Tubingen, Refugees Welcome, Street Art, Germany, Graffiti

September: In The Pipeline

Tubingen, Germany, Pipeline

When Janner hefted his pack over one shoulder and heard the familiar leathery creak and saw the dark, smooth spot on one strap where he had a habit of resting his hand, he smiled. He felt a quiet pride about the road he had traveled with this old pack–from Glipwood Forest, over Miller’s Bridge, past the Stranders, to Dugtown, then back along the Strand, over the Barrier, up through the Stony Mountains, over Mog Balgrik, to the Ice Prairies, then across the Dark Sea of Darkness. His anxiousness about another day at school shrank when he thought about how far the Maker had carried him. He may be scarred and worn in places, but like his pack, he believed he was the better for it. 

I’ve been reading The Monster in the Hollows by Andrew Peterson out loud to the boys at night. And when I read the above paragraph, I had to stop.

Wait a minute, I said. Let me read that part again.

His anxiousness about another day at school shrank when he thought about how far the Maker had carried him.

We are three weeks into a new country and a new school.

Every morning, in our flat on the northern edge of town, there is some anxiousness.

There is scrambling out the door while it is still dark to catch a bus and there is enduring hours of not understanding anything before the sweet relief of the afternoon dismissal.

There is not being able to read any of the signs or labels. There is pointing and nodding and feeling very small.

But there is also cake on every corner. And gelato shops tucked into crooked cobblestone alleyways.

There is a river that runs between a tree-lined island walkway and a row of brightly colored houses. And a bridge covered in flowers.

There is a forest for wandering, fresh air to breathe deep and trails to walk off the frustrations of the day.

There is struggle. And there is joy.

And there is every morning new mercy.

So much has happened this week.

My husband successfully defended his thesis and is officially Dr. Taido Chino.

A sweet lady from my home church in Arkansas died, taking with her an ever-present smile that blessed everyone she met. Oh Mica, you will be deeply missed.

There is joy. And there is struggle.

More unrest and murder and hate has gripped the country I will always call home, and I have cried out to God for our broken nation.

Oh my heart. How do we not hang our heads when we read words from a teacher at the school that Terrence Crutcher‘s daughter attends?

I just keep praying that we begin to love like Jesus,

Love each other as I have loved you. 

A few years ago I was riveted by Isabel Wilkerson’s book on The Great Migration (The Warmth from Other Suns). She has a new article out in this month’s Smithsonian about the long lasting legacy of the Great Migration. Here’s a quote:

…the Great Migration […] was not solely about geography. It was about agency for a people who had been denied it, who had geography as the only tool at their disposal. It was an expression of faith, despite the terrors they had survived, that the country whose wealth had been created by their ancestors’ unpaid labor might do right by them.

This week’s events are proof that this “agency” is still being denied.

I keep asking myself how we can begin to “do right” by our black and brown brothers and sisters.

I listened to Nikole Hannah-Jones talk on This American Life about segregated schools. To my shame, I realized that the end to the bussing that I grew up with in North Little Rock, Arkansas was a quiet reversal of desegregation in elementary schools in my town. A rewinding of history.

Listening to her made me think of Bryan Stevenson’s reminder in his book, Just Mercy, that when one form of slavery ends in America, we invent another one. Slavery has evolved rather than ended. And sadly, according to the story Nikole tells, it often evolves out of well-intentioned mothers and fathers wanting to “do right” by their children. I’ve been that parent, trying to choose a school for my kids or trying to decide where to live based on what education is available to certain housing zones. In the world’s economy, we think that doing right by our children is a good excuse for not doing right by all children. But that’s not the way God’s economy works. As followers of a counter-cultural Savior, we don’t have to make choices based on scarcity. We serve a God of plenty.

We can swing wide the doors to our schools.

We can swing wide the doors to our country.

After only three weeks of living in a country that saw over 1 million refugees cross its borders in 2015, I can say with confidence that America could only benefit from a loaves and fishes economy, from believing that we serve a generous God and choosing to mirror that generosity.

I loved reading this article this week about refugees and specifically how a generation of children born during WWII are seeking to welcome the stranger to Germany. Remember when I wrote about these stumbling stones in Amsterdam, small, physical reminders that a Jewish person once lived here. An attempt to keep the histories of individuals from being erased. Well, I stumbled across my first stumbling stone in Tubingen this week.

I was walking with Simon and saw it in the sidewalk. A man’s name. A birthdate. A note on where he went. Oh my goodness, Simon, look! Do you remember what these are? He did. We looked up at the house where the man once lived. On the way home, I pictured him being driven from that home, forced to flee for his life. His stumbling stone said that he survived by fleeing to another country, by becoming a refugee.

Less than a century ago, Jewish people were fleeing Germany and seeking refuge in other countries. Those who could not leave met an unthinkable end. (Anne Frank’s family was refused asylum in the US.) And today Germany has taken more refugees than any other western nation.

Why is that? I wonder. I think about it as I walk every day by the huge sign in Tubingen that says in big, bold English words: REFUGEES WELCOME.

Maybe if we put stumbling stones all over America for every human sold on a slave block or for every Native American who was slaughtered or for the thousands of people who were lynched or for every unarmed black man who is shot by police–if we carved reminders around us, would we maintain enough of a consciousness of the terrors in our own history, that we would seek to “do right” by all people.

I don’t know.

There is struggle. And there is joy.

Last night I finished reading The Monster in the Hollows out loud. (I will try not to spoil it for you but Simon and I both cried through the last few chapters and it was not even my first time to read it.)

Near the end, Janner’s mother, Nia, who is facing execution by an angry mob, turns to Janner and the rest of her family and she says these words:

If they go through with this, please don’t blame them. The Hollowsfolk are just deceived. It’s Gnag who’s to blame. His poison has embittered them, and it will take great mercy to undo that. I know you’re going to want to leave here, but stay. Your presence will remind the people of this treachery and will convict their hearts in the years to come. They must remember what happens here today, and reckon with it and be humbled.

The same is true for white America, for Nazi Germany, for ISIS.


It’s Gnag who is to blame. Gnag is Satan. Gnag is fear. Gnag is power in the hands of evil.


Gnag is to blame for armies who drive people from their homes and for the governors who say their states will refuse refugees. Gnag is to blame for slavery and all its evolved forms. Gang is to blame for bullets fired on unarmed black men in America and for bombs that tear through hospitals in Syria. Gnag is to blame for all the hate and all the murder in the world.


And like Nia said, it will take great mercy to undo that.


Christians, we have the extraordinary privilege of being the bearers of great mercy.


And though we get it wrong so much of the time, thinking that it’s our job to save the world only in the way we think it needs saving and oppressing people with our good deeds, we are still called.


I don’t pretend to know the exact path forward, but I think maybe it starts with becoming people who remember, who reckon, and who are humbled.


  1. Profound words!! Profoundly written!!

    1. Thanks so much Mama! 🙂

  2. Alison,

    You’re so eloquent in sharing your thoughts. I’m the daughter of an immigrant who left his wife and two children to come to America for a better life. My father was the only one of his immediate family (that I know of) who braved the unknown. My dad was a “paper son” and so my heart are for refugees. Keep writing.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing that Gloria!! I’m learning a LOT about braving the unknown and daily it expands my heart for those who do it out of desperation or have no choice, especially with children! So grateful that your father made that journey and that our lives crossed paths! XOXO

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