I choose love

by Liz Weber

This year I had the privilege of attending MSU school of theology.The class included international students. One evening, Ben, a German student began sharing about the refugees coming into Germany as they were escaping persecution and potential death. their countries were at civil war or under terrorist attack. I wanted to understand and get a clear picture of what was truly happening but it was impossible to accurately grasp.
… Rescue those being led to slaughter.  Proverbs 24:11-12
Fortunately the opportunity to go to Germany and work with Ben and the refugees became available. My husband David and I were able to go. The experience was far greater than  I had imagined in my mind; thankfully I am forever changed.
…Be a living sacrifice, transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Romans 12:1-2

The same day we arrived in Germany, we began to visit the refugees in their assigned government housing.  They shared apartments within these buildings ; there were three such buildings in the town of Wetter.  The refugees we met were all men except for one female named Raja whose story was an obvious and intentional mystery, most likely for personal protection. The  refugee men shared apartment living,  typically 4 to a bedroom, using bunk beds. They had a tiny efficiency kitchen, and often no living room. Under the same roof lived Syrians, Iraqis, Iranians, Afghans, and other nations. This was a challenge as they did not speak the same languages and had major cultural differences as one can well imagine. Germany opened their doors to the world and the world had come to Germany.
…For God so loved the world. John 3:16-17
In the German town, Wetter,  where the team stayed, we visited 3 different buildings that housed refugees. Typically, the team would split up, with 2-4  people visiting with a small group of refugees in their individual apartment.  All the refugees welcomed us into their home and always made us tea and provided cookies, candy or some type of sweet to go along with our tea. They were very hospitable. I quickly understood that refusing their generosity was like allowing an invisible barrier to remain between us. Offering and receiving hospitality, opening the dining table and sharing food with others communicates the same message globally, that being, you are welcome  in my home, we will put aside our known differences and get to know one another.
…Seek to show hospitality and remember those mistreated. Hebrews 13:1-3
The refugees told us their personal stories of escape from their own beloved country, surviving a litany of frightening trials before arriving in Germany. Each refugee traveled through multiple countries, depending upon human traffickers to get them from point A to point B and so on. They never knew if the trafficker was telling the truth or simply taking their money. The total cost for these refugees to leave their country and land in Germany was anywhere between $5000.000 to  $12,000. Family members and friends often financially contributed  to this hope of survival.  Every refugee  story included the need for the oldest son to escape ISIS, DASH, or Taliban and flee to a safe nation in order to preserve the family name. In each escape it  was not uncommon to be shot at, to hide in various places such as the mountains, to be beaten by various people groups, imprisoned,  and go without water and food for several days.  Transportation was a mix of car rides, climbing mountains, walking several miles, and taking small boats which were dangerously over filled with people  hoping to survive another day on the way to their safe destination.  Many did not make it to the end. These precious stories were difficult to hear as they were full of terror and great loss. Without Christ’s transforming power in the human  heart, man suffers much inhumanity to man.
Mercy triumphs over judgement. James 2:13
You may be asking what was the “ministry” that we provided to the refugees. Here it is… Friendship. We visited the refugees in their “homes”,  listened to their stories,  shared in their grief and losses, and received their hospitality. At the end of the week we invited them to a barbecue at Ben’s mothers home and shared a meal, listened to their stories, laughed with them,  and sang with them. Friendship and trust was ever increasing.  One evening the refugees attended a church service followed once again with sharing food, listening, laughing, and crying together.  It was all so pure, so sincere, and so very peaceful.
…Let the bond of peace rule in the heart.  Ephesians 4:1-3
The power of sharing ones story and the ministry of listening to another’s story can not be  underestimated.  We recognized everyone is created in the image of God. We asked every refugee,  “Who are you?”  “What is your story?” “Where is your family?”  Every life is precious and every life sacred.  I witnessed that each refugee cherished family, homestead, education and working hard. They were accountants, economists, engineers or university students. Their ‘living’ future was important to them and their family. As we thanked them for sharing their stories, we communicated that we would share the truth about their story and the refugee crisis when we returned home. They were grateful and surprised by this.
…Honor one another. 1Peter 2:17
I experienced the courageous love of a small, unknown German Christian family that discussed amongst themselves- the refugees are now here in our nation, what are we going to do about it. They decided to give the gift of friendship. They allowed Holy Spirit to develop these friendship in His way, His time and His wisdom. There is a great harvest already and they have only just begun. Among the fruit witnessed  were walls of prejudice and hatred coming down and any spirit of fear replaced with Christ confidence, courage, and active faith. Passivity was replaced with joy in believing God for the miraculous. Holy Spirit has connected this family to others that are strong in the faith as well. Testimonies that brought glory to God were shared and everyone was encouraged to remain devoted to Christ, His vision, and His harvest. We met believers from numerous nations which provided a spiritually international experience and awakening which naturally planted seeds to believe for the great harvest awaiting our participation in this very hour.  I was the recipient of all these things and so much more because one little family decided to unify together, submit their lives before God and take hold of their opportunity in Christ. I will never be the same. How can I thank God for this?
…If you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, You shall love your neighbor as yourself”, you are doing well. James 2:8
I thought about how prepared we Americans were upon arrival to Germany. This team was composed of 3 successful business people (real estate, IT, agriculture), an international missions director, academic professors, a teacher, a fireman/EMS, and 2 RN’s. Additionally many in the team have doctorate, master or bachelor degrees. The team commonly operates in the spiritual gifts. Please do not misunderstand. These things are all good, blessed and ordained by God? But I  pondered this while there and in doing so, I discovered God had a greater message for me. Let me explain… I saw an equipment room with tables of specific tools available in order to ‘minister’ to Germany. God said, “what tool do you choose now?” I swallowed hard, I cried, and replied, “I choose Your most powerful tool, I choose love.”

…The greatest of these is love.  1 Corinthians 13

Gratefully, Forever Changed.