If you are like me, you may have followed the Olympic games in Rio. Now that the closing ceremony has taken place, everything from the grit to glory, glorious gold, sparkling silver and beautiful bronze, has gone down in history. But did you know about another factor going down in history?
For the first time ever, the Olympic Refugee Team has competed in the games at Rio.
This team has braved a very long road to the Olympics, representing thousands of refugees in this world. Behind each courageous smile, is a back story.
Yusra Mardini for example, is one of those brave faces. She joined her sister in a wave of Syrian refugees who left Damascus last summer. She is an Olympic swimmer who used her swimming skills to save the people in her boat that began to sink on their way to Greece. It took Yusra 29 days after their boat broke to then reach Germany.
Most of these refugees had to give up family, homes and shattered lives to pick up the pieces and start over again. Some of these athletes lived in refugee camps with huts that they probably built themselves. They couldn’t eat what you would call a “real fit-for-training meal” in the camp. And some may have slept in a one-room hut with their family.
Rami Anis is another Olympic athlete who fled his hometown of Aleppo in 2011 to escape bombings and kidnappings and went to Istanbul to stay with his elder brother. He could train there, but he couldn’t compete until he got on a dinghy aimed for Greece last October. He eventually landed in Belgium where his uncle lived.
“These refugees have no home, no team, no flag, no national anthem,” International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said, as he announced the top ten selected athletes. Half are refugees from South Sudan, two fled Syria, two left the Democratic Republic of the Congo and one is originally from Ethiopia.
“The refugee issue is not a new one, it has happened before but this team gives us all an idea of our shared humanity,” said Tegla Loroupe, one of the long distance track runners.
Even if you may have not thought about it before, Jesus was actually a refugee.
Jesus and his parents were Middle Eastern refugees, and the book of Matthew tells us that after his birth, Mary and Joseph fled with the baby Jesus to Egypt as refugees fleeing from violence.
There is a beautiful verse that I am constantly reminded of when I think about the refugee situation.
“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge.”
If you think you are going through a difficulty or a hardship in your own personal life today, let these brave and beautiful faces be a reminder to you that nothing is impossible. These athletes are champions who represent the faces of those facing crisis. Their strength is an encouragement to us.
So when you hear about the refugee crisis, take heart and pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ, and know that whatever is going on in your personal life, you too can overcome. No hardship is too difficult to turn around. Nothing is impossible with God.
Please continue to pray that God will uplift these amazingly bold individuals, so that they can take heart and know that God is their refuge.