When everything from language to customs is foreign, international workers must use seemingly small moments to build relationships with refugees. Below, one worker in Europe shares a story about a young man encountered on the walk home.

Walking home, John saw him: a young, thin, recyclables-gatherer searching through a rubbish bin for some paper or cardboard or plastic to sell. It’s of the city’s most honorless jobs, usually done by foreigners from nearby countries, even the quite old or quite young.

This young man had a look similar to many refugees we’ve encountered — a look of pain and experience that weathers even the very young, the ones who have been through hell on earth.

The young man had a gentleness about him. As John kept walking and talking to God, he decided to stop and wait for the young man to come his way on the street.

When the young man approached, John tried to tell him we had some recycling at home that he could take. He pointed the way toward our home.

John said the young man looked embarrassed that John was walking alongside him. As they turned onto our street, an older man who serves as a sort of guardian of our street looked very concerned when he saw John walking with the young man.

This fear and concern is the normal reception of these laborers. The young man got very embarrassed. John said he was afraid the recyclables-gatherer would run away if he didn’t say something to the older man, which he did.

As they continued to walk, John found out the young man didn’t actually speak our host country’s language, because he was from Afghanistan. John tried English and Arabic, but the young man remained confused.

When they came to our home, the young man would not come onto our patio until John indicated he could. The young man must have felt relieved to see actual boxes waiting for him after being taken down this street by this unusual American.

He seemed happy about the large boxes but confused that John wanted to help him carry them.

Afghanistan is very far away and is home to many languages. How he got here and what his heart language is, we might never know.

But Someone has seen his whole journey — and loves him deeply.

By missionaries with TEAM (The Evangelical Alliance Mission)