The plight of the world’s refugees holds a prominent place in modern news reports. The United Nations refugee agency has numbered the worldwide refugee count at 21.3 million people, half of those under the age of 18. Nearly 5 million refugees come from Syria alone, a country that was once the cradle of the Christian church. The largest UN sponsored refugee camp is the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya which was established 25 years ago. It’s population in 2015 included 185,000 people who have fled dangerous conditions in their homelands of Somalia, South Sudan and 18 other countries. Conditions at this camp, and others are squalid and dangerous. Here is how the UN describes the Kakuma Refugee Camp:
In 2015, the last year statistics were available, only 107,000 refugees were resettled into new homelands. That’s it, only 107,000!
Ezekiel’s vision of the “Valley of Dry Bones” is one of the most powerful prophetic texts in all of scripture. Ezekiel is brought to a dry, dead valley, full of bones and bereft of any signs of life. Can you imagine the sight of this place? I wonder if the world looks at refugee camps in the same way. These camps are deadly pools of poverty, disease and despair where the most appealing benefit is that the pace of death there is much slower than it was in the refugee’s homeland. We look at the world’s refugees and wonder “Can these bones live?”
It appears that the answer in a great part of the world is “No”. It’s Not that there aren’t many people, including church-affiliated organizations, who are advocating, pleading, funding, and offering places of sanctuary, but governments are becoming increasingly protective and saying no when it comes to opening borders to these vulnerable refugees, these “dry bones”.
God’s people, though, do not take “No” for answer when the question is “Can these bones live?” The Holy Spirit overcomes our fears, our xenophobia, our superiority, and our apathy and says a resounding “Yes”. That Spirit of God has the power to knit those bones together, one by one, and breathe life into something others leave for dead. That’s the same Spirit that breathed life into four days dead Lazarus when Jesus said “Lazarus come out!” And it is the same Spirit that rolled the stone away from the tomb on Easter morn. It is the Spirit of hope in the one who claims “I am the Resurrection and the Life”.
It is also the Spirit that remains in the minds and hearts of the Kakuma refugees. The UN completes their description of the camp in this way:
Can these bones live? What is your answer?
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Devotions for Week of April 2, 2017
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Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church (GA) in New York City has been chosen as one of eight internship congregations to participate this year in a church-wide initiative designed to increase our understanding of Holy Scripture and most importantly, to cultivate our engagement with it. In partnership with The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, Vicar John Heidgerd will be working to develop innovative ways to deepen our faith formation and sense of discipleship for the sake of ourselves and our communities.