A personal view of working with refugees

By Catherine Campbell

The beauty and mystery of this world only emerges through affection, attention, interest, and compassion… open your eyes wide and actually see this world by attending to its colors, details and irony.” -Orhan Pamuk. 

Growing up in eastern North Carolina, I know the beauty of crystal coast waters, a rolling piedmont, and mountains as hazy and blue as jazz. Yet nothing had prepared me to witness the vibrancy of a country where east truly meets west and the cultures sing and whirl incessantly like a dervish in his dance. At the beginning of my graduate studies at Campbell University Divinity School, my study abroad in Turkey took me to the ruins of vast ancient cities, to the colorful markets, to daily life alongside people who love and live each day with a tradition of hospitality. While the beauty remains at the forefront of my memories, the pain and poverty of those on the edges of a society is a steadfast reminder of the complexity and mystery of our world. 

So often as Americans, unless we go out of our way to really befriend those experiencing homelessness or being human trafficked, our concept of developing or third world poverty is incredibly skewed. A sad song comes on the TV commercial and images flood the screen of vacant, sad eyes. The first time I went to the refugee camp out in the countryside of Turkey, I felt my worldview burst as it expanded beyond its previously content bubble; and yet, I still witnessed hope. Here were a people without a home, strangers in a foreign land, using what little found resources available to make shelter and survive. But their hospitality and warmth remained. I drank çay with mothers, said English ABCs with school children, and for a short while, snuggled with a two year old so her mother could have rest. We laughed and smiled, but with the void of possessions and a plethora of dust and debris surrounding me, emotions of anger at the injustice still welled up; how can our brothers and sisters live like this? When our time was over, I was saddened to say goodbye to these fellow travelers and found myself silently praying, that they too would be remembered.