I recently heard an account of a Refugee who had had to escape a war-ravaged country with his wife and older children, and, eventually found refuge in Huddersfield West Yorkshire (close to where I was brought up). He recalled that he had an influential job as a lecturer in a prominent University in Syria, but also spoke of his great passion as a bee-keeper. He smiled warmly as he recalled the 500 plus hives, and the number of people he was able to employ.
He spoke of the pain of having to leave everything behind, his home, members of his family, his job, his hobby as not only had his livelihood been threatened, but his life and that of his family also. He fled not knowing where they would go, or where they would find welcome. Eventually they found themselves in England, where they received a generous welcome and hospitality, and the means to put down roots.
His expressions fluctuated from one of pain and sadness to a serene smile, but by far his best facial expression was reserved when he recalled being invited to become a member of the local Bee-Keeping Society. It took two years - but the wait was clearly worth it! It signified that he and his family had been accepted within their community, and no longer considered 'cumer-in-ers' (it's a Yorkshire expression but equivalent saying abound that refers to a person that has come in from somewhere else).
Not only has he brought his own expertise to the Society, but he has negotiated with a charity to set up a community partnership scheme with the help of the Local Authority which aims to develop bee-keeping in the area for the benefit of all. The Local Authority have loaned land to the Community Partnership Scheme which is by the side of the canal for the hives, a charity has donated plants and seeds that will encourage bees, schools are involved in preparing the ground and planting, and another organisation is encouraging people to sign up to the Project.
The wonderful thing being developed is a place where young and old; unemployed and adults with learning difficulties, local residents and refugees are all working and learning together, and discovering new skills as well as enjoying good company and lots of fresh air! One group were seen building the hives, while another were painting them, and another placing the hives in allocated places. This is only the beginning of the Project, which will develop through the production, bottling and creation of dishes with locally produced honey.
The article drew to a close by illustrating a vast array of Syrian dishes that contained home produced honey. One of which looked like a yogurt made with Yorkshire milk as its main ingredient. He was asked for the recipe of this amazing dish but gracefully declined saying 'it was a secret'. He was asked what the Yorkshire milk brought to his Syrian dish, to which he readily replied: 'the Yorkshire milk is its heart'. I took it that it was his way of saying that the folk around him had opened their hearts in a generous welcome, and his own heart had been repaired and transformed thus enabling him to respond in like generosity.
I was reminded through this retelling of a life-changing experience, of three key passages of scripture:
We know that throughout the earthly life of Jesus Christ, He sought to reveal the very nature of God through His presence, His Word as well as His acceptance of all, which was expressed through loving deeds especially to the poor, the disadvantaged and the 'outsider'. He encourages all those who would follow in His Way to do likewise that the Kingdom of Heaven may be revealed on earth as it is in Heaven. May we endeavour to follow in these footsteps so that hearts might meet and flourish.