By Christy Kihm
It’s hard for many of us to imagine what a refugee looks like in everyday life. So our definition is created for us by the media, Facebook posts, and stories that catch our attention. Daniel and I have been lucky enough to get to have that definition shaped by personal experience.
To be honest, I don’t mean that we’ve been to the front lines, such as the refugee camps in Lebanon (our teammates Ken and Keli Oldham have), but rather several steps down the pipeline. The Netherlands is a “country of asylum.” According to the Dutch government’s immigration site, “Asylum is a form of protection for those who fear persecution or who risk torture or an inhuman treatment in their country of origin. Any person has the right to request asylum.” That last sentence is important because it means that the Dutch government has a well-planned procedure in place for those that claim this status.
Our churches in Holland know asylum-seekers well, as people from Iran and Iraq have been a part of the churches here for years; many have incredible stories of persecution for their Christian faith. The first week of November, I began to really get to know several individuals from Syria who are now in Holland because they are refugees. I met them, along with two Russian women also seeking asylum, in my Dutch language class. Of the ten of us, I am the only non-refugee.
This course is for people have been formally educated. I sat around the table with a lawyer, a United Nations employee, a financial investor, and three college students. Actually, all of those titles were in their former lives before war took everything from them. In the first week, I learned that K* had been to America and loved American apple pie. I learned that C was struggling to find her new identity after having such a high-level job in Syria. I learned that A and M each have a daughter about Sofie’s age. As is the Dutch custom, on my birthday I brought a dessert to share with the class. Dan made apple pie and it was delicious! I received two completely unexpected birthday gift bags from two of the college-age girls as they kissed my cheek and told me that they loved me. Words can’t describe how they all have touched my heart.
There is much to be done on the front lines, and also in planning for how lives can be impacted over the next several years for those seeking refuge. Our team is strategically investing in plans for immediate action and continued care. You can invest with Three Worlds and the German Church of God by contacting the Nachtigalls at PJNachtigall@chog.org. It’s also important to remember that, just like my classmates, each person who claims refugee status is so much more than that! They have a name, they have wonderful families, and they need our compassion and friendship.
Christy and Daniel Kihm serve as missionaries for Global Strategy to the Netherlands.
To learn more about your Church of God missionaries, and to learn about opportunities for support, visit www.chogglobal.org.
*Names have been omitted for security.