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Praying with refugees in Southern Africa
01 August 2013

A refugee student does his homework at Dzaleka refugee camp in Malawi where even amidst difficulties many find ways to build their futures (Peter Balleis/JRS).
As Jesus suffered and died, He trusted in God that all would be fulfilled. This is not to say religion is a secret key to a secure, easy life. It means that in the worst of times, turning to God can offer a larger perspective on the struggles we face day to day.
Johannesburg, 1 August 2013 – When I go to a refugee camp I am often beset by requests from refugees for resettlement. I tell them that I have no control over this process and am not a UN refugee agency employee. Yet people still come….

I guess it is their hope that they can have a future in a far off country where all their problems will be solved.

The reality is far different; with resettlement not an option for most refugees, I felt it important that they try to see God even in all the sufferings and difficulties in the camp situation. 

"Keep the hope, but also deal with the reality", I used to say.

It was thus with some delight that a man approached me one day in the middle of camp and asked if I could get him an exercise bike! Of all the things I had ever been asked of in a refugee camp, this was definitely not on the list. 

But the man's story was simple – he had problems with circulation in one leg and needed to exercise his legs. Within the confines of the camp, there was only so far he could ride on a bicycle without putting himself in danger.

Given a lack of resources, I must confess I was unable to respond positively to his request, and Yusuf did end up losing a leg. Fortunately, he was resettled not long after. My hope and prayer is that he was able to get a good prosthesis to become properly mobile. 

Stories like these give us a choice to either live in despair and remorse or try to find God in all things, even in the difficulties. Yusuf's life will continue, and hopefully improve every day with resettlement. And for all those who are unable to resettle, hopefully we in JRS can help them see God in the camp.

David Holdcroft, JRS Southern Africa director

Your Reflections
Jesus comes to where the apostles are – not allowing them to somehow make themselves "good" in preparation to meet Him. He comes right in, a bit like when you walk into a home with young children – things are everywhere. Jesus doesn't wait for the tidy up – He is just there.

In the book of Luke, Jesus explains the scripture to them – referencing their own religious tradition. This allows them to see the recent events and those of their own lives in a new light, more as God sees them, which is reflective of our status as beloved creatures. He helps us find meaning.

When seeking refuge or serving those who do, one can sometimes not see past the anguish and find trust and meaning in the experience. But as Jesus suffered and died, He trusted in God that all would be fulfilled. This is not to say religion is a secret key to a secure, easy life. It means that in the worst of times, turning to God can offer a larger perspective on the struggles we face day to day.