published in Refugees on April 9, 2018

When God ‘bumps’ you

James Macharia leads the Lutheran World Federation team caring for refugees in the Muslim country of Djibouti.

A generic square placeholder image with rounded corners in a figure.
There is a lot of talk in Australia about how we welcome refugees, and how we can best live together in a multicultural, multi-faith community.

Working in one of the toughest places on earth, with refugees who have suffered awful traumas, leading a team of 150 staff of whom only two are Christian, James is in a unique position to talk about how his Christian faith comes to life in the work you support through ALWS…

“God knew our world would be evil, so he puts people like us to be there to bring change.

For me, it was like bumping into something. I think God had different thoughts to me. I wanted to be a pilot, and then I considered the military, and I thought about Law … but I lost interest.

When I joined the refugee work, I at first felt a lot of pity for them, and the situation they are in.

The women left on their own with many children, the widows, the people with disabilities, those who had been abused. There is always a different case you meet that can touch your heart, but I realised being overwhelmed with pity may not be the best way to help.

I ask the question what is the difference between us that I have the life I have, and they have the life they have? This really weighed me down. So I do my best to help.

No one chooses to be a refugee.

Many refugees are separated from their family, and may not know when they will ever see them again. While I too am separated from my family, I know I will see them. So I know that I am blessed.

That’s why, even when the work is frustrating, you know you have much more yourself than the refugee. We are blessed, so we can care for others.

LWF has a lot more support from the Muslim community than other agencies.

One meeting we were with the refugees, and they told the meeting that LWF was doing the best work.

They talked about our care for the most vulnerable, and how we even help them carry their food home from the distribution. If someone dies, we help them with the funeral costs to transport the body. They said we care for the most vulnerable.

I think it is because we put the refugees first, and because we are driven by God’s love, and sharing it with others. People see the spirit of God in us.”