Diocesan leaders’ lessons: Operation Refugee

Diocesan leaders’ lessons: Operation Refugee

Rev Andrea Lukin and our diocesan Children and Families Ministry Enabler, Colette Stevens, both embarked on a week-long challenge to raise money for internally displaced people in Syria, through the Christian World Service’s Operation Refugee.  Between them and their supporters, they raised over $1,300 of the $31,000 raised around the country, which will go a long way towards improving the lives of refugees living in Syrian refugee camps.

The experience involved eating like a refugee for a week – and it wasn’t a pleasant experience, according to Andrea and Colette.  “The biggest question to myself was ‘how on earth do people live on this, week after week?!'” Andrea shared.  Participants received a three-quarters-full shoebox of food to last them a week, which aimed to replicate the rations available to refugees in camps.  Colette shared: “When I looked inside the box – reality bit. There were ziplock bags of chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, flour and salt, a small bottle of canola oil (200ml) and a large tin of tuna. This was my food for FIVE days.”

Facing a week of restrictions, particularly around family who were tucking into their normal fare, was a sobering experience.  Andrea said “I gained an awareness of the struggle and plight of others in the world who have so little.  The families that are forced out of their homes and travel away into different lands to flee from persecution, they need all the prayers and help we can give them.  But what about our very own neighbours?  Are we aware of families in our own community who are struggling, living in poverty, have come here from other countries for whatever reason?”

Colette was thankful for everyone’s donations, but also their words of encouragement and their prayer support.  She said one of the most touching moments was when she visited an early childhood centre in Waikanae and shared about her experience.   “I showed them pictures and shared some stories about what life in a refugee camp is like. Together we prayed for refugee families and the prayers of these amazing four-year-olds really touched my heart. ‘Thank you God, the people no more shooting houses and they all together;’ ‘Thank you for the water and please give them a lot more to drink with warm water for a shower. Soon not more war in Syria.'”

Overall, the experience has taught Andrea and Colette a new lesson in gratitude.  “I’ve learnt to be grateful for the many choices I have every day. Choices about where I live, what I eat, how I spend my time and money. I have also learnt to make great flat bread and rice, many, many different ways,” shares Colette.