***Note: This post is from a guest contributor who is a friend of PVCC. He has asked to remain anonymous due to potential issues with the government in the nation where he is working in Central Asia.
News of millions of refugees from war-torn places across the Middle East have filled headlines, political speeches, and Facebook posts across America and Europe. Politicians and journalists have dehumanized these millions of human beings and portrayed them as enemies, terrorists, invading armies, and even a poisoned bowl of Skittles. These dehumanizing portrayals, meant to instill fear and distrust, are at first easy to believe– they’re just nameless, faceless people who are 6,000 miles away. However, for me the picture is much different.
You see I live in Turkey. Here the refugee crisis is not a far off thing, but something that I can see every day. Millions upon millions of people that are fleeing persecution, imprisonment, war, and genocide have come to Turkey in an attempt to make it to safety. I can’t get on a bus in my city without seeing children and mothers begging or selling small packs of tissues or pens just to get some money to buy food. I can’t walk through parks in town without finding Afghans, Persians, Iraqis, and Syrians sleeping on park benches because they have nowhere else to go. I have stood on the beaches staring out into the choppy, cold sea where many refugees have boarded tiny overcrowded boats in hope of making it to the other side and into Europe. The refugee crisis is not something in a far-off, distant land for me– it is happening in my city. It is something that is happening to my loved ones and friends. It is something I see every day.
However, there is something else I am seeing every day– refugees coming to faith in Christ! In this time of tremendous stress, upheaval, and pain, people are finding refuge in the one true and living God through His Son, Jesus Christ. We are seeing believers of all nationalities reaching out to refugees in their time of deepest need with the love of Christ. We are seeing refugees coming from places that have long been impossible for Christian workers to reach with the Gospel, and they are here in our city hearing the Good News of Jesus. Many unreached people groups displaced because of war and political turmoil are now able to hear about the Prince of Peace. The Lord is bringing the nations to us, so that he can fulfill the promise he gave to Abraham in Genesis 12, that “all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Our very nature (albeit our sin nature) as human beings is to divide ourselves into tribes and groups and to fear and hate those who are different from us. The tune of fear that is being played by politicians and the media resonates with our sinful souls. In our brokenness, we want to hate our neighbor, kill our brother, and deny the Image of God installed in them by the Creator himself because they are different from us. But the Gospel tells us to love our neighbor, care for those who are desperate, and pray for those who persecute us. These commands are not commands only to a missionary in a far-off land– these commands are to the Church. These commands are given to you.
I have been asked many times how can Christians in America truly love your neighbor, the refugee, as yourself. I don’t have all the answers for that, but I do have some ideas.
1. Pray for, and work towards ending the war and political turmoil in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran.
-Pray that God would bring peace to these areas and that people can return to their homes and families. Work towards these ends, by calling and writing your elected officials and ask them to do whatever they can to end the violence in these areas. The refugee crisis is only a crisis because war and violence has made it impossible for people to stay in their homes. Most would much prefer to return to their homes rather than live the awful life of a refugee, but they simply can’t because their homes have been destroyed, and their families face danger and death.
2. Welcome and Invite Refugees into your community, church, and home.
-Call your state and local officials and ask them to resettle refugees in your community, so that you can love and serve them!
-When you find out about refugees and foreigners in your community, make an effort to get to know them. Help them get settled in and get adjusted to life in a new country. As one who lives in a foreign land, I can tell you it is very difficult to function and live in a new culture and new language. Even the small things in life, like helping your small children with their school work, can be very difficult to do in a new language. Offer to help in even the smallest of ways.
-Invite them into your home, make them part of your extended family. LOVE THEM!!
-Be aware that many people in your community may not want the refugees there, and they might do and say things that are hateful towards them. You stand up for them. You protect them. And you love them as you would one of your own family members. Fight for those who are desperate and broken in your community, and if the situation calls for it, stand guard at their house to protect them from violence and hatred if necessary. This kind of love and sacrifice models to the world (both refugees and non-refugees!) the magnificent and radical love of Christ.
3. Recognize your role as an ambassador of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:20)
-Show love and mercy to “the least of these” (Matthew 25:31-46)
-Put aside possibly years of hatred towards Muslims, so that they can see the light of the Gospel in you. By doing this you can “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:38-48), and you will overcome the evil of terrorism and hate with Good (Romans 12:14-21).