>Living in the Interruptions: EP 3 – Every Christian should have a refugee in their lives

>So on this final installment of my crazy Thursday, I would be remiss to omit my encounter with Paman, the Iranian high school student who was resettled to Chicagoland just about seven months ago. Paman has been attending our high school ministry, and after our gathering last Sunday night, he asked if he could talk with me. I invited him to coffee. That’s the context for the week. Here’s my context for the day:

  • Youth Ministry Fellowship meeting at 8:30 am – 10:00
  • Chance encounter with my Starbucks buddy (see Ep. 1) at 10:30 
  • Gathering with local pastors, church workers to discuss multi-ethnic ministry at 11:30 am – 1:30 pm.
  • Driving Ms. Calvin home from the Glen Ellyn (see Ep. 2) – 2:30 pm
  • Stopping by a friend’s office to kill a bit of time before meeting Paman at 3:30.
When Paman and I finally sat down to talk, he blew me away. I thought maybe he would have questions about Christianity or life in America, etc. As I asked him about his story, here’s what I learned.
  • Paman and his family (minus his two brothers) had to flee Iran because they were in danger for their lives. They were not Muslims, and thus were heavily persecuted.
  • They went to Vienna and lived there for almost a year.
  • Because of their visa status, they couldn’t work. Each time they were just about to run out of money, another family member from Iran would come to live with them bringing enough money to sustain the family for the next months. This happened three times.
  • Paman’s brothers could not leave Iran because of their military obligation. They eventually fulfilled these and were reunited with the family. (Paman’s oldest brother had recently arrived to the US only a month ago).
  • Paman was frustrated that he couldn’t find a job, and his parents were very discouraged. Only a week ago, Paman’s dad had surgery for a bulging disk. The only way they would survive is if the brothers found some work.
  • Paman was not looking forward to the summer because he would be bored. He likes to ride his bike, but it broke, and he was waiting for his friend to fix it.
That’s his story, but the real reason that he wanted to meet with me absolutely floored me. Paman recalled how much he enjoyed listening to the sermons, but one thing really bothered him. He noticed that during the teaching times, kids would kick their Bibles along the floor, text, and not pay attention. This really bothered him because he thought it was disrespectful to the Lord. He was especially upset about how the students treated their Bibles.
At first, I thought that he was being overly sensitive to the Bible as a physically holy book, but the more I listened, the more I stood convicted about my own lax attitude to God’s Word for us. I realized that my anti-traditionalist, legalism-phobia had pushed me too far in terms of seeing the Bible as just another book. There in that coffee shop, Paman, the Iranian refugee high school student, convicted me that I needed to respect and cherish God’s Word, and that it actually began with my attitude towards the physical book. How I treat it, where I bring it, how I hold it, and even keeping track of it are all a part of honoring and revering the Word. It definitely is more than this, but it certainly isn’t any less!

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