flippant am I, how ungrateful? These ARE the words of God for us. He got it. He knew it. He saw people die for it. He ran for his life because of it. I later prayed, “Father forgive me. My comfort and affluence blind me to my daily need for the only true treasure of knowing You.”
Now I’ll keep all the extra bibles on hand…on purpose.