Photo: Anthony telling his story
I do a fair bit of speaking at churches and other venues, but today’s gig was a bit more challenging than usual. I was asked to teach Sunday School at our church. Twice.
I wrestled this past week with figuring out how to talk about forced displacement in a way that connects with kids.
It was helpful to partner with Anthony, a young man who spent much of his life as a refugee before finally getting resettled to the US (the Twin Cities). We actually met a few years ago during a visit to Dzaleka refugee camp in Malawi.
So I helped the kids get a basic understanding of forced displacement by first unpacking the story of Jesus’ childhood – including his flight to Egypt as a refugee. My hope is that this will help them understand that refugees are not bad or dangerous people, but rather people in need of safety – just like Jesus and his family.
We then talked about homesickness and how good it is to be able to return home after a vacation. My hope is that this helped them understand the pain and loss every refugee experiences.
Anthony then shared his story of fleeing war in DR Congo with his sister. They passed through many countries as refugees before he was finally resettled here. Most of the kids paid close attention.
We then showed them photos of refugee kids doing normal kid stuff. My hope is that they see these kids as kids just like themselves – just in very difficult circumstances.
Someone asked Anthony why so many refugee kids look happy in the photos. He said it’s true – many of the kids are actually happy. But he struggled to answer the question “Why?” He just said, “I don’t know. Somehow they just are.”
Against all odds, these kids who live in mud houses in forgotten refugee camps without electricity and running water, little food and used clothing – still play and laugh and smile and sing. It is truly amazing.
Click here to see for yourself (15 second video in Dzaleka refugee camp, Malawi).
I came away a bit unsure how much actually got through, but I trust God to somehow take what was shared and use it to create space in their hearts and minds for refugees.
I also came away with great appreciation for those committed to teaching Sunday School regularly!