Mission trip, refugees, Soul-bearing

Praying for Refugees (How You Can Get Involved)

Know that the Lord our God loves the refugees and His Spirit is moving among them. I pray that their stories will capture your heart like they did mine because then you’ll be moved to do something, too. If you do nothing else, pray that they will find Jesus, pray they will be reunited with their families, pray that they will find purpose and meaning in their lives. We as a country, and we as the Church, have largely forgotten them. 

Before we left Germany after a week of meeting, listening to, and loving refugees, we were challenged by our group leaders to sit down with the teammates we had been serving with all week and come up with a summary/challenge to all those we’d talk with back home. The above statement is what my team wrote together.

“If you do nothing else, pray.”

That challenge has been a common refrain of mine for the past few weeks since returning from Germany. I’ve been blessed with many wonderful opportunities to share stories from my trip, and something God has really put on my heart to emphasize is the power of prayer. We were praying constantly during our time in Germany…and I saw God at work, directly answering prayers.

The Bible tells us to “pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Scripture also mentions calling to Him and “‘I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know'” (Jeremiah 33:3). A refugee I met, who escaped his home country because of religious persecution, cited his favorite verse as “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). We are commanded as followers of Jesus to pray for all things, and I truly feel personally convicted that we should be praying for refugees, fervently.

Nearly 60 million people are forcibly displaced in the world right now (source: World Relief website http://www.worldrelief.org/refugee-crisis). Sixty million. That’s 60 million people who have been ripped away from the life they knew. Sixty million people who have experienced great — sometimes even tragic — personal loss. Sixty million people who have no idea what their future holds. Sixty million people who need us to advocate on their behalf, starting with prayer.

Whether you’re a stay-at-home mom, a person who works an 8-to-5, a pastor, a student, or someone in between, praying for the refugees is something we can all be doing. I’m challenging myself right alongside you. Beyond the needs in our own lives and those around us, my hope and prayer is that we will be crying out to Him on the refugee’s behalf.

Pray that the refugees will find the hope and peace that can only be found in Him, as many I met were searching in the midst of such personal turbulence. Pray that their families will be reunited, as many I met were separated from parents, wives, and children. Pray that they will be able to find jobs, whether they return to their homeland or are eventually granted permission to work in the country they’re resettled to. Pray for the children, some of whom have seen horrendous acts of violence and have experienced trauma I still can’t fathom. Pray for the parents, who have the same hopes and dreams for their children as many of you reading this do for yours. Please pray.

Pray that your heart will be open to helping however the Lord leads, even if it is just praying continually for these people. Pray, if you’re struggling with how you should react to this refugee crisis, that God will show you the unconditional love He has for these people. Pray for me, that I will continue to seek Him for how else I can serve and love refugees in the here and now. Please pray.

If you’re the type of person who enjoys physical reminders, here’s a prayer guide put together by World Relief with specific ways you can be praying for refugees: We Welcome Refugees Prayer Guide.

If you’d like to read more personal stories from refugees (or those persecuted in the midst of violence) and gain a deeper understanding of how to pray for those affected, I highly, highly recommend two books I’m in the midst of currently: Seeking Refuge: On the Shores of the Global Refugee Crisis by Stephan Bauman, Matthew Soerens and Dr. Issam Smeir (I have it on audio AND in print if anyone wants to borrow either!) and They Say We Are Infidels by Mindy Belz.

In closing, I leave you with this quote from a refugee one of our teams met during our time in Germany.

“I cried because you prayed in the name of Jesus.”

IMG_8030

Standard
Mission trip, Soul-bearing

On Fear + Refugees

IMG_8161
Let’s talk about fear.

Fear is all around us these days. Wars. Shootings. Bombings. An upcoming presidential election. I could go on and on, but I know it’ll stress you out as much as it does me.

When I felt God’s calling to sign up for a mission trip to share the love of Jesus with refugees, I was confident. My heart felt so overwhelmingly burdened for these people that I knew I had to do SOMETHING.

But with every bit of passion and joy I had in signing up, I was also battling something else.

Fear.

I had no idea what to expect. How would I/we be received? Would we be met with hostility? Violence? Something else? We were going to Germany to hear their stories, to show love and compassion, but also to share the love of Jesus. Would we be met with something stronger than ordinary rejection?

The day I flew out to Germany, I learned of the Munich shooting just hours before my flight. Details were sketchy at that point, but my stomach was in knots as I flirted with a decision: Do I get on that plane and go in faith…or do I stay home?

I knew I had to go. Beyond wanting to live a life with no regrets or “what ifs,” I knew, more importantly, that God had placed the love for and passion for the refugees in me. It was no accident, and living in fear and staying home in my bed for a week certainly wouldn’t remove it. The Bible talks about how perfect love casts out fear, so I decided to lean into my First Love and follow Him.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” – 2 Timothy 1:7

*

A few days later, there I was. In Germany. Bawling. We were in the middle of a morning meeting as we prepared to go to the refugee centers for the first time, just reviewing last-minute information and praying together, and I had my head in my hands, sobbing. I had woken up that morning to news of another attack overnight near Munich. I was scared. So freakin’ scared.

My head was cycling through worst case scenarios. Though a teammate had said something super profound and very true to me at breakfast when I briefly mentioned my stress (“I figure, if I’m going to die, what better way to go than on a mission trip telling people about Jesus?”), though I was reading and praying through Philippians 1 all morning (“I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”), I was struggling. I was afraid.

Another level of anxiety came from the fact that I was specifically concerned about what my interactions with the male refugees would be like. I’m not naive — I know many of their home countries definitely have misguided, and oftentimes downright wrong, views about women. I didn’t know what to expect, at all.

Teammates put their hands on me and started to pray, silently. I sat there and begged God to take all the fear from me. I asked Him why I was so afraid. I know my eternity is secure in Him. I know He alone knows the number of my days, but I was holding so tightly to my dreams and hopes for the future. I realized the possibility of surrendering my own desires was driving my fear. The fear of losing what I want. The fear of the unknown.

I had to give it all over to Him. I know it’ll be an ongoing process of surrender for the rest of my life. But for that day, that trip, I was able to just place it all in His hands and surrender.

*

God not only protected me during my time with the refugees, He truly opened my eyes to love and care for these dear people. Most of the refugees I met were men, the vast majority of whom are searching for more, for the love and security only Christ can give. I saw with my very own eyes how God is moving, taking a great tragedy to open so many eyes, cause so many hearts to search, and bring so many to Him.

I feel it’s important to share that I never felt dismissed or ignored when talking to any of the refugees. I never once felt threatened, endangered, looked down upon, or discounted by any of the men I met. They were all kind, courteous, and open when I engaged with them, oftentimes going out of their way to make me feel comfortable. They let me leave my shoes on when it’s customary to take shoes off before entering their homes. They offered us their beds to sit on while they sat on the floor. My teammate and I were, during one visit, asked what we wanted to drink; twenty minutes later one of our hosts returned with drinks and cookies he ran TO THE STORE to buy for us, using some of his precious weekly allowance of Euros to feed us.

I’m not attempting to make a blanket statement about all refugees, but I want you to know what my personal experience was, because it was completely different from what I expected from media coverage. Completely. Different.

God opened my eyes and stripped away so many fears and prejudices I had. I was humbled and honored to meet such incredible people. My life is better and my heart is more open having met them. Admittedly, I’m still learning. But I pray I’m able to speak up on their behalf and share my experience as much as possible.

*

My prayer is that my personal experience will make a difference, perhaps change or soften hearts, like mine was. All I know is that I feel an obligation to share what I saw, felt and experienced. I know my thoughts and experience may make some uncomfortable. My hope is that I am speaking truth in love.

At the end of the day, please know that these refugees — most of whom are, yes, Muslim — are people the Lord loves just as much as He loves me and you. They are made in the image of God, just like you are. Please know that these are real people with real families and real losses. Please care. Please pray for them. Please.

Standard