By Shawna Stomberger (Lexington Ave. Baptist, Danville)
I traveled to Morocco so that I could be your eyes and ears, so let me give you a short synopsis of what I saw and what I heard . . .I heard the Muslim “call to prayer” bellowed across the land 5 times a day. I saw extremely intelligent students from all over Africa, attending Moroccan universities and I heard their stories. They are in desperate need of the scholarships made possible in part by KBF. The majority of these students have already lost one or both parents, never get to visit their families, and hardly ever get to talk to anyone from home. There is no other supportsystem – no tuition assistance. They often go days without food and are forced to complete demeaning tasks to scrape together a few coins. Yet, they are the hope for a stable Africa. They are filled with ideas of how they will use their new knowledge to solve problems within their countries.
At the Moroccan border, I saw refugees from all over Africa hiding out in deserted, crumbling villages or in makeshift tents in the forest. They were fleeing famine, war, massacres, rape, etc. They were hungry, they were dirty, and they were desperate. It had taken them months to travel through desserts, and their hope for a brighter future was waning. But, amazingly, I heard these same refugees singing praises to God.
I saw a refugee named Moise living in a drab 8x8 room. As his wife, children, and he were escaping war in the Congo, he was brutally beaten and partially paralyzed. He got his family to safety in Cameroon, and traveled to Morocco in hopes of receiving medical care. He crawls to get to the filthy bathroom shared by all the tenants. When asked what we could get him, his reply was a Bible.
I saw a 15 year old boy who had just escaped massacre in the Ivory Coast. His father had been killed and his mother was nowhere to be found. He was eating and sleeping wherever he could find. He was running a fever and had a deep cough. I heard numerous Moroccan and other human rights organizations explain the horrors of the refugee situation that they’ve witnessed while trying to improve the situation.
I saw the steeple of our partner church in Rabat, one of the legal places of Christian worship in Morocco, acting as a beacon of light to the oppressed. And I heard the congregation’s joyous singing. I saw the few protestant churches in Morocco pool their resources of money, people, and time to serve the refugees. They visited, they encouraged, they financed, they clothed, and they fed. Yet their resources are meager, for most of them are college students like I mentioned earlier.
I saw D’aichari, a doctoral student from Mali. Sent by the protestant churches, he travels tirelessly all over Morocco checking on refugees and organizing ways to meet their human needs. He is passionate in all he says and does. He will continue to serve until he graduates and is no longer legal in Morocco. I wish you could have heard him pray with your own ears. Organized by the protestant churches, I saw migrants being trained by other migrants in the areas of upholstery, catering, hair styling, sewing, and autorepair - - offering a means of survival and hope.
And on our last day, I met a refugee from Senegal. He had recently been beaten and left barefoot in the desert. Rescued by church officials, he had completed the catering training and prepared our Sunday lunch.It was delicious. I was Lexington Avenue Baptist Church's eyes and ears for a short period. Now I challenge all of us to be the complete body of Christ among the suffering in Morocco.