Be more like them

Christina | Serbia

"It's a joy to get the opportunity to love and serve them in various ways," said Christina from the United States, who currently lives in Šid, Serbia. She's helping with the thousands of refugees that are crossing the border on their way to Western Europe. She loves to listen to their stories - and shared from her experience.

The trip from Syria to Germany is a difficult and dangerous one, so I am always surprised when I see someone with a disability or ailment coming through the camp. One small boy in particular caught my eye. He was young, but likely older than he looked. His head was misshapen and very large. A first glance revealed that his legs didn't work properly, and his body was smaller than was typical for his age.

He was seated in the middle of the table with his father sitting next to him. People openly stared, but no one wanted to be seated at the table with them. I eagerly walked over and began to engage the little boy by trying to get him to throw a mandarin orange to me like a baseball. No words came out of his mouth, just clicks of the tongue and motions with his eyes that expressed his thoughts. The father spoke no English, but through hand motions and mutual words (family, doctor, Syria) I pieced their story together. 

The man’s wife was still in Syria with the other seven of their eight children. This was his youngest son. The doctor in Syria could do nothing to help this little guy and recommended they go to Germany to get medical help. There was a new tumour growing on the back of the boy's head, and fear shone in the father's eyes as he showed it to me.

There is a thought expressed by many volunteers at the camp that a lot of the refugees don't take proper care of their children. Babies get left behind in the beds when the buses to Germany leave in the middle of the night. Small children play with us for hours in the tent, and we never once see a parent checking in on them. But as I looked at the relationship between this father and son, tears sprung into my eyes.

This little boy had nothing of physical value to offer his dad. He couldn't even talk with him or fully know what was going on. But just like the Good Shepherd leaving the 99 to search for the 1 sheep, this father left his family, risked his life, and spent all his finances on the hope of some medical help. The love I saw shining in their eyes when they looked at each other took my breath away. I don't know what the outcome will be, but my earnest hope and prayer is that Love will win.

I've remarked that if I was a refugee I'd be dead by now. Upon arriving here I fell severely ill with what I’ve witnessed is a common sickness among the refugees. Words can't describe how awful I felt! I can't imagine walking in the snow with little clothing on while being so sick. I can't fathom caring for children when I have no way to provide even their basic needs. I can't picture how I'd keep going when I've not had a bed or shower in over a month.

However, I've never once heard any of them complain. As they share their stories, they don’t highlight the difficulties or seek sympathy. They even try to give to me out of their nothingness. They struggle to communicate thankfulness in their broken English. And every day I walk away humbled. If the tables were turned, I can only imagine I'd be barely making it, completely self-absorbed. But these people, the thousands of faces burned into my memory, are beautiful, and truly I wish I could be more like them.

An OM project, called ‘Safe Passage’, focuses on meeting refugees at their initial entry points, providing information as well as water, food and essentials. To give to OM’s relief efforts, or for more information about how to get involved, please contact your local OM office.

Published: Monday, 22 February 2016
Credit: Christina
© 2016 OM International This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.