God had been leading me there for years; I just didn’t know it. The quiet whispers, the stirring of my heart, the trips oversees, the deferred and fulfilled hopes and dreams.
It was a Wednesday night, and my husband, Jason, and I heard there was a group of Americans and refugees holding a prayer meeting. After living oversees (and loving it), we were looking to connect with people from other cultures. The meeting was great, and we left anticipating what would come!
We stopped at a little taco joint in the area with a couple of friends. Two bites into my carnitas, I heard a man’s voice coming from behind me. “Give me your money right now.” I turned slowly, my eyes met his, then they met the gun he was pointing at my husband. The story is rather long, so I will spare you the details, but after some negotiating (and protection from the Holy Spirit) we left unscathed.
A few days went by, and we could not stop thinking about that night, about the vulnerable space we were in and what the refugees being resettled in that community must be experiencing. We knew what God was asking us to risk: our safety, comfort, and maybe even the life we had dreamed of creating. After praying together with friends and seeking the council of trusted mentors, we broke our apartment lease and signed a new one in what was one of the most crime ridden, dangerous places to live in Dallas.
I am sure you can imagine the fears and tensions we were experiencing. Neither of us had lived in an area like this before. The roaches in our kitchen and the mold in the bathroom seemed to serve as daily reminders of the prevalent darkness we had entered.
The stories we were hearing from our refugee neighbors were unimaginable. The destruction of their countries; fleeing for their lives; losing children, husbands, wives to those who sought to destroy them. My eyes were opening to their pain, and my heart was moving toward it like a freight train. As my husband says, I went from “woke to wrecked.”
How could God allow these things to happen? Where was He? What did blessing and goodness look like for persecuted people living on the margins of society? I was overwhelmed with emotions — not good ones. I just could not understand God’s plan and purpose in the lives of my new friends from around the world, people I was growing to love. I needed God to show me a glimpse of hope somewhere in these stories.
That is the amazing thing about God: we can ask Him these questions, and He answers. In my anger, in my fist shaking, in my doubt, He started to whisper things to me about “heaven on earth.” Wait, what? What are you talking about? Heaven on earth? This is hell. Yet He kept saying the same thing: “on earth as it is in heaven.”
It was here, in my questioning and confusion, that I started learning about the “upside down kingdom of Jesus.” As I entered into the lives of people who didn’t look like me, think like me, or even believe like me, I saw the sermon on the mount come to life. I saw what Jesus was driving home about His life, the life in His Kingdom, and the goal of His mission: a simple yet powerful love of others — all others. All of us, and all of “them,” too. So we said “yes” to joining Jesus in loving others. We took a step toward His radical love and began to pursue the flourishing and shalom of these extraordinary people.
Through all of this learning, changing, hurting, hoping, praying, breaking, my husband and I started a non-profit, Seek the Peace. At Seek, our mission is simple: we cultivate relationships with refugees and journey with them. Together, with our unlikely friends, we discover what flourishing looks like in their lives and in ours.
Jesus keeps showing me that His kingdom is about people; it’s about the space between me and you, between you and someone else, between us and them, between the created and creation. It is who we are and what we do in the space between us that defines whether this kingdom becomes tangible and produces flourishing for others.
This is it. This is the place God had been leading me all those years ago, to His kingdom on earth.