As night fell around me and the temperature plunged, I watched several buses packed with passengers pull into the refugee camp in Albița, Romania. My heart broke as I saw mostly women and children pour out, all from Ukraine, in what has become the fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.
Distressed and exhausted, most of the women seemed able to focus only on the immediate future — the next stop on their journey, the next meal, the next place to sleep. Better to focus forward than on the immediate past — leaving their husbands, other loved ones, and homes behind in Ukraine.
Talking with them, I couldn’t help but think of other people I’ve met near borders. A physically disabled boy who fled fighting in South Sudan, crawling by himself through the jungle for a week to reach Bidibidi refugee settlement in northern Uganda. A Rohingya mom in a camp in Bangladesh, weeping as she described tying her children to her body with a scarf before forging a river. And in Colombia, families overwhelmed by having to start over after fleeing the economic devastation of Venezuela, a place I once called home.
Different circumstances — same desperation.
You don’t need to be an eyewitness to be deeply affected by the world’s suffering. News headlines from Ukraine break our hearts on a daily basis. And the stories from Afghanistan of war-weary families on the brink of starvation are just as upsetting. How do we process all the pain?
I believe that the only way through it is to embrace not just the pain but also the beauty. Yes, the beauty — it’s always there amid the suffering.
As Christians, we know that God is present in the pain. That’s the starting point to embracing the beauty. And it’s realized in our response to suffering. It’s when we look at every person in crisis and see Jesus, heeding His words in Matthew 25:35 — “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.”
Seeing these familiar words come vividly to life at the borders of war and in refugee camps is unbearably beautiful.
At the Ukraine border, I saw beauty in the way Romanians stepped up to help families in desperate circumstances, including posting signs on store windows offering free food and drink for refugees. I saw it in our World Vision staff who showed up every day, working long hours in the cold to show love.
Beauty is also found in Afghanistan, in the brightness of a child’s eyes as they receive treatment for malnutrition at a health center and begin to recover.
Our faith gives us an opportunity, even at the worst of times and in the most dangerous places, to bear witness to Jesus’ victory over pain. To demonstrate our trust in His promise in John 16:33 that “in this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Yes, Jesus has conquered all! That’s what inspires us as His followers to respond to the bad news of the world with the good news of the gospel. To highlight the beauty of God’s kingdom — on earth as it is in heaven — amid the pain.
Thank you for joining us in the world-changing mission to serve our brothers and sisters in need with the love and hope that is within us. That hope has a name: Jesus Christ!
Edgar Sandoval Sr. is president and CEO of World Vision U.S. Follow him on Twitter.