August 25, 2016
By Kathryn Burton
In preparation for our first expedition with e3 Partners, my husband and I felt fully prepared. We had the training we needed, funds were raised, and we even had a background in Islamic studies. We were so excited to go love on those who were far from home, in a country so unlike their own. But, as we began the trip I soon realized that I never could have fully prepared for what we encountered.
Yes, I have heard stories on the news of the tragedies of the Syrian refugees. I have seen the photographs. I have been praying. But, to be face to face with them, to hear their stories, was completely shocking and heartbreaking. One woman I had spoken with revealed to me that before she fled for safety in Germany, her twin babies were killed right in front of her. Sadly, this is a common story amidst the refugee communities. This brought up many questions in my mind. How could God allow such suffering to happen in her life? How should I respond to such tragedies?
In that moment after she told me her story, we were wrapped in each others arms crying and I was reminded that these were some of the same questions I asked last year when we lost our first child in a miscarriage. So, without anything else to say but “I’m so sorry,” I began to tell her my own story starting with a dream I had during that difficult time.
One night after I found out about losing our child Sam, I had a dream. In the dream I was in the Sea of Galilee. It was storming and I was standing on the rolling waves beneath my feet. I could hear people yelling in the boat behind me but I was staring fiercely at Jesus. I was then filled with fear knowing that if He were to look away, if Jesus were to break our gaze, I would sink. As if He heard my thoughts, Jesus responded with a whisper louder than the thundering storm around us, “I’m not going to.” I pondered that along with the fact that He could hear my thoughts and then He said “Just keep your eyes on mine, just keep your eyes on mine, just keep your eyes on mine.” Peace filled my heart and I woke up. I knew from the dream I needed to keep my eyes on Jesus to stand on this storm. He was so faithful to never look away. I shared that this was like the story in the Bible where Jesus walked on water and Peter stepped out of the boat. Not only was it a miracle for Jesus to be walking on the water, it was a miracle that He allowed Peter to.
I was able to share this Jesus story with the woman who lost her babies. Though we lost our children in completely different ways and I cannot even begin to comprehend the intensity of her situation, I was still able to meet her where she was. We had much more in common than I expected. So though I never could have fully prepared myself for hearing her story, God had already prepared me with the right words she needed to hear, at just the right time.
I told her that I don’t think I will ever look at storms the same. Most of the time I start drowning in the waves of tragedy, and Jesus is so faithful to grab my hand, but I will never forget the peace I felt when my eyes were met with His gaze standing on top of the waves in my dream. We are good about asking God to be the “Calmer of The Storm” which He definitely is. But what happens when He doesn’t calm the storm? What happens when the suffering is just…there? How is He still good? He is good, because He stands in the midst of it all with us. I found that even when the storm goes on, through His steady gaze He gives us the ability to stand on top of it. Sharing the story with this woman gave her that hope only Jesus can give. I will never forget her. Throughout the entire story her tearful eyes never left mine.
We never think that bad things that will happen to us and sometimes it’s hard to understand the tragedies taking place in the world right now. I have learned to ask God that He would not leave the dirt barren. If the dirt must be there, please use it to grow something good. The thing is, the God I know never leaves dirt barren. He is the Creator of all good things out of the dirt. I am praying that He uses the dirt in the lives of the millions of refugees to plant a garden of hope and restoration back to Him, just like He did with me.