Last month, I had the privilege of living in north Chicago and hanging out with Bob and Lynne Andrews (directors of Devon Oasis), aptly called “A Place of Refuge in a New World”.
I’m told that those few square miles are the most culturally diverse in the United States, outside of New York. And I believe it. On one street you can buy saris, baby goat meat by the pound, samosas and chai tea. On the next street, you can eat authentic Thai cuisine and Mexican salsa that will melt your face off. Then on the next street, you’ll see a mosque next to a Jewish synagogue next to a Community church. The school playground looks like the pee-wee branch of the United Nations. The market is a party in your grocery cart with food from literally all over the world. I heard English as infrequently as I saw Caucasian faces.
Bob and Lynne have lived here for 30 years and have poured out the love of Christ on a several different people groups that are mostly refugees (forced from their home due to war or famine or persecution). I can’t appropriately express what a joy and privilege it was to peek into their world and watch them love the nations as individual people in the name of Christ. (I would love to write more about them and the people they love, but due to the sensitive nature, you’ll have to come over for dinner to hear more).
Bob would say often – “As you walk through the streets, pray that you see what He sees.” I nodded, not completely understanding the significance.
I came to treasure walking Devon street every day (pictured above), praying that prayer. But what I didn’t expect is that God would speak to me about what He saw when He looked at me, kneading truths about His faithfulness and never-ending love into my heart. Then He would gently lift my chin to the nations, literally surrounding me, and apply the same truths to them, people made in His very image.
There are so many examples, but I’ll just share this one.
One evening I heard a particularly hard story of senseless violence against weak and innocent people and I came undone. The weight of it was so heavy in my heart. I couldn’t get away from it. I went to a local coffee shop to cry and pray and journal. It was just me, a live musician, the live musician’s mother and the sound guy in that room as I came apart. The musician probably thought I was deeply (very deeply) touched by her music. The waiter thought I was not well and just kept bringing coffee.
I journaled – “I know you are here with me, weeping over this, too.” and He gently said, “Yes, and actually, I’m weeping through you tonight. This isn’t your heart, this is my heart. I see the suffering and it grieves me so much.”
The thought surprised me (I’m the emotional one in our relationship). But, of course, the whole Gospel story speaks to this kind of radical, relentless, whatever-it-takes-I-will-rescue-them love. My next prayer was, “Respectfully, if I was God and I felt this way, I would have no patience for the bad guys. I would take them all out and hold the innocent ones in a safe place forever. Are Your hands tied by all the bad guys? What is going on?” Almost immediately, He led me to Isaiah 59.
“Listen! The Lord’s arm is not too weak to save you, nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call.”
You’re reading my thoughts! Of course You are. And, I see that Your arms are not tied.
I continued reading.
“It’s your sins that have cut you off from God . . .
Your hands are the hands of murderers . . .
So there is no justice among us,
and we know nothing about right living.
We look for light but find only darkness.
We look for bright skies but walk in gloom.
We grope like the blind along a wall,
feeling our way like people without eyes.
Even at brightest noontime,
we stumble as though it were dark.
We look for justice, but it never comes.
We look for rescue, but it is far away from us.
The Lord looked and was displeased
to find there was no justice.
He was amazed to see that no one intervened
to help the oppressed.
So he himself stepped in to save them with his strong arm,
and his justice sustained him.
He put on righteousness as his body armor
and placed the helmet of salvation on his head.
He clothed himself with a robe of vengeance
and wrapped himself in a cloak of divine passion.
“The Redeemer will come to Jerusalem
to buy back those in Israel
who have turned from their sins,”
says the Lord.”
Friends, you and I are the refugees. We are the edged out ones, stumbling around outside the camp, looking for light but only finding darkness. Looking for rightness and justice, but only finding senseless selfishness. Looking for a rescue in all the wrong places and mourning that it never comes.
But then this – the Redeemer will come.
Oh, friends, the Redeemer. has. come. He has stepped in with His strong arm and defanged the snarl of the enemy, crushing him under His feet. He has intervened to help you and I and them, the oppressed. Now, through Jesus, He leans close to the edged-out, calling to them to turn from their sins and step into the Light. And there, in the Light, He will hold the innocent ones in a safe place forever.
This is Good News for us. And this is Good News for the darkest corner of Myanmar. The only lasting hope for the refugee. Let’s go tell them!!