21 Feb “Seeking Freedom” by Melissa Mitchell
Checkpoint Charlie was a crossing point in the Berlin Wall between East & West Berlin during the Cold War. Nearby this well known point is a museum that commemorates the amazing things that people did in order to escape from Soviet controlled Eastern Berlin to West Berlin, occupied by the allies post World War II.
In the summer of 2000 I was on a summer mission’s trip to Berlin, to work with college students. It was a fascinating place to visit. I was able to interact with students who remembered living behind the wall, controlled by the Soviet Union. Out of the many places I visited that summer, Checkpoint Charlie was perhaps my favorite.
Growing up in the 70s & 80s the news was dominated by talk of the Cold War and the Soviet Union. It was remarkable to be able to visit a place that represented such a recent part in history. I think what captured my heart and mind the most were the gripping stories of people desperate for freedom that they risked so much to be able to escape the tyranny of their government. The museum shared countless stories of innovation and bravery.
Growing up in the safety and wealth of the US, I think often it can be hard for us to imagine being so desperate for a different way of life. Desperate for freedom. Freedom from war, from oppression, from poverty, from persecution.
In recent months, our own news has been flooded with a different groups of people seeking freedom – refugees from the fighting in Middle East. Stories of people fleeing their homes with nothing but the clothes they were wearing, people living among rubble, or in open fields with little protection. It is hard to read and even harder to look at the photos. Regardless of what your thoughts are on how they came be here in the US, the fact is that they are among us.
How would God want us to respond to those that have fled their homeland arriving here, looking for freedom? I have been participating in a 40 day Bible reading plan called “I Was a Stranger”. This plan highlights at least 40 verses where God gives His people instruction on how to treat the stranger, or outsider among them. The underlying theme is one of respect, kindness, and help.
In Matthew 25:35-36:
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
“For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.”
I pray that I will never grow complacent in the freedom that I have, not only as a US citizen, but as a child of God. I also pray that I will be willing to extend compassion to those who come here seeking freedom of their own.