Facing my Fear – Spring Break Day One

My view over the Mediterranean. And the Atlantic. And much of Europe. It all pretty much looked the same.

Driving from the airport.

Day one of our trip to learn more about the Syrian refugee crisis and the work of World Relief in the region is in the books. I’ll admit, I didn’t sleep much Saturday night at home before leaving on this trip. I was feeling anxious about the trip itself, and I also don’t ever really love leaving my family at home. Not that I worry about them being without me, it’s just that it’s spring break and I hate missing time with my family. As soon as Amanda and I talked about this trip, though, she said, “You have to go on this trip. I will miss you during spring break, but you have to do this.”

I really have no idea what to expect on this trip. In a weird way, I’m hoping to have my heart broken. Not because I really want to have my heart broken, but because I’m hoping to, at least in some small way, step in to the suffering that people are experiencing here. Even if just for a moment, I hope to step in to solidarity with people who are hurting, with people who have had their hearts broken, and I hope that by doing so, my heart will also be broken for them. Often people sing and say to God, “Break my heart for what breaks yours.” That’s my prayer as I prepare to go on this trip.

They are probably mostly unfounded, but I’m recognizing that I do have some concerns for my safety on this trip. Three years ago when I traveled to Israel, there was only one time that I felt unsafe (outside of the airport in New York, but that’s another story!), and that’s when a friend and I ended up missing our cab in Jerusalem and walking a couple miles back to the hotel by ourselves at night. No incident happened then that made me feel unsafe, I think it was just the uneasiness of it all, being in a different place, not understanding the language, feeling helpless if I needed to be able to explain myself to someone.

I guess I have some similar concerns about this trip. Different place. Completely foreign to me. There are language, cultural, and religious barriers. And then if I’m perfectly honest, there’s the added complexity that I feel of being an American right now in the Middle East. It’s a complete question mark to me: What’s the attitude of people in the Arab world, the Muslim world, toward Americans right now? What’s the coverage of our politics been like here? What’s the perception the people here have of “regular” Americans? Are we seen as a threat? Are we seen as intolerant and oppressive? Are we seen as the enemy as much as many Americans see Muslims and Middle Easterners as the enemy right now? Will all of that play into our safety and how we’re treated here?

Maybe this is my first heartbreaking insight, this fear that I’m facing – I guess what I’m really asking and what I’m really fearing is “Will I be treated here the way that many Middle Easterners and Muslims are treated in our country right now?” For just a few days, I guess I’m experiencing this from the other side, what so many people face as they make the trip from here in the Middle East to there at home. I don’t know the language. I don’t know the culture. I don’t know what I don’t know. I fear the perception that other people have of me for things that are not of my own doing.

I’m facing that for less than a week this week, what’s it like to face that for the foreseeable future? What must that feel like? What does it feel like to flee from your home for fear of your safety and the lives of your children and to go to a completely new and foreign place where you have no idea how you’ll be welcomed and who will greet you when you arrive?

I am praying that my eyes and heart are opened on this trip, that I will I see and experience things on this trip and can begin to better understand how to love and serve my neighbors, both here and around the world. I know that God is working here because I believe that God is working everywhere. I will be interested to see that from a new perspective this week.

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One thought on “Facing my Fear – Spring Break Day One

  1. Travis- I am praying that this experience will open your heart in ways you cannot imagine. I am trusting you to bring back stories about what you learn and feel about being there. Thank you for being on this journey- so many of us will be touched by your experiences and the way your heart interprets them. Praying for your safety and for all those involved in your travel plans to make good decisions!