In less than a week, 21,000 refugees have flooded Croatia. And in these days, I’ve seen the best of people, and I’ve seen the worst.
I’ve seen unmitigated compassion from the Croatians who were standing outside their homes offering water and refreshments while a stream of refugees walked by on a 97 degree day.
I’ve seen people trying to greedily capitalize on their desperation and lack of information by lying to them how far away was the main bus station and then charging triple and quadruple the amount necessary to drive them there.
I have been astonished and taken aback numerous times—the smiles, respect, and gratitude shown by the refugees even as they operate under tremendous exhaustion and stress. The single Croatian police officer who managed to break up a fight and calm down about fifty men surrounding him—without any kind of violence. The passionate way many Christians, both local and international have jumped into serve with both feet.
I have been saddened by the callousness and angry rhetoric of others, both local and international, driven by fear.
It is one of those moments when 3 days feel like three weeks—my mind races with snapshots of impressions, emotions, and a sense of desperate empathy when I put myself in their shoes.
-The men trying to wrangle deals with taxi drivers and locals and keep their whole family together while traveling.
-The group of Syrian young men who created order in the crowd of thirsty people so I could hand out water without getting mobbed.
-The worried father who told me that he was most concerned about the effect of this 3 week trip on his children.
-The young Iraqi man who, after I apologized for the state of his country, wanted to tell me his whole story—including his brother with the blown up hand who was now in America, and why he left his family back in Iraq to undertake this journey.
-The people crowding around me saying, “water, water,” and myself in some kind of dreamlike state while passing it out as fast as possible.
Thankfully, although correct information is difficult to obtain and things continue to change daily, the relief effort is becoming more organized, more aid groups are coming, and more communication is happening between groups.
But I put out a plea for people to do their homework on this issue—don’t just accept social media posts about the situation without seeing where those posts came from or what is motivating them. Challenge the fear that is rising up all over Europe. Develop your own robust theological and missiological response to why the Church should be on the front lines serving the refugees.
Yes, it is a complicated political situation with no easy answers or solutions—we should all be vigorously praying for the leaders.
But for us, when the Middle East is on our doorstep, hungry and thirsty, it is not complicated at all.
This is it—this is our time—here, right now, to serve Christ himself. Because when you have lost your home, your country, your sense of stability, loved ones—when you have lost almost everything—you are, by definition, “the least of these.”