The day they drowned at sea
A heart-shattering story of a migrant mother who lost everything reminds us that we cannot let our hearts grow numb to these stories, and why our prayers and support are so important
Chine* was scared. She was a young mother who lived with her four children in Nigeria and life was tough. Her family was very poor and she worried about their safety. Chine dreamed of a better life for her children, so she knew she had to be brave.
Chine decided she would travel to Europe with her two young boys, ages four and five, in search of a better life. She hoped this could give her boys a chance to go to school and that she would be able to find work. Her plan was to earn money and send it back home to Nigeria to support her older children.
As Chine and her boys sat crowded in a rubber dinghy, she could almost see their new life as they approached the shores of Italy. It was beautiful. But that moment was interrupted by rescue boats and a helicopter racing towards the boat. Many on the boat didn’t realise what was happening and panicked. One passenger grabbed one of Chine’s boys to hold him up to the helicopter and show that there were children aboard. In the chaos, the boys both fell into the water. Despite every effort to save them, both Chine’s children drowned.
BMS World Mission worker Ann MacFarlane, who volunteers to welcome migrants as they arrive at the port at Reggio Calabria in Italy, remembers the day that Chine arrived. “There were around 900 people who came in on that particular day,” says Ann. “When Chine came off the boat she was in a terrible, terrible state.”
Ann remembers watching medics trying to sedate Chine as she cried and called out for her children. “I can’t even begin to tell you how I felt for her,” says Ann. “It was just so awful.”
How do you comfort a mother who had just lost her children? “I just prayed with her,” says Ann. “I prayed for her all the time.” Beyond prayer, you offer help.
Chine needed a place to stay, but Ann knew that she was in no state to go to a camp where most of the others were going. Ann and David decided to let Chine stay with them until they could find somewhere suitable for her. Chine lived with the Ann and David for two weeks and then they found her a place in a good centre where she could get the support she needed.
Ann also remembers how inspiring Chine’s faith was, despite the difficulties she was facing. “We would be walking along the street and she started to sing a song that she had sung in her church in Nigera,” says Ann. “Words like, ‘I know who God is, he holds me by the hand and he keeps me safe and he will never let me go and whatever has happened, not matter what, he will always be there.’” A song of hope, even in darkness.
This is just one story of many that Ann has heard while helping migrants in Italy. “I find these stories so hard and it’s not even happened to me,” says Ann. “These people have had to rely 100 per cent on God. It puts lots of things in life into perspective.”
Ann and her husband David are constantly trying to find ways to help the local migrants through the church they pastor. “When the people arrive, they are tired and desperate and they have absolutely nothing,” says Ann. “Volunteers like ours are the ones who give the first welcome and provide things like water, juice, snacks, shoes and clothes.”
Besides providing practical support on the ground, Ann knows that the situation is in desperate need of prayer. “People can pray that the situation will come to an end,” says Ann. She is grateful to be able to be Christ to people, even in such an awful situation. “It’s so terrible, but there is no doubt in my mind that God is at work amidst all this misery and suffering. I meet people who’ve lost everything and at the end of the day they go on their knees and pray and thank God for their safe arrival. I know God’s here.”
Please pray for the ongoing migrant crisis in Italy. Pray that people risking everything to come to Europe would be welcomed with love and that they would be able to find opportunities to build better lives. Please also pray for the people in Italy who are welcoming migrants, give them strength and wisdom as they help support these human beings, so precious to God, even as they seem forgotten by everyone else.
Photo credit: first photo by Royal Navy Media Archive, cc Creative Commons
This article first appeared on the website of BMS World Mission and is used with permission.