“White people come to my country, and we welcome them and show them love. But here, they don’t like black people.” This was not a conversation I was expecting to have in Venice.
Anna and I have just finished our first three months of school at G42 in Mijas, Spain. It has been a time of blowing up my perspectives of God, and recontructing Him as even more loving than I had previously understood. Healing is in the works in both my life, and my wife’s.
At the end of the month we head to Thailand to partner with a ministry on the border of Myanmar called Outpour. Our work will be varied, and a lot of it is to be determined, but what we do know is that we will be working alongside Thai and Burmese people, helping them attain skills so that they can be better equipped to get jobs.
After three months in Thailand, we will then head back to Mijas for three more months of school.
Currently, Anna and I—and the rest of our class—are on a short break before our practicums. One of the greateset things about being in Europe is that flights are crazy cheap! So, naturally, we flew to Paris with most of our class on 20 euro flights and found the cheapest hostel possible. We celebrated Anna’s birthday in style.
After spending a couple of days in Paris with the group, Anna and I are now alone in Venice.
Unfortunately, Anna is having a bout’ with one of her migraines, and is fighting sickness. With Anna down, I’ve taken to roaming the city by myself.
I quickly noticed many African men on the corners of streets and over bridges in this ethereal city, wrapped in jackets, hats out, asking for help.
With no plans or agendas, I decided to pursue these individuals and hear their stories (I’m chuckling to myself as I write that last sentence. It’s such a good depiction of my privilege of being a white American man, as I strolled around Venice with nothing to do).
In my first conversation with one man, I learned that he is only 19 years old. He fled his country because it is illegal to be gay, and he had been found out. After being raped by people who had power over him, and facing a large time in jail, he took off across the Mediterranean for Italy. Now he is alone, without his family or any legitimate way to work to make money. Getting his “documents” seems to be an impossible task without hiring an expensive lawyer he can’t afford.
Another man I spoke to fled from his country because “it’s only war, war, war there. And here, here is peaceful. I cannot go back to my country.” He has had no success on getting documents that would enable him to work.
Another man I spoke to had loneliness and hoplessness coming off of him. He is 18 years old. He described to me that to go back to his country would put his life in danger.
With all of the men I talked to, I offered them a couple Euro, listened to their story, told them that they were seen, and asked if I could pray with them.
Each one of them were downcast and skeptical when I started talking, and all of them ended up being so thankful that their existence was acknowledged. “Yes! I am Christian too, please pray for me…”
After praying, one man said to me, “I have never experienced love from a white man before… White people come to my country, and we welcome them and show them love. But here, they don’t like black people.“
With tears welling up in my eyes, all I could say was, “I am so, sorry. I know what you say is true.”
I didn’t change anyone’s circumstances today. But as I said my farewell to each man, they had smiles on their faces.
As I walked back to my hostel, I passed one of the same men again. I greeted him once more, and he told me, “Kevin, you must know that when you left after we talked, I just felt so happy.” I told him that the happiness he experienced was just a small taste of heaven here on earth. That the two of us together ushered in heaven, even in the midst of difficult circumstances.
I am writing this blog for a couple of reasons—but one of them is not to talk about how great I am. My purpose in describing how I reached out to these guys is to show that we have so many invitations to bring heaven to earth everyday by simply acknowledging people’s existence.
I have no idea what should be done to help people like these refugees in need—many of whom have experienced hell on earth—but I do know that Christ in me has the ability to breath life into someone that is filled with hopelessness.
There are people in need all over our cities in America. You don’t need to go to an impoverished country—or Venice 😉—to discover that. White people, take a moment to engage with someone who doesn’t look like you, and enter their world for a moment. Even if you feel like you “fail” in your attempt to interact and love a person, it’s worth it.
Thanks for reading.