« Previous   |   Main   |   Next »

Oh Jesus!

By Joe Showalter

Those were about the only words I could think of as I stood near a small boat a few weeks ago. The boat wasn’t where we usually find boats. This boat was inside a cathedral in Cologne, Germany. The sign said the boat had been confiscated by the army of Malta in the Mediterranean Sea. It was being used by refugee smugglers on a route from Libya to Italy.

The boat was about 23 feet long. As I looked at it, I thought 30 people would crowd the boat, but the sign said a boat like that will carry as many as 100 people. They journey without food and water, and without protection from the sun, storm or cold. When the Maltese army found this boat, some of its occupants had suffocated and others had collapsed from being unable to breathe.

People take risks like this only on one condition: they are utterly desperate. And clearly, their desperation presents a challenge to the rest of us — a challenge that often looks so immense that we don’t know where to begin. Jesus, what can we do? What are you doing about this, Jesus, and how can we join you?

“If there is anywhere the harvest is plentiful and the workers are few, it must be in these most desperate of places. Let’s ask the Lord of the harvest to send workers!”I’m reminded of Jesus’ description of the crowds as “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). In the face of that desperation, he said to those following him, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matthew 9:37-38). If anyone today is harassed and helpless, it must be these refugees. If there is anywhere the harvest is plentiful and the workers are few, it must be in these most desperate of places. Let’s ask the Lord of the harvest to send workers!

In October of this year, Dawn Showalter of Shiloh Mennonite Church, spent time at a camp near Athens, Greece, that seeks to provide meaningful structure in the lives of refugees. She interacted with those who had gone through so much to get to the camp, and writes about some of those relationships here.

Another whom the Lord of the harvest sent recently was Caleb Zimmerman. Caleb, who, with his family worked in Albania with RMM from 2006-2011, spent a couple of months in early 2016 on the Greek island of Lesvos, just off the coast of Turkey, where thousands of asylum-seeking refugees have been landing. Caleb has written an account of his time there, which you can access here. One of our REACH teams also plans to work on Lesvos in early 2017 for part of their cross-cultural outreach.

Caleb's story is full of complexity and full of surprises. But it’s also more than a story. It’s a call to evaluate our hearts and the validity of our faith claims. I pray it helps you know how you can join Jesus in responding.