Citizens of No Land

I’ve been quiet through this whole thing. I haven’t really spoken my two cents yet. Maybe out of fear. Maybe because the words haven’t been there. Maybe I’ve been in denial this issue has really anything to do with me. But it does. Because it really it has everything to do with all of us.

Refugee. The dictionary defines the word as “a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.”

Where we live, where we work, refugees constantly surround us. Refugees from Nepal and Burma, Rwanda and Liberia, even Syria and Afghanistan. We’ve come to love the people who we call neighbors. We can’t see ourselves living anywhere else. They have become home.

As our country decides whether to let any more refugees enter the USA, I can’t help but be thankful that they allowed the refugees in who currently reside in our neighborhood. What if we hadn’t met Moo, Mooku and Daykulay, Sui and Esther, Anisha and Sabina, Shalena and Hari? And then there is Mary, our daughter’s best friend. They play everyday, being so sweet with one another without ever knowing any different. Anna doesn’t know Mary’s family is from the mountains between Burma and Thailand. She doesn’t know what Mary’s parents and siblings had to endure to get here, to safety. She doesn’t know that Mary’s family lived in a refugee camp before flying on a big plane to welcome arms in the city of Charlotte. All she knows is that Mary is her best friend and that’s all that matters at this point. Friendship.
As missionaries to this neighborhood we’ve been called to be friends to those who live around us, and more than just as missionaries, as Christ followers as well. They just happen to be refugees.

When we first moved in, I have to admit, I was scared. Scared out of my mind. Our first week consisted of a few domestic deputes right outside our window, excessive knocking and screaming coming from the other side of our bedroom wall, and drug busts right in front of our eyes. Culture shock is an understatement from these former suburbanites. But over and over again I heard:

“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. 
Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28

I was comforted in that time knowing that no matter what happens to my body, my soul is safe in the arms of Christ. No human can take that away from me. And if I have Christ, the enemy can’t take my soul either. It made making friends with people I have nothing in common with much easier. It made it less scary knowing nothing could hurt my soul. I was free to make friends, to reach out, to love, without the fear of being hurt. So why was I the one afraid in the first place? America is my home. The refugees, remember, are without a home.

I can’t even imagine. Can you?

Torn from your home, placed into a refugee camp because you don’t belong to any country or because your country won’t accept the fact that you’re a Christian or your country is experiencing war and conflict. You spend weeks, maybe years, waiting to find a new home. America accepts you. Yay, a free country! You travel on a huge airplane for days. You find yourself in a tiny apartment with your family who consists of a mom, a dad, grandma, grandpa, and four kids. And you can’t speak, read, or understand the language. You’re scared but you’re relieved. Your family is safe and that is all that matters.

Let me ask the question again: Why was I the one afraid?

I don’t want to get political. I hate choosing sides. All I can say is what I’ve learned from our experiences living among refugees. But I don’t believe the verse above is just for my family as we’ve lived, and continue to live, in a neighborhood surrounded by families who have found a new home here. I believe this verse is for anyone who claims Christ as his or her Lord, the one who protects his beloved children’s souls.

And one more thing, as Christians, are we not refugees in a foreign land awaiting our forever home?


  1. That last sentence gave me chills! What a beautiful post about beautiful people. Thank you for sharing your love for them with us.

  2. Love this, Jessica. I wish more folks would put themselves into the shoes of others the way you have with your neighbors. I felt particularly this last Easter the weight of longing for our heavenly home - we shouldn't ever feel that this world is to provide security for us. Way to examine what you fear!

    1. Thank you, Cat! Living among such beautiful people has humbled me and taught me so much. We feel blessed to be here. Thanks for reading and for your encouraging words!