Tales From Abroad: A Work in Progress Aug28


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Tales From Abroad: A Work in Progress

Fifteen hundred euros to escape from the only life you’ve ever known, but even that life is mostly gone now, a blurry outline of a memory that is quickly fading, just as you have now mysteriously vanished from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan to set foot on the “stone of light,” Hellas, Greece.  This is not your home but you desperately search for a friendly soul, anyone who might offer asylum to a migrant, foreigner, alien, refugee, outcast.  A squat in an old abandoned school shelters some 300 wanderers, a charming activist, quietly powerful, and his youthful followers fighting back against hopelessness amidst the forgotten beakers in the chemistry lab.  A few blocks over, a truly hopeful scene penetrates the darkness; in a small, nondescript church tucked away behind green bars, a faithful, seasoned woman with a fiery spirit has said to the Lord, “Here I am, send me.”


It is Thanksgiving Day, and six young women from the most privileged country in the world are not sitting around a table with family and friends, feasting on a spread of turkey and stuffing and pumpkin pie.  At eleven o’clock, young mothers, children, teenagers, men, and families begin to ring the bell at the Church of Christ in Athens, and these six Americans are about to realize how much they truly have to be thankful for.  Three months ago, one of those six would not have fully understood what the completely strange and unfamiliar looks like, and particularly, how frustrating a foreign land can be when you don’t even know how to say “please.”

But on November 24th, she could sympathize with the 17-year-old boy observing the dark, pretty Afghan girls learning their ABCs from the pale blond American.  He was afraid when she walked around the table to sit beside him, but after tedious repetition, was proud when he found that he too could pronounce every letter, including “Q.”  She had felt that same squeezing anxiety in her chest during that first stiff British literature class with Dr. Winn, but now found the English professor to be quite congenial and tender-hearted.  She could listen with mingled sadness and joy to the stories and dreams of Yussef and his friend from Iran, who both longed to secure passage to Canada after already spending a year and two months in Grecian limbo.  She too had experienced grief and gladness in countries far away from home.  And she could share in the fellowship and communion of the saints with her sister in Christ, Eleni, whose smiling eyes and servant heart reflect the love of our compassionate Savior.  She is now confident that in Oxford, Maastricht, Athens, and other cities around the world, God is partnering with His people to bring His ministry of reconciliation to completion before the Final Day.

You cannot remain unchanged after a journey such as this.  God is constantly shaping and refining us to be more Christ-like ambassadors for His kingdom.  I am not the same person who left Dallas, and with God’s grace, I have a new appreciation and understanding for engaging His global mission.  I used to be a somewhat ignorant American, but living abroad has changed me.  I am a work in progress.