A Collect for Refugees
Holy One of Bethlehem, from your earliest days you knew the threat of death, the terror of flight, and the pain of exile. Today we know that so many–millions upon millions–flee for their own lives and for their children. The numbers seem so vast, the problem so great. It is easy to feel helpless. It is easy to forget. It is easy to ignore. Shake us from complacency and from resignation. Fill our hearts and minds with understanding and compassion for your children who are forced by persecution and fear to flee their homes. Remind us that each number is a name, each statistic a person–Your child, your beloved. Strengthen our resolve; stir in us a spirit of agency and action. For you have blessed each of us with gifts to be shared in love for all you have created, gifts that may be used to welcome, to comfort, to befriend. Grant that we would listen for your call. In Your Holy Name we pray, Amen.
This Lent started on a particularly somber note, having been immediately preceded by the unprovoked Russian invasion of Ukraine. Images of children flooded our inboxes and news feeds–children of God hunkering down in fear, or fleeing for their lives. Ukrainian refugees join over 84 million people from Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar, and other countries around the world forcibly displaced from their homes. This statistic is unfathomable and overwhelming to any one person who wants to take action to make the world a little less broken. But I love this collect from Episcopal Migration Ministries: Shake us from complacency and from resignation. Remind us that each number is a name, each statistic a person–Your child, your beloved.
Five years ago, St. John’s started a Refugee Committee in hopes of living out Christ’s instruction to welcome the stranger. Since our creation we have educated ourselves about the plight of refugees, collected coats and laptops and food, and outfitted entire apartments for refugee families. We have contributed to advocacy efforts at federal and local levels, and provided scholarships for continuing education and job development for refugees who were forced to start a new life. Each year we have tried to do something a little more daring to meet the needs of the refugee community in Washington.
This year we took our biggest leap of faith yet: In partnership with St. Mary’s Arlington and All Souls Woodley Park, we are one of the first “Sponsor Circles,” a community-led resettlement initiative that allows everyday Americans to take on the responsibility of welcoming Afghan refugees into our communities. We are sponsoring a family of five, who arrived in Arlington last month from Afghanistan by way of Ft. Dix. We are in the process of enrolling the kids in school, tracking down social security cards, helping with the job search. It’s been inspiring to volunteer alongside such a committed group dedicated to pouring out God’s love on this family. There is so much more to do.
This Lent, as we intentionally turn toward God in prayer and deprive ourselves of frivolous joys for forty days, let us also embrace the third pillar of Lenten discipline–almsgiving–by shaking off complacency and resignation and by looking outward toward the needs of our neighbors, with compassion and urgency. Join us in our work to support refugees, or in any of the indispensable outreach ministries of St. John’s.
St. John’s Refugee Committee
Links to the appointed readings and prayer for today: