Escaping for Life

I have broken bread with Refugees in Guatemala, I have sat down in a tent in northern Macedonia with Kosovars, I have delighted in Pakistani food prepared for me with great love and sacrifice by friends who had little except the food they were sharing.

Refugees, are people who unwillingly and at great risk have left their familiar surroundings in order to find safer places in which to live. Usually, they come with little besides what they can carry on their hands.

Today, the UN reported that “There are now more than 45 million refugees and internally displaced people – the highest level in nearly 20 years. Last year alone, someone was forced to abandon their home every four seconds,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message for World Refugee Day, observed annually on 20 June.

The scandal of this all time high numbers does not begin to describe the pain and suffering that Refugees go through.

Amir, his Dad and family have now resettled in Houston, Texas

Amir, his Dad and family have now resettled in Houston, Texas

My wife and I, have opened our lives, our homes and our refrigerators to Refugees. In the process we have learned the details of the pain some of these folks have endured and often continue to endure even while living in the relative comfort of an apartment. Most of them face a minimum wait of 3 to 5 years and some up to 8 years for a third country that would give them asylum and permanent residency.

The story of Anser, a young Pakistani Ahmadi Muslim broke our hearts. He told us how his mother was killed when other Muslims who oppose their faith came to their homes and ransacked their place. Anser, was so broken that several years after the tragic events he could not talk with out breaking down to tears.

I could tell you many more such tragic stories…

I don’t see any simple solution to the problem of Refugees. But I know that there are people who with great courage and determination serve them. They often choose to give up the same things Refugees leave behind but they are compelled to go.

Their work is often hindered by all types of red tape and even opposition from the host governments. But they stick it out and bring hope and life to them.

The types of people needed are vast; from health care workers to peace mediators, from teachers to midwives and nurses, from community organizers to small business entrepreneurs.

On this World Refugee Day let us answer the call of those needing practical encouragement and let us serve Refugees anywhere… remember Jesus and his family were also refugees so

Mentors are a Rare but Needed Sort

I was 15 in Caracas when I encountered Sam Olson, a local pastor who was just taking over a church his Dad had started. He was an innovator and started the first home for drug addiction recovery in the city. As one of the initial volunteers, Sam taught me to think outside the box. As I moved on, I met other men from various walks of life who deposited precious knowledge in me which have formed the person that I am today.

Since then, I have understood that mentoring is an intrinsic part of becoming a mature person, one who is able to expand the capacity and gifts one has been entrusted with.

Camping on the Great Wall

Camping on the Great Wall

The years that I lived in China were filled with relationship-building with many young people who had gone there with dreams of grand impact and meaningful contribution. It was exciting to hear their stories and see their dreams come to fruition in this land of unlimited opportunities.

The greatest personal deficiency that we most often saw among several of our young friends was that of the lack of Mothers and Fathers in their lives. They had their natural parents but often their parents had not nurtured them. So, we opened our homes, our ears and hearts, and our refrigerator and we shared life together.

My wife and I always received as much as we gave and often more.


There are three lessons I consider invaluable in this process:

First, one must be willing to be vulnerable and ask the difficult questions that we would rather avoid. I usually ask, “How is your love life?” and I have heard many tales but always have received a thanks for asking the questions that no one dares to ask. To enter into these topics one must be willing to share even those shadier sides of our lives.

Secondly, one must be willing to give people permission to make mistakes. To do this, one must both learn and teach others through the mistakes we’ve made. In giving permission, one must be prepared to “pay for their mistakes”.

Finally, I have learned that one must hold these relationships with open hands. No one is required to do what we say or follow the way we live. It must be left as a choice. This requires an awareness that one’s fulfillment must always come first from an internal satisfaction that we are doing what we are called to do.