When you realize who your neighbor is….

I came to class late today. I did not have a good reason; I was just running a bit late. I was also thinking of reasons why I might need to leave early… (I know, I shouldn’t be thinking of excuses to skip class!) The class went on as usual, except that today I sat next to one of the newer students, Hassan*. I know only a little about him. He is 21 and had been studying to become a doctor. He seems like a smart cookie from the few conversations that we have had. He speaks only a little English, and I speak none of his language. So by default our communication language is German, which leaves much room for error on both our parts. The class runs from 1pm -5pm. By 4:30 today, our teacher, realizing we had reached our limit for learning, gave in to our tired sighs and sloppy responses to the text, and allowed us to chat IN GERMAN about whatever interested us. I turned to Hassan and asked him a few questions, mostly out of boredom. They seemed to me the typical questions: “What do you like to do for fun? Do you have brothers or sisters? How long have you been in Germany? Remind me where you are from?”

He answered each question, but not as casually as I had asked them. It was as though each answer begged another question. “I like to play football (soccer). I was in a football league back home.” (But not anymore?) “I have a brother here with me in Germany.” (and how many back home?) “I have been here 8 months.” (Was it by choice?) “I am from Syria.” (Refugee?)

Yes, Hassan is a Syrian Refugee. And today he sat next to me in class, practicing German grammar. It was a huge moment of conviction for me.

Like everyone else, I have seen the news and heard the stories. I have heard the opinions of people back in the States. I know that North Americans hold many different feelings and opinions and experiences. There are certainly refugees in the US, but they are 4,000 miles from here.

I know friends who have gone to the islands of Greece to aid those people in those little boats. There are many refugees pouring in from Turkey to Greece, then off to other countries. I know there is a lot of pain and fear crammed into those tiny lifeboats. And I know that the island of Lesvos is 1,000 miles from here.

Then there is me. I come to class with my own opinions and feelings. I sit next to someone is really just another student. I practice German phrases with him and correct his verb endings. Then in the last twenty minutes of the class (which I almost skipped), I find out who my neighbor really is. And this refugee, he is sitting one foot away from me.

I understand that this is a multi-sided issue. It is not black and white. This is a serious circumstance that could have major repercussions in the futures of America, Europe, and me. Even I have some mixed opinions and could argue both sides of the coin. Again, there are many, many different ideas, opinions, and FACTS.

But as I sat there and thought about this young man next to me, a refugee like the ones I watched on TV, the only fact that I could recall was the fact that we must love our neighbor.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34

Our Jesus was once a refugee. He lived in foreign territory. He left His heavenly Father, earthly mother, brothers and sisters. He learned our languages. I guess he might have liked football, too.

As I left class today, I knew the Lord was working on my heart. I drove home wondering what I could do for Hassan, my neighbor, to not only show him that he is loved, but to share the Love of Jesus with him. I will continue to pray about this in the coming days. I ask that if you read this, that you will join me in praying for Hassan, for me and for the Father to be at work in this young man’s life. Jesus created Hassan. And Jesus already knows everything about him. My hope is that Hassan will meet and begin to know about Jesus.


*Not his real name.


CC image courtesy of Derek Bruff | Changes made