Dear Aylan … dear world with a refugee crisis, dear all of us who have needed to be welcomed in

Dear Aylan,

Dear little refugee boy who drowned in the sea — 

You just wanted the dirt I call home, to be your home.

That’s what they said: When they scooped up your little Syrian body on the shores of Turkey, they said you just wanted to get to Canada. 

You could have stayed with us, Aylan. Your whole family could have stayed with us.

Shalom has a new bunny — she calls him Jesse or Jojo, and Malakai calls him Peter Rabbit, and I call him Edward Toulane, and you could have come and played with that floppy eared fur ball, here on the back lawn and just called here home.


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You could have jumped on our couch, Little Aylan, and we would have made you an extra tall stack of steaming pancakes this morning—  and did you know that one of my favourite things in the whole wide world is to stand out in the kitchen garden in the rising fog of the dawn and eat a few cherry tomatoes?

We could have done that barefoot together, Aylan. You could have kneeled and looked for the juiciest, ripest ones. I can see it now, how the juice would have dripped off your chin and you would have grinned from ear to ear. You could have all come. There’s enough room in our hearts. 

There’s enough room for all of you in our imagination of the future, Aylan.  There’s enough room in this land, in our embarrassment of riches, for us to imagine you growing up and opening up books and bringing creative ideas and forging a fresh way and our land needed the hope of you, Aylan. We couldn’t afford to lose you, Aylan.

We couldn’t afford to lose the music only you would make, the ideas only you would have, the world that only could ever be, because you were here with us. There was enough space in our schools, in our streets, in our dreams for you. Your were born for this land’s dreams, Aylan — not a haunting of all our collective nightmares.  

I woke this morning with you haunting all my thoughts, Aylan,  and our national motto echoing in my head: “A mari usque ad mare.” It means “From sea to sea.” 

I thought of that, when I saw that photo of you lying on that beach in Turkey, the waves lapping against your little lifeless head.

You only wanted to get from your bloody sea to our blessed sea, for crying out loud. We’re the ones literally crying out loud now. You only wanted there to be a way across the waves — the endless waves of terror, of gnawing hunger, of bloody battles, of suffocating hopelessness.  From sea to sea — for yours to ours— the whole world between us is filling right now with a sea of tears.

We’re a weeping broken mess over the war that you were born into, ISIS bombs exploding all around you, smoke filling the air over Kobani when you first inhaled this warring world into your lungs.

We’re shattered that for all of your three short years in this huge home that we call the earth, you didn’t know the sun rising over the Rockies or prairie fields of hope or countries of people all with open, beckoning doors —- you only ever knew fear, Aylan. You only knew the death and destruction that is ISIS, you only knew fleeing and running and everywhere, closed doors. We could have done better,  Aylan. You’re begging us all to do better now.

Once I sat at our breakfast table in the thin early light, Aylan, and saw a fawn run right up to our house, right up to our window and press his head right up against the glass because there were guns firing everywhere in the woods. I looked right into the deer’s begging wild-eyed fear, Aylan. I wanted to let it in. 

Why —  why in the name of Almighty God — why did we not let you in, Aylan? 

There may be seemingly impossible seas between the rich and the poor, but how in God’s name can there be distance in the family of God?

They say your Canadian aunt who lives there right at the sea, she begged them to let you in, even went directly to her Canadian member of parliament, who hand delivered a letter to Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander — but the request to let you in, Aylan, was met with a rejecting, slamming door. Hadn’t anybody bothered to looked directly into your begging, wild-eyed fear? But thanks to a strangling mess of bloodied red tape, we all instead get to look into your glassy, wild-eyed death on some Love-forsaken shore. We’re sorry. We’re all sick with this sorry sorrow. 

It may be nauseatingly hard for us all to look at that last photo of your limp body, Aylan —- but you’re seared into all of our collective conscience, Aylan, because the undeniable truth of it is: We can turn a blind eye to the poor all we want, but it could have turned out that we were the poor.

That’s why all of us, from sea to sea, across the sea, we’re not looking away from you, Aylan. The whole world murmurs their repentant beckoning, Aylan: Come to our shores.

Come to our tables, come to our hearths, come fill our playgrounds with your laughter and come fill our land with your dreams.  

There’s always enough room at our tables for those in need, because our imagination and our nation and our transformation have always fed off the truth of abundance and refuse to be poisoned by the myth of scarcity. 

There’s always enough abundance and grace to welcome those in need, because it’s only by abundant grace that any of us are here — and if there’s abundant grace for us, by God, there’s abundant grace for all of us. 

There’s always enough hope because dreams always last longer than the dark.

Possibility is always more potent than past history.

Love always trumps death.

Love always trumps death, Aylan. 

It’s Love for all you were meant to be for all this world, Aylan, that drives us to our pens to ask lawmakers to listen, that causes us to all link arms in brave ways like the regular folk in Iceland and Germany who are banding together to say we will open our homes so the fleeing can find safety.

It’s Love that drives us to not let the fleeing be pushed off this earth and into the sea, but to come up with ways to say: Come. Come and we will hold on to you because we all belong to each other. There are dreams enough for you, there are tomatoes in the garden for you, and a rising sun and hope coming even now for you, and there is no bureaucracy or excuse or reason that can render us impotent, that can paralyze us in helping the immigrant or wild-eyed or the littlest because we know a Love that is infinite. 

When our woods exploded in gunfire, and that deer pressed its own wild-eyed fear up to our glass window, I looked into its eyes, Aylan:

How can we not move heaven and earth to let the broken in —- when heaven moved and came to earth to let us in? 

How you would have loved this morning, Aylan, if we’d let you make it to land, if you had got here…

How you would have sat out on the back lawn in the heavy mist and buried your head into the thick abundance of that rabbit. How you could have heard, right above you, the mourning doves up there somewhere in the filmy spruce trees, cooing this quieting peace…

How your eyes might have danced…

You would have seen it too —

How, about mid-morning, the shroud of fog lifted —-

and you could see a whole new world.



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1. Be Moved 

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AFP/Getty Images

Quick Facts to Understand the Crisis:

–> One Stop to Understand it All

The world is in the worst refugee crisis since World War II.
And Syria’s civil war and the rising of ISIS is the worst humanitarian disaster of our time.

The number of innocent civilians suffering: more than 11 million people are displaced.

Half of those 11 million refugees are under the age of 18. There is no such thing as other people’s children. They are all of our children.

Why are they coming?

–> You Must Read this. 

They are risking everything, — because these families consider themselves dead already..

Right now Syrians consider themselves dead.

Maybe not physically, but psychologically and socially [a Syrian] is a destroyed human being, he’s reached the point of death.”

–> Experience the risk of desperate journey for yourself

–> Tweet a photo of yourself holding a sign saying “Refugees Welcome” and tag your government and or your government representative #refugeecrisis; #refugeeswelcomehere


2. Each One … Do Just One Thing:

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Daniel Etter/The New York Times
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Mauricio Lima/The New York Times



–> Mennonite Central Committee
–> World Relief 
–> World Vision
–> Doctors Without Borders: Has three rescue ships in the Mediterranean, on Tuesday alone they rescued 1,658 people
–> Hand in Hand for Syria: Working within Syrian borders to provide aid. Donations are made via British currency but these are easily converted from US donations during the transaction.


–> Migrant Offshore Aid Station:

Watch how One Family Is Saving the Lives of Thousands of Migrants — Help them?

(More of their unforgettable story here: American Family Use Assets To Save Refugees Headed For Europe)
–>International Rescue Committee
–>Lending a Hand in Hungary for refugees (volunteers bring food, clothing, and emotional support to refugees)
–>Refugees Welcome (for UK and Europe)


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Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters

For those in the US or Canada wanting to gather items together, the best place to point them to are local refugee resettlement offices – here is a list of 26 World Relief offices located in the US. 

They are in need supplies and items for newly arrived refugees into the US who are setting up new lives. And especially as winter starts, they will be in need of new coats, shoes, etc.


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Vassil Donev/EPA

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Valdrin Xhemaj/EPA)

Sign the Petition to the White House to Help
Petition Canadian government to welcome the refugees
Petition to the UK to welcome asylum seekers
Petition for Australia to create asylum seeker policies


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–> Americans, sign up to house a Christian refugee family fleeing from ISIS 

–> Canadians, sponsor a Syrian refugee family to come to Canada through Missionary Christian Alliance
      Canadians, sponsor a Syrian refugee family to come to Canada through MCC

–> Americans, Use this US map to find an agency near you and offer to support a newly arrived refugee family. There are 9 Voluntary Agencies in the US that sponsor refugees to come the the United States and build their own local networks to resettle refugees — where is one close to you?

–>Help someone in Germany cover costs in opening up their homes to more than 800,000 refugees

–> Americans, help RefugeeOne meet needs of refugees already settled who may have seasonal needs, etc.

If we all wrote our letters to Aylan? If we all raised our voices — could we build a bridge across the sea? See a 18-year-old Canadian girl’s powerful letter here. This is what keeps rocking me in tender places: “how to find a way through when the world feels like it’s in crisis.’ We can all do something, each one of us can do just one thing — in Aylan’s honour and in Jesus’s name.

We’ve created a Facebook page, Aylan’s Dreams: Welcoming the Strangers and Refugees to brainstorm and crowdsource about how we can practically help refugees fleeing right now… and ask our governments to help open the doors. Join us? 

So You, Your People, Your Church, can be counted as

Have any questions? Or you’re currently very involved in refugee ministry and you want to connect and be a partner with
Contact us right here: