In the summer months, the world took notice as the global refugee crisis crescendoed into the worst of its kind since World War II. TEAM missionaries in Europe have long felt the effects of these migration trends in their ministries and daily lives. As critical needs grow, workers continue to respond to this changing landscape through the local church.
Today on the blog, we welcome Doug Anderson, TEAM’s former associate director, who offers us a biblical foundation for loving the stranger.
We’ve seen the frightening images of tsunamis propelling an avalanche of water ashore. We’re all familiar with the rush of water down a swollen river, bringing with it trees and debris, sometimes even homes. What emotions well up in you as you imagine being personally caught in the storm?
In recent weeks, such images have taken on a human face. Men carrying family belongings and mothers with babies in their arms rush barbed wire borders in what appears to be an endless flood of refugees hoping for a better existence.
We watch the newsreels and wonder: Where will they settle? Who will receive them? How will they provide for their basic needs of survival?
What do you suppose God thinks about this amazing migration of humanity in desperation?
“O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways, to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. … He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt.” Deuteronomy 10:12, 18-19 (NIV)
The Bible is full of stories about people on the move from their homeland, seeking acceptance in a new land: Abraham and his family (Gen. 12), Jacob (Gen. 35), Jacob and his family fleeing famine (Gen. 46), the return of the exiles (Ezra 1, 2), Joseph and Mary escaping with infant Jesus to Egypt (Matt. 2). Then there’s Jesus, finding welcome in Samaria (John 4) and the scattered believers fleeing persecution in Antioch, Syria (Acts 11).
What is God trying to teach us in these very real, sometimes desperate situations of people finding welcome as strangers?
Often Jesus used parables to powerfully call His hearers to understand His heart. We think of Jesus’ captivating parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10) or the rich man building bigger barns, not knowing his life was near its end (Luke 12), or the compassionate father who welcomed back his lost son (Luke 15). What do these stories awaken in your heart as you read them to your children or ponder their application to your own life?
Let’s imagine standing with Jesus at one of the border crossings as the throngs of incoming, desperate refugees rush past. What would Jesus be saying—doing—as the desperate scramble by? When we stand at the border with Jesus, what is He saying to us about the opportunity we have to help these refugees experience the love of Jesus?
TEAM has long-term missionaries and partners in many of the places being deluged with refugees. As the crisis has grown in recent years, workers have responded through meeting basic needs, health services, discipleship and church ministries. They hear Jesus saying, “Love them in My name,” and they look to see who will help them. Will you?
When I watch the reports coming from refugee-inundated places, I hear the words of Jesus:
“Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you visited me. … I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for Me.” Matthew 25:34-40 (NIV)
When we stand at the border with Jesus, what is He saying to us about the opportunity we have to help these refugees experience the love of Jesus? Many refugees are fleeing countries in which they likely would never have heard the gospel to live in nations where they will hear it for the first time.
Our workers in Greece send encouraging testimonies of Muslim men and women placing their trust in Christ for the first time through mercy ministries and discipleship. Let’s not miss what Jesus wants to do through us in this tragedy turned opportunity.
Here are three ways that you can help the refugee crisis right now:
Commit to pray daily for those in crisis and the workers ministering to them. Download this 7-day refugee ministry prayer guide to inform your prayers.
You can give to sustain refugee ministry over the long-term. All funds will go directly to workers for use in refugee ministry.
Is God mobilizing you to work with refugees? Get connected with organizations serving refugees in your area locally or check out the ways you can work among refugees with TEAM.