Wednesday, June 14, 2017


I experienced two light earthquakes while living in California--both were minor. To experience dependable mother earth, showing her muscle lightly, even playfully, is kind of fun--especially when the shaking stops without incurring damage or hardship.

So when yesterday's quake was 15 seconds and the jolts were strong, I had a much different earthquake experience. When I learned the quake had done extensive damage to twelve villages south of us, causing one death, 15 injuries and displacement of 800 people, I felt vulnerable. I had escaped the worst of it, but others didn't. This seems to be a constant in our world.

Had it been worse in Mystenga, I would have been at the mercy of compassionate, hardworking rescuers; I may have had to seek shelter at the mercy of others. I almost knew what it was like; I'm so thankful I didn't. Yet, it gave me the slightest insight into what our refugees in the camps must have felt like, must feel like still--everyday. The sincere "Thank you," when we drop off the breakfast meal has its root in the vulnerability that preceded reaching the refugee camp.

Mosul Iraq is the last ISIS stronghold in that region. The extremists have terrorized the city for six months, and now that US backed Iraqi forces are pushing them out, the people are fleeing out of desperation. Video footage is available through an internet search, but the images, the voices, are traumatizing.  When Iraqi forces overtook a part of Mosul back from ISIS, the residents held captive for months ran for their lives. It was their chance at freedom. The feelings of vulnerability from fleeing one's home with hope of preserving life, must be insurmountably difficult. Now they must depend on others. The good guys. Where would they be without the good guys?

Not everyone made it safely out of danger. The mother of an infant is shot dead. A child hides under her dead mother's burka for two days before she is rescued.

I am surrounded by the vulnerable, surrounded by people who care for the vulnerable.

While counting cheese slices one night, I stand next to Neema. Part of the initial conversations between aid workers always includes the question, "What brought you here to Kara Tepe refugee camp?" For Neema, the answer was that he had once been a refugee from Iran who was settled in the Netherlands. "I know what it's like," he says.

"What is it like?" I ask.


We have all felt uncertainty to varying degrees, but few of us have felt it in relationship to our country, to our home, to how the world will treat us, refuse us, or accept us.

Earthquakes are measured by the Richter scale which is a logarithmic scale. Each time a value increases by 1, it means the earthquake is 10 times more powerful than the previous number. So an earthquake at 6 is 10 times more powerful than an earthquake measured at 5. An earthquake that measures at 8 is a thousand times more intense than the earthquake measured at 5.

Now, think of the last time you felt uncertainty. Maybe it came with a new job or a loss of direction. Now think about the threat of invasion in your city and the uncertainty magnifies by ten; think about fleeing for your life and the uncertainty magnifies by 100, even 1000.

Welcome to the daily life of a refugee.

"If the sea seems like a place of safety, then earth must be hell." Quote from a video of a refugee boat rescue

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