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Praying with refugees in Southern Africa
Thursday, August 01, 2013

A refugee student does his homework at Dzaleka refugee camp in Malawi where even amidst difficulties many find ways to build their futures (Peter Balleis/JRS).
As Jesus suffered and died, He trusted in God that all would be fulfilled. This is not to say religion is a secret key to a secure, easy life. It means that in the worst of times, turning to God can offer a larger perspective on the struggles we face day to day.
Johannesburg, 1 August 2013 – When I go to a refugee camp I am often beset by requests from refugees for resettlement. I tell them that I have no control over this process and am not a UN refugee agency employee. Yet people still come….

I guess it is their hope that they can have a future in a far off country where all their problems will be solved.

The reality is far different; with resettlement not an option for most refugees, I felt it important that they try to see God even in all the sufferings and difficulties in the camp situation. 

"Keep the hope, but also deal with the reality", I used to say.

It was thus with some delight that a man approached me one day in the middle of camp and asked if I could get him an exercise bike! Of all the things I had ever been asked of in a refugee camp, this was definitely not on the list. 

But the man's story was simple – he had problems with circulation in one leg and needed to exercise his legs. Within the confines of the camp, there was only so far he could ride on a bicycle without putting himself in danger.

Given a lack of resources, I must confess I was unable to respond positively to his request, and Yusuf did end up losing a leg. Fortunately, he was resettled not long after. My hope and prayer is that he was able to get a good prosthesis to become properly mobile. 

Stories like these give us a choice to either live in despair and remorse or try to find God in all things, even in the difficulties. Yusuf's life will continue, and hopefully improve every day with resettlement. And for all those who are unable to resettle, hopefully we in JRS can help them see God in the camp.

David Holdcroft, JRS Southern Africa director

Reflections for Prayer
Jesus comes to where the apostles are – not allowing them to somehow make themselves "good" in preparation to meet Him. He comes right in, a bit like when you walk into a home with young children – things are everywhere. Jesus doesn't wait for the tidy up – He is just there.

In the book of Luke, Jesus explains the scripture to them – referencing their own religious tradition. This allows them to see the recent events and those of their own lives in a new light, more as God sees them, which is reflective of our status as beloved creatures. He helps us find meaning.

When seeking refuge or serving those who do, one can sometimes not see past the anguish and find trust and meaning in the experience. But as Jesus suffered and died, He trusted in God that all would be fulfilled. This is not to say religion is a secret key to a secure, easy life. It means that in the worst of times, turning to God can offer a larger perspective on the struggles we face day to day.

Suggested Reading for Prayer
Luke 24: 35-48

Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you". But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost.

Then he said to them, "Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.

Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have." And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.

While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, "Have you anything here to eat?" They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them.

He said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled. Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures. And he said to them, "Thus it is written that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things."