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Make a difference...

Make a difference... I recently returned from a week volunteering on the Greek Island of Chios. My heart has been breaking for a number of years now over the plight of people escaping their own countries to seek safety in another. We call these people refugees. We give them a label. Them over there - refugees.

During my week in Chios I stopped using that word. The people I was helping are you and I. People. Not some ‘other’ that are over there.

Jesus, as an infant child, found himself on the run - escaping from his birth place to another country, Egypt, until it was safe to return.

The people in the camps I was working in all want to go home and their hope is that someday that might be possible. But for now they are where they are - on a Greek Island.

Jesus reminded the Jews, when challenged, about the greatest commandment that we were to love God with all our heart soul strength and mind and that we were to love our neighbour as we love ourselves. (Matthew 22:34-39)

Sitting on a hard floor in a stuffy airless cabin chatting with a family we got to know was a humbling experience. Sharing time with them you could not fail to realise that they are just like you and me. They have the same hopes and dreams for their children as I have for mine. They want to be living in a place that is safe and where their children can grow and flourish. This family are my neighbours.

Speaking to one young man, just 22 years of age, the same age as my son, was perhaps the hardest part of my trip. Here was a young man with his future snatched from him by a situation not of his making. A bright young man who wanted nothing more than to finish his university degree and be back home in Aleppo. This young man is my neighbour.

I am involved in a local group set up to do what we can to help displaced people - those in other countries and those who have recently moved to Moray. Jesus, teaching about neighbourliness, guides my heart, mind, strength and soul in the work I do for this group. We may only be able to help a few people - the global movement of people is huge.

But I am constantly reminded of the story of the man walking along the beach. He spots a boy in the distance throwing things into the sea. As he approaches he realises the boy is throwing star fish that have been washed ashore back into the water. There are hundreds covering the beach. He approaches the boy and comments to him ‘there are too many - you can’t possibly make a difference!’ The boy looks at him, picks up another star fish and throws it back into the water and he says to the man ‘no I can’t, but I just made a difference to that one.’

Individually we may not be able to help all our neighbours but if we help just one person we have made a difference to them. As I continue to reflect on my week on Chios I am grateful to those I got to know. They told me that visits from people like myself and my travelling companion gave them hope - hope that people cared. I am not sure they quite know how much spending time with them meant to me. But I promised them I would tell people about them and I would highlight their situation. They are the neighbours that Jesus reminded us we should love... and I know I left a piece of my heart on Chios.

Rev Shuna Dicks
Aberlour Parish Church