Post by Tori Hirsch
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On October 30, 2021, a group of Center for Global Justice clerks and interns, as well as Journal for Global Justice and Public Policy members, traveled to a military base to serve recently displaced Afghan refugees.
The sun was barely peeking over the sky when we departed. But the adrenaline and excitement for the day fueled our conversation for the drive.
As we imagined what kind of work we would be doing, there was collective agreement on at least one point: we had no expectations.
If past mission trips have taught me anything, having no expectations is usually frowned upon. But in this case, it was exactly the right mindset to begin with.
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Approaching this opportunity with no expectations meant starting with humility. It took the pressure off us to create a picture of what we thought working with refugees would look like and allowed us to participate free from the burden of comparison.
Upon arrival, we attended a brief orientation. We would be playing games with children, doing arts and crafts, and generally spending time with families. We were cognizant of the difficulties that would arise from interacting with a language barrier. But we were told the biggest challenge would be sensitivity to their trauma.
Our orientation leader explained how many of these families had to quickly leave their homes and all sense of stability and comfort. Most families were split up. They waited for days on airport tarmac to be rescued and taken to different places until finally arriving in the U.S.
They did not feel at home in the U.S., but felt vulnerable, uncertain, and afraid.
Although hearing about their traumatic experiences made me feel inadequate for what was to come. My uncertainty was forgotten when the first children entered the activities tent.
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We were met with shyness, smiles, politeness, and curiosity. Some children spoke English, some didn’t.
They voraciously colored through pages of coloring books, showing their creativity and individuality.
Excited screams and delighted laughs filled the space as they played “red light, green light.”
The hours dissolved away as we ran around and exhausted ourselves playing volleyball and soccer in a field between the barracks where they slept.
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In a whirlwind, it was time to leave, and we collectively felt a sharp pang of sadness and an immediate desire to return.
The verse Proverbs 16:9 came to mind as we were driving back:
“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” When we laid our expectations before the Lord and surrendered our plans to Him. He used us as conduits to bring joy to a marginalized group of people. He oriented our steps to serve, and with that, greatly exceeded any expectations we could have created for ourselves.
Isn’t it amazing what happens when participating free from the burden of comparison?
This post was written by a Center for Global Justice Student Staff Member. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of Regent University. Regent Law School, or the Center for Global Justice.