Even now, as a 53 year old, I can remember asking this question of my parents when going on a holiday to the Isle of Wight. ‘Are we nearly there yet?’
Even when we know where we are going, the question can be hard to answer especially when things aren’t going according to schedule; so what often comes out is ‘we’ll get there when we get there!’
But imagine what it is like to be asked that question, ‘are we nearly there yet?’, when we don’t even know where we are going………. That is the experience of most refugees, which is hard for us to enter into.
One way of entering into that experience is by visiting the ‘Suspended’ exhibition currently at Leicester Cathedral (see picture). This exhibition dramatically portrays the chaotic, traumatic experience of 21st century refugees to Europe, through items of clothing discarded on the Greek island of Lesbos by those who’ve made the perilous boat trip from Turkey.
We heard more about these real life refugee stories from Elijah Cherny last month when he talked at our 10.30am service about his serving at a Christian hospitality centre in Athens during May.
And these stories and displays help deepen our understanding of those who join our Martyrs worshipping family after long journeys, where the nagging question will not have been ‘are we nearly there yet?’ but ‘will I ever feel safe and at home again?’
In recent weeks we have been looking at Jeremiah’s Old Testament message of encouragement to the children of Israel exiled in Babylon, those who would themselves have been asking ‘will I ever feel safe and at home again?’
The assurance that God gave Jeremiah to share by letter with those exiles is the same assurance that can be shared today. An assurance for those (including sometimes ourselves) going through times of wondering ‘where am I going?’ and ‘will I/we ever get through the uncertainty and anxiety of the present?’:
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
In whatever uncertainty we may face now or in the weeks ahead, may we know the truth of God’s promises to prosper us and keep us safe. And may we reach out in prayer and action to those in need of that assurance of God’s presence with them.