Refugees In Alabama | DWELL



What a beautiful night. The whole world tucked into ten different tables off an unassuming road in Mobile, Alabama. I was invited to be a part of how Dwell Mobile is helping refugees in its city acclimate, by my friend Rachel, who from the day I met her has always pointed me to Christ. She must have sensed from her side of the bay that my heart was homesick for Africa, or for serving, or for seeing Jesus walk, talk, and love through His people in some tangible way. I get antsy sometimes in the shelter of my Eastern shore bubble, and the Lord answered a big prayer in a big way I got a request to photograph a Thanksgiving meal for the refugees in our area. In light of my experience with them over the past couple of weeks (and I can hardly call myself a volunteer compared to the incredible people who dedicated their time their for the past ten!), all chatter of refugees, immigration, and Christian calls have been playing ping pong between my heart and head.

Let me first say this- I don't know which side of the Facebook battle over compassion vs. policy is right and wrong, but I have an idea that each individual's story may be unique and intricate enough to color that debate gray. Here is what I know. Our leaders have a job to keep their citizens safe, and whatever decision they makes to uphold their responsibility is theirs. I don't have to rant and rage about the issue, because according to God my ultimate job is to "obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account." A king's heart is like water in God's hands according to Proverbs 21:1, and I find relief in the power of prayer over the Lord's will on things like vetting refugees and immigration laws, and fully trust that God is working all things together for His glory and our good. 

I, as a Christian, am responsible for how I treat, serve and welcome refugees (and everyone for that matter) regardless of what my government does. We are all a different part of a greater body, all different quirks, methods of serving, gifts, and paths to live out the call we all have to know Christ and make Him known. Tonight I was asked to use my gifts in Mobile. After this weekend's attacks, knowing that I was set to go to Mobile on Wednesday to celebrate the refugees' completion of their acclimation course, I thought a lot about fear. Confusion comes easy when you read opinions on the issue, so I started searching in the unchangeable perfect opinion of our creator. How am I to respond? What does God say about being scared that a refugee you want to help is a wolf in sheep's clothing? 

Matthew 10:28 came to mind, "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell."  Everywhere I look I see God urging His people to face the giant. Not because we're strong enough, smart enough, or brave enough, but because He is.There is a story about this in the bible about a girl named Esther that sends chills up my spine. She is the embodiment of this command to fear the Lord instead of man. King Xerxes and Haman send a decree out to have all the Jews annihilated, without knowing that the girl he had just made queen was Jewish. Once the decree goes out, Esther's cousin Mordecai comes to the gates to ask Esther to intercede for their people. Mordecai tells Esther "For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?" She responds by asking him to gather the Jews to fast and pray, and says then "I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish." 

I thought about driving across the bay tonight into the unknown. The people I met last week were beyond, lovely. I couldn't fathom one of them being a terrorist, but then again, I have never seen a terrorist at my table. I prayed for wisdom, protection, and an emanating presence of Christ in me. I thought about Esther's resolve, and while the likelihood of a terrorist attack didn't seem immanent, I decided to rest in the fact that my days are numbered by God and He will not be thwarted. He knows the plans He has for me. 

The flood of emotions I felt tonight were the same as last week. Absolute and utter awe. It makes me want to cry just thinking about it. The body of Christ is such a beautiful thing- there were women there who cooked and prepared the tables for them, translators there to welcome them and help them communicate, volunteers and their children simply coming alongside them. The people? -As kind and dear as you would expect them to be. They are vulnerable, grateful, and committed to the volunteers who are committed to them. So many of them spoke about the dreams they had for themselves here and the consensus was a longing for friendship and education. 

Last week an Egyptian refugee, the one man at the table with 5 Muslim women and myself, said he was glad to be in Mobile because he could see the sun. He came from Cairo, where he said the buildings made seeing the sun difficult, so although Mobile was surprisingly smaller to him, and it is not the home he fled, he was glad to see the sun. Tonight I sat by Senaite, an Ethopian refugee, who after living in a refugee camp for fifteen years, losing three babies there, and waiting five years for papers, found herself in Alabama. When my response was the only "I'm so sorry" I could muster she shook the pity out of me with a repeated "No no, I'm happy! I'm happy!" as she rocked back in her chair and laughed. It was the same joy I saw in Africa. The peace of God that transcends understanding.The same resolve, hope, and perseverance that now cuts any unrest or grumbling I ever feel off at the knees. I thought about the verse in Revelation that says "there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb." The melting pot of all those cultures and languages in one room, the hope of the gospel being proclaimed after dinner, like a little glimpse of heaven. 

Perhaps our hearts are stirred up through the media firestorm over refugees to remind us of our call, Christians. To love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves. Clothe and feed the hungry. To share Christ. Perhaps while we can't directly control the policies being made and the systems in place that will bring refugees to our doorstep, we can control how we serve the ones already on it. And lets not live as those who have no hope when we do it; we worship a really big God, whose ways are not our ways, and whose power does not depend on our politics. What if you have come to your position in life for such a time as this? 

Click HERE if you want to get involved in the refugees that have already been welcomed into our country. 

Finn, Fears, and Faith



Below is a brief retelling of the miracles that occurred on July 10th. I say brief because the full story of how these events awakened faith and shattered fears could fill a novel. There are many details waiting to be shared, but this- the event of a nine year old boy being electrocuted and drowning- needs to be told first. 

So many of you prayed for Finn without knowing him; you prayed for healing without ever knowing the details of how he was hurt, and Krista and Michael want you to hear the full story. While they waited in the hospital Krista began keeping a list in her phone of the miracles that were washing ashore, and the story below is my attempt to glue them together with their help. I am utterly humbled to share the intricacies of God’s handiwork on their behalf. I want to jump up and down shouting “MIRACLE!” as I type each interlocking detail, but the story stands for itself, a grand testament to the Lord’s sovereignty, His all-consuming love, and His undeserved mercy. 

“Many, Lord My God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, 
they would be too many to declare.” 
Psalm 40:5


6 days prior | Finn & Krista

When she got the call Krista was knee deep in measuring rugs and arranging furniture. She was working with her friend, Laura, that afternoon, and she picked up her phone thinking it was odd that Michael was calling. Just as her hand left the green velvet chair the words “You’ve got to get home, me and Finn have been electrocuted” entered her ear. All she was sure of was that the sound of her husband’s voice was uncharacteristically urgent, like he was withholding something serious. All she could think was that her son was fried and he was going to die. 

Before Laura knew what was happening, they were on the road making a mad dash towards the north side of town. The van was flooded thick with panic and few coherent sentences could make their way through the fog. The 6.5 mile drive to the ambulance was a flurry of speeding, screaming, praying, and bracing herself for the worst. Krista was in an emotional free fall. Prayers flew from one side of the car to the other between them, attempting to weave a net to catch her heart and save her son’s life all at once. This. This was her greatest fear. The life Krista and Michael had created by the bay with their four children was their storybook dream, and the loss of those lives was Krista’s worst nightmare. She spent her past nine years as a mother taking every precaution, feeling every apprehension, accepting the possibility of worst case scenarios and running as fast as she could in the other direction. The fear itself was not unchartered territory for her, it was her oldest friend. At the age of two her mom’s own fears encompassed her little body after her own dad kidnapped her and tried to take her and her brother. A year later she had her first lesson in life and death when her dad was killed in an accident. As a teenager it was fear she felt when her mom told her she had cancer and it was her fear that was justified when the cancer took her away. As an adult, this long riddled-apprehension peeked through the windows of her happy home, casting a continual shadow that drew Krista’s attention over her shoulder.

The news that her husband and oldest son had been electrocuted at the bay sent a jolt through her own body, and fear crossed over enemy lines like an unannounced soldier starting its attack. Her mind registered the resolution that the cause of the electrocution were the fish lights Michael had installed himself against her wishes. Her thoughts raced and her frustration overwhelmed her. The two friends prayed against her anger in that moment, knocking with repetition, “Lord take this anger”, until they made a right onto Gabel street and approached their next stop.

A few days from this moment Krista would remember it as the Lord’s kindness. He was purging her. She was getting ready to face a fear that she had dreaded her entire life, and in His meticulous planning, God had removed her from the actual event and placed her with one of her best friends. She felt the anxiety flood and course through her veins, but what she didn’t know in this moment was that she would soon feel the blood of her Savior consume it. 

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. 
And by him we cry, "Abba, Father.”
Romans 8:15

When they pulled into the lot of the store where they were told to meet the ambulance, they collided with an image of several EMT vehicles, scattered officers, and a nearby helicopter. The view of Finn’s feet sticking up inside an open ambulance propelled Krista out of the car into a dead sprint. Like a pin ball she bounced from one EMT to another, seeking answers and assurance that Finn wouldn’t die. She saw her little boy awake on the stretcher but couldn’t go to him until she calmed down. The paramedics surrounded her and told her she couldn’t show her fear, that she had to be strong for Finn. Krista took a deep breath to suppress her emotion and face her son, and she leaned into the side door of the ambulance. She rested her hand on his shoulder and said “I love you babe, you’re gonna be just fine.” He responded with  an “I love you” and she stepped away before her body exhaled its hysteria. She sat down on the bed of a truck near Finn’s ambulance, and Michael took a seat on the other side of her and started praying. All the thoughts she had towards him in the car dissipated when he came into view. Her rage debilitated by forgiveness and gratitude; a gentle nudge from the Lord that He was listening. When he was finished the EMT told him they needed to get Michael into an ambulance and the helicopter blades started to fill the afternoon air with its current. Everyone stood up from the truck and Krista asked if she could see Finn before they lifted off, but he had already been loaded up. 


[1 Hour Earlier]

Michael began his morning at his office like any other, looking forward to his usual half-day of work on Friday. When he got home Krista was on the way out the door to meet Laura and head to their client’s house, so Michael took over with the kids. On his way out of work he had gotten a text from Aaron to see if he wanted to do lunch which was a bit unexpected, since it had been a while since they last hung out. Since Michael couldn’t meet up, he called him back and asked him if he wanted to come over for leftover chicken instead.  Aaron had never been to their house but he was up for it, and arrived as Krista was pulling out of the driveway. They made lunch and small talk in the kitchen before Michael asked him if he wanted to head down to the bay with him where the kids were going to go swimming.  Aaron needed to get back to work, but he wanted to see the pier before he took off, so down to the bay the six of them went. 

Once they got to end of the pier Michael threw the paddle board into the water and Finn and Shands capriciously jumped in after it. Michael lifted the jon boat off the crab deck, since it was sitting on top of the ladder, so he could place the steps in the water for the boys. Aaron was annoyed that the ladder was crooked so he came behind him and straightened it up, and since the jon boat was in the gate’s way anyways, Michael suggested they toss it into the water and get it on the lift. When Finn overheard their plan he asked if he could ride the sling down into the bay and he came up the ladder to climb aboard. Michael stood by the plug and showed Aaron how odd the switch beside it was, sending the lift down when it pointed to “up” and vice versa. Shands was still in the water floating by the dock on his paddle board, and the other two kids were hanging around the pier, when the lift began its descent. Michael hopped down onto the lower deck to pull out a crab trap once the lift was down, and as Finn swam off the sling and started towards his dad, his hand grabbed onto the cable. He was standing up and felt his entire body go numb, all his weight cementing his feet in the sand and he said “somethings got me”. Michael thought he was just playing around, typical of Finn living in his fantasy world full of battling villains and grandiose adventure. Finn fell back into the water and Michael watched him to make sure he returned to the surface. When he didn’t come up after a few seconds, Michael wanted to double check that he was just goofing around so he took off his t-shirt, turned to Aaron and told him “Finn isn’t coming up, I’m jumping in”. 

Michael jumped into the bay to assess the situation. He kicked something beneath the water that sent him stumbling into the lift going facedown in the water himself. The electrocution began. He could feel it take over his body, paralyzing every muscle, encompassing him in heavy darkness. Something awakened in his mind and started reeling in a deep desire to get up and find his son. He didn’t know what was happening to him, but he knew he had to break free from whatever it was and find Finn. Aaron didn’t realize he was being electrocuted either, and asked Michael what was going on, waiting for him to come up after about 30 seconds. There was a moment of relief in the current, a reprieve from its grip, during which he rolled towards the light and mouthed “help” towards Aaron. Still unsure of the situation’s severity, Aaron started to take off his tie and climb in to see what was going on until Hollis stopped him in his tracks. Little Red’s four year old voice said the words “don’t go in there, the water’s bad.”, and immediately Aaron lunged towards the plug that he noticed when Michael pointed out the lever, and shut the power down.

What Aaron would later recall as supernatural strength, and Michael, who doesn’t remember the following details, would credit to the Lord for taking over and doing what he could not, is what happened next. Michael was released from the electricity and he launched a determined out-of-body rescue of Finn. The only part of this Michael would later remember is the image of him holding up his son, watching his eyes roll back and his mouth gurgle with bubbles. By the time Aaron had unplugged the lift and walked to the end of the pier, Michael was already there, Finn limp in his arms with his blonde head in the bend of his elbow. Aaron was on the phone with 911 and helped Michael by grabbing under Finn’s arms and pulling him up the ladder. Michael was already back on the deck by the time his unconscious body hit the ground, and Aaron placed his left hand on Finn’s stomach and said “God be with this child”. 

Finn immediately started coughing up water and came to. Shands had paddled his way to the shore, and hearing the sirens Aaron decided to take as many kids as he could up to the house. Michael sat on the deck while he waited, Finn laying on his side with his head resting on Michael’s lap. He asked him if he could breathe and Finn said “yes” but he didn’t want to be moved. Taber was crying to Michael’s left and plopped down on Finn and the big brother reacted with an aggravated “get off of me”. 

Aaron was at the house when the paramedics, police, and fire department arrived. The men who were dispatched knew exactly how to get to their hard-to-find home. They were the same police who had received several calls from the Nebrigs over missing boats or hiding kids, and the firefighters- they were the same men who burned the foreclosed house on their lot down before the Nebrigs built their new one. They knew Finn as the little boy they had let run through their trucks on their last visit to this very home! They carried him up the bluff between the water and the house, and started their departure for a nearby boat shop where a helicopter was waiting to life flight Finn to Mobile.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; 
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; 
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, 
and the flame shall not consume you. 
Isaiah 43:2


Horrified as the full story began to unfold in front of her on the ride across the bay, the news that Finn had drowned after being electrocuted, Krista discovered a calm soul in the ambulance driver who was placed in the front seat. He told Krista that he was a Christian, and they discussed how they had a shared past of losing their moms to ovarian cancer when they were 18. She was most afraid that her Finn wouldn't still be “Finn” but felt reassured by the news that when the paramedic asked Finn if he was allergic to anything, he responded “dust mites.” That was their Finn! “He said dust mites!” would be their mantra against fears of brain damage over the next 6 days in the hospital. Michael kept calling to Krista from the back of the ambulance to see if she was ok. He was worried about how she was responding to what had happened. He was lightheaded, nauseous and disoriented, but mostly he was concerned about his wife, who’s only experience in traumatic events was that they ended in death. The paramedics constantly asked him if he was ok, but he wasn’t willing to be checked as a patient so he could be ready to be with Finn once they got to Mobile.

As soon as they were walked into the waiting room of the ER, Brian Brocato, a dear family friend and doctor, was behind them. Michael and Krista were moved to a consult room when a resident entered and gave them little news and zero reassurance. They were uncomfortable with him as their doctor so they asked for someone else. Krista called her friend Mandy Barber to get her help in appointing her father in law to Finn’s case, and five minutes later, before Mandy was able to reach him, Dr. Barber walked in on his own accord. 

At this point Finn was sedated and intubated so a machine was now doing the breathing for him. The remaining water in his lungs had to be forced out to prevent him from drowning. Krista and Michael went together into the busy ER to see him, and seeing her son in an induced coma, the machine’s beeping becoming the score of her trepidation, caused her to nearly faint. She made her way back into the hallway and sat with Michael and Brian while they waited on the respiratory transport team so they could be moved to Women’s and Children’s. She sat on a plastic chair with her head between her legs, and someone tapped her shoulder and said a chaplain was sent to visit them. To have a chaplain sent to her frightened Krista with thoughts of worst case scenarios and violently shoved her deeper into panic. At the same time Brian told Michael he didn’t look good and needed to get checked out, so both he and Krista were laid head to head on two stretchers in the hallway. Laying there Michael knew he would be ok. He felt sure that Finn was ok. What unsettled him was his concern for Krista and the weight of guilt pounding in his chest. Facing the ceiling he spoke his guilt about letting this happen to Finn out loud to his wife. She responded with grace in a moment of clarity “It is not your fault. This has been ordained before Finn was even born to show God’s us power.” 

The next 6 days carried a lifetime of emotion and lessons in trust, the power of prayer, and the body of Christ. Friends and family showed up, strangers prayed, doctors worked, and Finn began healing. He had been under the water for about two minutes so the concern that damage had been done to his brain could only be dissolved over time. The respiratory therapists monitored his lungs and prepared them for setbacks. The monitoring of his heart reported good news that the electric shock hadn’t damaged it, so the waiting game began. While they sat, hopeful and helpless, Krista felt like Abraham facing the decision to give his son to God, and wondered if God would let her keep hers. 

On Sunday Finn’s pediatrician came and said “you need to know this hard stuff. He may not be the same person when he wakes up”. Krista’s heart sunk at the sound of the his news. She walked out grabbing what she could of some prayer cards that were given to her,  and started praying. At that point all she wanted was her Finn. She wanted him to wake up. She wanted him to be the same boy she hugged goodbye at lunch on Friday afternoon. She looked down at the first card and orange letters formed the words “And the child grew and became strong and filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him. Luke 2:40”  Her brother Kevin came out of the room and sat by her side and Krista said “I feel like I kept taking two steps forward and two steps back”. Kevin said “Krista, didn’t you pray for God to use your family?”

Krista had prayed that prayer. Two weeks prior to this she was running errands by herself when a sermon she had just heard about leading your kids to Christ beckoned her to pray for her children’s salvation. She was praying that her family would be used. She was praying that God would be the one to open their eyes to Him and gave up her control to make them believe. She submitted to his will and asked Him to do with them what He will, even if it meant her getting cancer. She always worried that was going to be the way he reached them since that was her own story, but during this moment of solace in prayer she gave it all up to God.… Krista looked at Kevin. “You are so right. This is exactly what I prayed for. Look at how everything has so clearly been planned.” Kevin asked “Do you think Finn will wake up and be the person God will use? Do you believe God will make Finn the person he wants him to be?” “Yes”, Krista responded. “Well then what are you worrying about?”. A peace came over Krista and she praised God for giving Kevin the exact words she needed to hear. 

On Tuesday doctors removed the tubes and decreased Finn’s sedation. On Wednesday he was weak but awake. Finn survived. Krista and Michael were able to return home with their son that afternoon, and over the next couple of days they would watch the Lord fully restore Finn. He was running up the stairs, creating lego towers, flipping through channels, and swimming by Friday. Their family had experienced terror, heartbreak, hopefulness and healing, and ended their summer with a barrage of evidence that the Lord’s purposes are for His own glory, and by His grace our lives are a part of His plan to display it.

Michael, Finn, and Aaron

When you walk with a best friend through something like this you can’t help but get to the other side changed too. This family’s experience grew my faith exponentially every time Mandy, Laura J. and I met with Krista over the course of three days. I witnessed the hands and feet of Christ displaying the power of scripture over fear, and the gift of fellowship we have as a body of believers. Up close this is a story of a boy’s life spared. Zoom out and it’s the story of a father’s life spared too. Step back again and you see how Hollis’s words prevented Aaron from going into the water, sparing an entire family from tragedy. As a friend of Krista’s we saw the wider angle of wonder as she faced her worst fear and Christ overcame it. My questions of "why" were answered by truth- because God loves us. Because He is in control. He has a plan. Because we are being redeemed, sanctified, used for His glory. The real miracle here is that we have a God who created us and sent His son to die for us while we were still sinners, and out of his fullness we still receive grace upon grace.  

“And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. 
And hope does not put us to shame, 
because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, 
who has been given to us.” 
Romans 5:3-5




I always come back to this space wanted to reintroduce myself alongside an expression of sorrow of our separation. I have so missed you, friend I call "writing", or "journaling", or "connecting". I miss pulling the words out of me that define my thoughts and are shaping my everyday. I'm one of those personalities that needs the definition. I need to capture the picture to believe it happened. I need to re-write the experience to plant the memory. All my desires to document have been channeled onto my instagram feed, but I can't quiet the nagging ache to just write. Not to anybody in particular. Just to exercise the gift maybe. Stretch my legs before the muscles atrophy and forget how to move. I started to lose it a bit with photo after photo of baby life. Oh, but baby life is so so sweet. This has been the most spectacular season. I feel like there is still a story to tell though, thoughts to process along with the film of long days and stolen moments. And maybe the million house project photos I waited years to finally do and share, ha! Instead of waiting until I have time to do so, I am gonna go for it. Even if brain only allows a few sentences before the greater calling calls and beckons me to the laundry room. Even now as I am anxious to write, there's a little one hammering her paci against the door in utter rebellion against nap time. Off I go, hopefully to return again to soon, to this always welcoming space I have retreated to for so many years.

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