Can it really be that this fantastic niece of mine turned 21 yesterday? Olivia Grace is a passionate, athletic, brilliant woman. She has traveled the world and encountered the refugee crisis of our world by being available to the men, women, and children as they came out of the water seeking protection, shelter, food, and opportunity. I want to share with you one of her blog entries from 2016. It will help you understand why I admire her so!
Dear President Obama,
I am writing on behalf of the refugees.
My name is Olivia, and I live in Belleville, Michigan. I just turned 19 this year, and I am currently sailing on a vessel called the Next Wave through the Greek islands with the destination being Lesvos. I am here to do what I can to help the refugee crisis, or what can also be looked at as, my brothers and sisters in need of something I have to offer. What I have is hope.
The purpose of me writing is that I believe that we need to welcome, which means accepting, legal immigrants into the great United States that we are. We were built from the ground up on immigrants, and I cannot understand how we’ve lost sight of our very foundation. Mr. President, quite frankly terrorism is not an act we can stop by closing our borders. We have so many conflicts within our own country. School shootings alone take the lives of hundreds. Instead, we insist on focusing our concern outwards. Are there some radical Islamics that have the potential of getting into our country? Maybe. But what about all of the families that are losing parts of themselves to the depths of the sea, or to the disease and unhygienic camps, or to the sheer cruelty and pure disgust from the rest of the world? What about all of the precious children, Mr. President? I’ve held these crying children, I’ve fed these starving people, but I know that it is not enough. I can do more. I can use my voice, so here I am. I’m not here to say that we aren’t running a risk. But I am here to say that it would be worth it. When did we establish the wellbeing of one life prioritized over another simply by country of origin? When did blatant racism become an acceptable political stance? When did we forget that the blood running through our very veins originated in a country other than here?
I’m not sure this letter will ever actually get to your hands, it very well may be a shot in the dark. But I’m ok with that because taking a chance is better than not trying at all. That must be kind of what the refugee’s futures feel like right now. A shot in the dark. But they thought it was worth the chance because paying the price they have and taking the risks they are and literally fleeing for their lives, well that, that must be better than not trying at all. One does not place their child in a boat unless they are sure the water is safer than land.
I’m asking that we help to make their shot worth it. I’m asking that we become their safe land.
Err on the side of humanity, Mr. President.
I am excited to see what God has planned for you this year Olivia. You have prayed, sought God, put your God-given skills to work, practiced diligently, studied hard and earned yourself a scholarship. I am so very proud of you!
I love your heart, your passion, your growing faith, your laughter and your tears, your commitment to fighting for equality and your very tender heart. I appreciate your commitment to family, your siblings, your cousins, your articulate expressions of love and like for each of us and the creative ways you continue to keep your Dad’s memory alive.
I want to end with a bit more from Olivia’s blog.
Working with the refugees was nothing like what I expected. I think Jesus does that a lot, he shatters expectations- sometimes in a magnificent way and sometimes in anticlimactic ways, but we remain clueless to the way things pan out nonetheless. Going into it, I expect my heart to be broken to pieces. I expected heart-wrenching. I expected tears. Coming out of it, I realize that there is a time for everything under the sun, and for me, in this season, it was not a time for tears. It was a time for an overflowing heart, a mindset of love. In my short time serving my brothers and sisters who have fled their countries, I was filled with hope that the God that I know, knows and sees and loves these people too. While changing a disabled woman’s wet, dirty socks and shoes I had a revelation. Bowed at this precious woman’s feet, I realized that that is who our Jesus is. He is a God who washes the dirty feet and dirty hearts of his flawed children.
Humbling one’s self to serve, not because ‘they are helpless’ or ‘we must pity them’ but out of the sheer longing to be more like our God is such a whole feeling. God makes us whole when we search and seek to be like him. In this season, seeking God looked like working crazy night shifts and preparing sweet hot tea to welcome cold, wet people into a new, scary land. I can’t fix the crisis. I can’t even begin to make a dent. Hot tea doesn’t change nations. But maybe, in a way, it does. It changes hearts, and that’s the only way to start. One heart at a time.
I love you and admire you, Olivia Grace. Keep writing, keep speaking, keep risking, keep loving! You have lived and enjoyed a lot in your life. You know deep love, great loss, and daily grief. You know the thrill of seeking, knowing and finding God and the uncertainty that comes with deep faith. I am grateful to be your Aunt and eager to support, encourage, pray for and love you in every way! Happy Happy Happy 21st Birthday!