Earlier this month, my colleague and I made a site visit to one of our most remote ministry teams, serving our church congregation in our southernmost city. We were excited to visit because we know this team is doing meaningful, hands-on work every day to bring hope and relief to the most vulnerable migrants and refugees in their area. We were looking forward to spending some much needed time together. Our first day on site was full of experiences that I don’t want to forget.
We started the day by visiting a local public hospital. A 20-year-old man, originally from Guinea, was being treated there for serious spinal cord injuries related to a recent fall. The overcrowded apartment where he was staying was raided by police forces, and in the chaos this man fell or jumped from the third floor window. He was paralyzed and alone when he arrived at the hospital, and funds from our church’s ministry were able to ensure that he had a chance at recovery. We visited his hospital room to encourage him and pray with him. Since then, we’ve learned that he’s making steady progress and is walking again.
After the hospital visit in the city, we drove to a rural settlement of migrant farm workers. This community primarily works in tomato farms. They are fortunate to find steady work but they are underpaid and have precarious lives. Our ministry teams were able to provide gardening gloves several months ago, but we learned that the rubber-coated gloves only last a couple of weeks before they’re destroyed by the intense work that’s required on the farms. We’re now hoping to provide tougher leather protective equipment for these workers in the future, and are considering ways that we can support their request for a daycare facility in their community. As we left, we were gifted with a huge box of farm-fresh tomatoes.
We enjoyed lunch with one of our team members, who told us his own migration story. Originally from Cameroon, he and his sister fled their country when terrorists attacked his hometown and killed the rest of his family. He ended up in a trafficking ring in Northern Africa where he was enslaved, rescued by an international organization, and escaped a forced repatriation attempt. He ended up back on the migration path again, this time coming to the country where I serve. Without documents, he was once again rounded up by police and on the verge of being deported when our church pastor stepped in and advocated for his release.
He says that as long as he is living, he wants to stay in this country and serve in our church’s ministry. His humility, perseverance, courage and gentleness are reminders to me that our work here has real impacts on the lives of countless individuals–both in our church volunteer teams and in the populations that we serve.
We finished the day dinner for the church team where we laughed, shared hard stories and continued building a beloved community. I went to bed that night exhausted and full, humbled again at the opportunity that I’ve been given to witness transformation in action, to hold vulnerable stories and to love people in suffering.