Home for the Desperate (Refugees)

September 15 2015

We drove through cornfields and Hungarian countryside for barely a kilometer before we started seeing the clusters of people walking toward bus stops and train stations. They were recognizable by their dirty, disheveled appearances, their small packs and their weary faces. We passed them and continued on toward the place from which they had eagerly departed. The poorly paved road suddenly was congested with buses and cars, news media vans, and police vehicles. And then we were there … the make-shift campsite where thousands of refugees were waiting to be processed by Hungarian officials and granted asylum.

I stepped out of my vehicle and stood a moment just taking it all in. Everywhere my eyes looked, there were tents, and trash, and people. All sorts of people: men, women-old and young, children, and infants-able-bodied and disabled. Everywhere I looked, there were people. I tried hard to get a sense of my surroundings and wondered where the best place to start was when I was startled by a man’s voice. So deep in thought, I did not see the middle-aged man that had walked up beside me. He spoke broken English, but the urgency in his voice was unmistakable.

“Shoes?” I quickly turned to face him, drawn back from my overwhelming thoughts to the reality in front of me. “I’m sorry?” I mumbled. He saw the confusion in my face and attempted again, “Do you have any shoes for me? I need shoes.” I quickly glanced down at his feet. Soiled feet in torn and flimsy sandals stood before my clean and nicely tied tennis shoes. “I’m sorry...” I managed to reply, “I don’t have any shoes today.” The man nodded and said, “Thank you,” and quickly disappeared back into the crowd of people.

The rest of the team had already begun cleaning and picking up trash as I reached for the box of M&M’s I had brought to pass out to some of the children. They were happy and full of smiles as I started to hand out the small bags of candy. In spite of their pleased faces, I couldn’t stop thinking about the man’s desperate plea for shoes. His was the first request I heard, but unfortunately it wasn’t the last. And a picture was quickly painted for me of the amount of desperation these people were feeling.

Yes, desperate for shoes, or clothes, or food, or blankets ... but also desperate to be able to stop running. Desperate for information or help or safety. Desperate for freedom and desperate for hope.

I realized as I returned home that night and gave our daughter a bath in a nice tub of warm, soapy water, and as I helped our boys finish their homework and pack their lunches for school the next day, that I don’t know the kind of desperate that these people do. I’ve never had to pack up my family because our street was blown apart by bombs or war. I’ve never left all my earthly possessions behind and lived out of a backpack for weeks with small children. I’ve never had to walk 18 hours a day, for more than 50 days straight, across foreign countries because I feared the border would be closed before my family reached freedom. But I am reassured by the One who knows this kind of desperate. Jesus helped desperate people. He healed. He fed. He gave hope. He calls us to show his love and his mercy to the least of these. He calls simply for us to offer what he himself would give. He calls us to be his hands and his feet and his mouth, showing his love to all people, bringing light to the darkness and hope for the desperate.

By Corinne Long, OMS Hungary missionary

Tags: refugees, europe, serbia, middle east, migration, migrants

The Least of These: Ministering to Refugees in Hungary

September 10 2015

I saw her through the open flap of the tent (this photo is of another young mother and her son). A young mom in her 20s, a floral shawl wrapped around her head, exposing only her face. She was dressing her infant son. Barely the size of an American football, the baby wiggled about with jello-like movements as the mother pushed his hands through small coat sleeves. She smiled at him, and I could see her lips moving as she stood alone talking to him.

It had come together so quickly. In less than 24 hours, a community of believers, both Western missionaries and Hungarians, had collaborated as one to put a compassionate outreach together to minister to the needs of the mostly Middle Eastern refugees flooding through the borders of Hungary. We set up a “baby-washing station” for the transients to bathe their infants with warm water, soup, and clean towels. We also provided a hot soup meal for about 450 arriving refugees who, no doubt, were tired and hungry.

Our team stepped out in faith and bought tents, blankets, and sleeping bags. After dropping off the supplies, OMS missionary Viktor Rozsa, a Hungarian volunteer from our church, and I drove to a small town to pick up 500 liters of hot soup. While they were unloading the soup at Budapest’s Keleti train station, I realized I hadn’t seen the ministry tent set up, and I wanted to see what it looked like. That’s when I saw the young mother through the flap.

When I saw her smile as she spoke with her child, it occurred to me what a strange set of events had brought us both here … to this place, at this time. A mother from Syria, doing what she had probably done many times before in her own country, washing her infant son, yet this time, in a plastic tub, heated by a coffee pot, in a tent, in a Budapest train station. Me, a missionary kid and current missionary from the U.S., called to serve in Hungary in leadership development, yet serving soup to hundreds of refugees.

While communication was limited, and tragic circumstances created this situation, I was reminded of Christ’s powerful words, “What we did for the least of these, we did for him.”

––Jonathan Long, OMS Hungary Field Director

If you'd like to make a donation to the Middle East Refugee Fund, #408140, click here.

Tags: hungary, tent city, refugees, middle east, soup kitchen, european crisis,