“…our imagination for sin and disaster is much stronger than our imagination for God’s reconciling love and holiness. We are still taking our cues from the old age, not the new. The moral failure story triumphs over the transformation now available in the death and resurrection of Christ.”
-Barbara Brown Taylor, The Preaching Life
Our imaginations are the most powerful part of our created beings. Every animal has a brain and senses to experience the world. But only human beings have the ability to imagine. We are created in God’s image and He has given us imaginative and creative power that reflects His.
Before we arrived in Germany, we didn’t know any refugees personally. We saw the news stories in the U.S. which often prompt fear and mistrust toward entire people groups. Now that we are living in Pinneberg and have relationships with refugees, we are forming a different perspective. We thought you would enjoy reading about our perspective.
This may sound strange, but the first thing that surprised us about refugees is that they are people. Just like you and me. The media has such a clever way of stripping humanity from entire people groups. The refugees we know are smart, funny, stylish, educated and many, even wealthy. One thing we’ve learned is that it costs around $10,000 for a family of 4 to make the difficult journey from the mid east to Western Europe. Only the wealthy and educated have the ability to not only imagine a better life in another country; but see the plan through to fruition.
We are also surprised by the joy and gratitude demonstrated by refugees. Yes, many have seen and experienced horrific things which will take a lifetime to heal. They miss home dearly and would not have chosen to come to Germany under different circumstances. But each person is so grateful to have shelter, safety, food and education for their children.
Another surprise to us has been the state church or Landeskirche. The state church in Pinneberg has been the first to greet our friends and provide for their basic needs. We are watching and learning from the movement of the church, and want to cooperate with these efforts. We arrived in Germany at a unique time when millions of people who do not know Christ are moving here. All are fed up with the violence they have seen and experienced in the name of radical Islam.
Finally, we are touched by the tender heart of Germans toward refugees. On New Year’s Eve, it is legal and customary for every street to be lined with full blown fireworks. (As I sat in our apartment last night, I was frankly a bit terrified that our home would catch fire!) But the German government banned all fireworks at refugee housing facilities. Why? Because they wanted to protect them from being re-traumatized by the sound of explosives.
Can you imagine what would happen if refugees experienced Christ’s gospel of love and peace instead of a message of fear and rejection? God has the power to shepherd, heal and give abundant life to all who call on His name. Let’s imagine together what God can do in and through each of us to advance His kingdom of peace.
Used with permission from Covenant Missionaries Phillip and Stephanie Voland serving in Germany.