Mission trip, refugees

Refugees + their stories

I carry their stories with me every day. Their eyes, full of so much heartache, are forever a part of my memory.

For their safety, I cannot post photos of them to help you see the human beings behind these stories. I have to keep details vague. I can’t tell you their names or the countries they fled from or even why they fled, because I want to take very seriously the reality that I could put their lives in danger by sharing too much. But I have to tell their stories as best I can. Stories like:

The man who invited us into his room and picked up his Bible, kissed it, and said, “This is the love of my life.”

The three women–an older mother and her two middle-aged daughters–who were alone in this new country. I felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to tell them they are not forgotten, and that they are special and loved. One of them rose from her seat on the floor (as they had given me, my teammate and our translator their futon to sit on) grabbed my face and kissed my cheeks over and over.

The man who first came up to me because he noticed me struggling to have a conversation with some women who didn’t speak English. After translating for awhile, he began to share his story with me, which led to me sharing mine and why I came on the trip: “To hear your stories so I can tell people back home, and to let you know that I love and care about you and so does Jesus.” He responded by asking,  “Do you have a Bible in my language I can have?” The next day, I was able to give him one. Our conversation that day ended with “I’m going to read this whole Bible because I want to know who Jesus is.”

The man who had been repeatedly tortured before becoming a refugee, though you’d never know because he had one of the sweetest spirits I have ever seen. He doesn’t like to talk about the night terrors he suffers from regularly.

The family, ranging from children to a grandmother, who escaped by crawling under gunfire.

The man who admitted he knew Jesus was the answer to the emptiness in his life, yet struggled and asked for prayer because he knew his family would disown him if he chose to trust in Christ.

The young girls who had seen horrifying acts of violence, but yelled “CINDERELLA!” when they saw the Disney princesses blanket I brought to the park.

The man who cried as he shared his story, repeating over and over “My God now forgives” when he talked about how he turned from Islam and accepted Christ. The next day, he asked for permission to hug me after hugging my male teammate. It was one of the most genuine hugs I’ve ever experienced, followed by him saying something in his native tongue. I asked our translator what he said. “He says, ‘I love you, my sister.'”

These are just some of the people I was privileged to meet during my time in Germany. There are many more, and their stories inspire me every day to pray for them, to advocate for them, to love them the way Jesus loves them and other refugees.

These are the stories of real human beings, each one special and unique and in need of the hope only Jesus can give.

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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.”

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