Lord, be with Bijan, Reza and Dariash. Give them ears to hear what you are saying and eyes to see where you are. Transform their lives and the lives of their friends by your Spirit. Amen.
I sat down at a table one night in northern Paris for a community dinner; a free meal for those who are homeless. There was one thing that I noticed about the group, they were not white. They weren’t “french-French”. Through conversation I found out that there were almost entirely refugee’s from Afghanistan and Iran. This was where I met Reza. Reza was my age and had only been in France for 5 days. He came into France from Italy, clinging to the bottom of a train. Some of his friends had died trying this. He was a normal guy like myself, fleeing the oppressive dictatorship in Iran. He introduced me to two of his friends Bijan, who had been in France for 7 days and Dariash who had only been there 2 days. They met the day before I met them in a park.
During the conversation I asked where they slept at night. “In the park.” Oh. As it turned out, there was a park called Jardin Villemin that was located beside the Gare de l’Est (train station) in Paris. Over 100 illegal Afghani and Iranian refugees slept in that park each night. That struck me as a place where Jesus would spend time. So we got the location of the park and said we would visit them the next day. We did and were overwhelmed with the number of refugees there. We were told that there were close to 2,000 refugees in the area. After staying for a while and talking we said we’d be back with clothes. The next day we came and handed out clothes. Many men gathered around and asked why we were doing this. We told them it was because God loves them and then we got the chance to pray with them. This was probably one of the highlights of the trip for me.
Pray for these men. Pray that God would grant them favour wherever they may end up and that the government would grant them refugee papers to stay. Pray for believers to inhabit the parks where these refugees stay and demonstrate God’s love while proclaiming the Gospel.
A side note: I asked Reza during our initial conversation if he was a Muslim. “No, Christian…Jehovah,” he replied. I got excited. He said he had been a Christian for 8 years. Then I asked Bijan and Dariash the same question and they also told me they were Christians. I asked for how long: “one day.” When I asked how they had become Christians Reza replied, “I told them.” Ok. Simple enough. He then reached into his bag and pulled out a magazine for me: The Watchtower. Initially it was kind of a downer. But then I realized something. All of the refugees that we met were nominal Muslims and were open to other possibilities. In fact, two of them became JW’s in a day simple because someone they had just met told them. I asked them why they left Islam and they told me that Islam was not good.
Lord, be with Bijan, Reza and Dariash. Give them ears to hear what you are saying and eyes to see where you are. Transform their lives and the lives of their friends by your Spirit. Send people to sow the seed of the Gospel in this fertile soil. May the Parisian Church hear Your words in: “Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Eqypt,” (Ex. 22.21), and again: “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them wihout expecting to get anything back…be merciful, just as your Father is merciful,” (Lk. 6.35-36). Amen.