Jeanne Damoff Story
If I know I’m going to be traveling to a new place, I like to plan ahead and go prepared. What will the weather be like? Will I fly or drive? How many days will I be gone, and where will I stay?
I try to make sure I pack everything I might possibly need or want, and I leave as little as possible to chance.
But no matter how much I prepare, I really don’t have as much control over my experience as I like to think I have. None of us do.
No one knows this better than a refugee. You embark on a trip you never wanted to take, leaving behind almost everything that means home. You head out, not knowing where you will end up, but knowing you can’t stay. You take what little you can, with no way of knowing when or if you’ll ever be able to return. It’s impossible to plan ahead. Impossible to prepare.
But it’s still possible to hope.
Because you’re not alone. There’s Someone who knows and understands exactly what you’re going through.
Even before God created the world, He knew humans would stumble into all kinds of brokenness, and He planned a way to save us from it. He did it by entering right into the middle of our mess — not as an imposing king, but as a tiny baby. Not born into comfort and ease, but born in humility — to working class parents who were forced to leave their home in Nazareth and travel to Bethlehem for a census, even though Mary was nine months pregnant. They had no control over the decision to go and could take only what they could carry.
The prophet Micah had predicted the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, but Joseph and Mary somehow didn’t make the connection. If they had, they probably wouldn’t have waited till Mary’s final days of pregnancy before heading out on this trip of about 80 miles. They had to walk, which would have taken a minimum of four days, or closer to ten days if they used a donkey. Once they arrived, they had no place to stay, and Mary’s labor pains were starting. She had no clean, comfortable bed. No adorable baby clothes, diapers, or other supplies. No professional photographer standing by to capture their first adoring glances at their newborn.
Christmas carols and porcelain nativity sets to the contrary, there was nothing quiet, calm, or charming about Mary’s birth experience. Her bed was the dirty floor of a stable and her attendants were smelly animals. When the newborn Savior of the world emerged from His mother’s womb, He was caught by the rough, unwashed hands of a carpenter.
And it all happened exactly as God planned.
Because Jesus didn’t come to be served, but to serve, and to be a ransom for many. He was always going to be a sympathetic high priest who understands the fear, uncertainty, and weariness of humans — all of us strangers and exiles in this broken world, whether we realize it or not.
The refugee has a friend in Jesus. And when I come alongside the refugee, I get to know Jesus in ways I didn’t know Him before.
Which is one of the many reasons I love volunteering at Refugee Resources, promoting literacy among refugee children and loving them in Jesus’ name. I look into the beautiful dark brown eyes of my mentee, Hung, and I see so much more than a smart, cute, resilient little girl. I see a story. A journey from Burma to America. A journey of many unknowns and very little control, but one that has landed her family in a community where there are people who see them and love them and want them to flourish.
Yes, I help Hung polish her reading skills. But I also learn about her family and what she thinks about her peers and teachers. What she loves. What she’s concerned about. Her dreams and hopes. Like every other nine year old, she’s figuring out who she is and where she fits in this big world, and that can be scary for anyone. I get to be a small part of making sure she knows how much she matters to God and to me.
It was God’s plan for Jesus to be born in Bethlehem, and He did what was necessary to make that happen. I believe it was also God’s plan for Hung to come to America, and He is intimately involved in her life’s story.
Immanuel. God with us. All of us. This is the hope of Christmas.
May it shine in our hearts all year long.