Ann MacFarlane:

Refugees are like you and me

They step off the boats praising God for their safe arrival in Italy, but many refugees have been through unspeakable horrors on their journey. BMS World Mission worker Ann MacFarlane witnessed first-hand the people coming ashore, and has seen God at work in their lives.

Blessing arrived in such a state, she had to be sedated. It broke my heart. She’d travelled across the ocean with a group of people in a small dinghy, including her children, a five and a six-year-old. As they approached the Italian coast, a boat came to rescue them. The refugees started to stand and cheer. In the excitement, the dinghy capsized, throwing everyone into the sea. In the panic, Blessing saw her two boys drown in front of her. Their bodies were never recovered.

When she arrived at the port, there was nowhere for Blessing to go. There was no way the authorities could put her in a mother and child facility, so my husband David and I took her into our home. Blessing ended up staying with us for three weeks until they found a place for her to go, a place where she could get the counselling and psychological help she needed.

Ann and David MacFarlane, who have been serving the Church in Italy for 24 years

People like Blessing kept arriving, almost daily. The boats kept coming, and to begin with I felt helpless. I felt like there was nothing I could do. But as a Christian, I believed that I couldn’t follow a living God and not do something. So, I started to do whatever I could to help the refugees who were arriving every day. I would welcome them as they came off the boats. Alongside an army of volunteers and people from our church, we would offer water. We would give them snacks, work alongside the doctors and help to translate. We would do anything we could to help.

Preparing snacks and drinks to give to refugees arriving on the coast of Italy
Volunteers preparing snacks and drinks to give to refugees arriving on the coast of Italy

Some of the people arriving had been raped or tortured, others had terrible injuries, and the majority had travelled through desert and ocean just to get somewhere safe. The people we met had been through horrific things. Things that no-one should be put through.

But we’ve seen God at work. We’ve seen miracles happen and I’m constantly reminded of his greatness. I’ve sat with a woman giving birth in a hospital the very same day she came ashore. I’ve sat with that very same woman in church, praying for months on end for her husband to arrive, unsure of where he was. And I’ve rejoiced as I’ve seen them reunited. I’ve listened to a man desperate to see his wife again after they were separated on their way to Europe. And I’ve seen him, months later, overjoyed, as they were reunited. We celebrated the birth of their baby boy and dedicated him a few months later. Throughout all of this, we saw God’s provision. We saw God’s hand in everything.

A refugee with hew newborn baby
One of the courageous refugees Ann met with her newborn baby

God has taught me that the people arriving on boats are no different from you or me. Christ doesn’t see us as different. To him, we’re all the same. We have blood that runs through our veins. We all have souls. And I can’t help but praise God for all that he does for these people. Through all the horrible things that have gone on, God has been there. It’s heart-wrenching to see what people have been through. I can’t really put it into words how I personally feel, except that I am humbled to have been there alongside them.

Ann MacFarlane tells us what you can be praying for:

To him, we’re all the same. We have blood that runs through our veins. We all have souls.

I’d like to ask you to keep praying for the people at the heart of the ongoing refugee crisis in southern Italy. Pray for our church fellowship in Reggio Calabria, who have opened their hearts to what’s going on and have been so faithful in serving God. Pray for the new leaders and volunteers of the church who are taking over from us, that they would continue to welcome refugees and be there for them. And finally, pray for David and me, that as we leave Italy, we would know where God is wanting us to go next.

We have come to the end of our time with BMS in Italy, and it has been a privilege. Thank you so much for your prayers and support during our time with BMS. Knowing we had people back home praying for us daily and supporting our work was humbling, and made us know that we weren’t alone in all that God was doing in Reggio Calabria. We know that God has plenty of things for us to do to continue bringing glory to him.

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Thank you

Ann and David MacFarlane worked with BMS World Mission in Italy for 24 years, pastoring various churches and getting involved with social action projects. They’ve done an amazing job and will be missed by their church in Reggio Calabria. Thank you so much for supporting them. And thank you Ann and David for all the work you’ve done!

Posted on: December 14 2017

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