A Tale of Two Cities
I have learned that we all view and experience life through a lens unique to us – based on our previous personal experiences, our learnings and our faith. For me having recently returned from the Island of Lesvos spending time at the refugee camp of Moria and with the people housed there, I look at the Fort McMurray situation unfolding and can not help but see some similarities.
I see the same images coming out of Fort McMurray that the rest of the country sees. Images of the ferocious roaring waves of orange flame, choking, dense smoke, slow moving vehicles navigating roadways with blazing walls dancing on either side and embers falling like rain. I see images of burnt out shells of vehicles and buildings. I see city blocks that once were thriving communities now flattened and smoldering, eerily empty with the occasional tree still standing in stark contrast to the landscape all around it. I hear the people’s stories and they use words like “devastation,” “nothing left,” “I have lost everything,” “just the clothes on our backs.” Some voices tremble, some shed tears, their eyes and faces displaying their bewilderment, disbelief and shock for all the world to see. Life as they know it has been changed.
I recognize that look on these people’s faces. I have seen those eyes before and they haunt me. I have spent time in the presence of another group of people who have experienced such devastation and who have also lost everything. There are other people I have met whose voices trembled, who cried and whose faces displayed bewilderment, disbelief and shock. I encountered them at Moria Camp. These people too have had to flee their homes and cities. They fled destroyed, burned and bombed out shells of houses and vehicles as well. These people left with just the clothes on their backs, not knowing where or when they would find shelter for themselves and their families.Their lives will never be the same either.
Two very different countries and cities within them – half a world away from each other. Two disasters – one of nature and one man made. Loss of the familiar, loss of community and home, loss of material possessions. Both situations have created refugees.
I am encouraged and so proud to be part of this Alberta that is stepping up and opening homes to those who have lost theirs, offering food and clothing, caring for animals, providing services, finances, labour and moral support. Social media feeds are full of inspiring stories of heroism and selflessness and I believe that this is a great opportunity for God’s people to show compassion and generosity to our neighbours in their time of need. It also continues to be a time to show the same compassion and generosity to our new neighbours arriving from other countries.
Both of these groups of people are seeking safety, seeking refuge from disaster, seeking aid and kindness. Both present themselves to us today and will continue to do so in the future. And what will be our response as God’s people? What are we called to do?
What does walking justly and loving mercy look like in this situation? How do Jesus’ words about giving a cup of water and clothing the naked in Matthew 25 look like today to both refugees and residents of Fort McMurray?
Below are two links to the CrossRoads website that give us many ways that we can reach out today and in the days to come. Neither of these situations will be fixed tomorrow. They will require long term action on our part.
Deut 10:17 For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes.18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. 19 And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.