Small Reaches for Hope

I will never forget those faces. Wide-eyed. Frightened. Refik, age 8, and his 5-year-old sister, Zineta, had begun their long journey by boarding a bus in Zagreb with their parents some 20 hours before. They rode to Vienna, where they took a plane to Frankfurt, then on to New York, and finally to Atlanta.

The weariness and strain were evident on the faces of their parents. Their father wore a badge identifying the family as refugees. Traveling with them was a mother and daughter who had lost all their other family members—a husband and two sons killed back home in Bosnia.

Members of Jubilee Partners, a community in rural, northeast Georgia, were meeting them at the airport—as they had welcomed so many strangers before into their life for a time. I was visiting the community when the two families arrived.

A translator asked gentle questions, while the other adults rushed to collect an array of baggage from a moving carousel. Announcements blared through the busy terminal, and local Atlantans stopped and stared in curiosity before hurrying by.

I kept an eye on Refik and Zineta as they edged barely noticed to the back of the crowd. Alone, in their own little corner, Refik reached out and took Zineta’s hand. Their eyes stared straight ahead, and they exchanged no words; but his gesture was one of protection and reassurance.

IN THOSE EYES, I saw other children. Refik’s simple, loving reach carried me back to a day just breaking in Nicaragua, when mist hung low on simple crosses stuck in thick grass in the border town of Jalapa. In that place, surrounded by martyrs of Nicaragua’s long struggle for freedom, I heard a giggle break the stillness.

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Sojourners Magazine July 1994
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