Twenty years ago I sat in a church and watched a slideshow from a missionary serving in Bosnia. this was long before built-in screens and animated PowerPoint presentations. Grainy images projected on a shaky tripod as he talked about war, families torn apart, hungry children, and scars on hearts and villages.
There must have been other people in the room, but I don’t remember any. The space seemed silent except for the occasional cough. I’m sure the speaker struggled to keep his audience’s attention in the dark room, but I was gripped. He couldn’t lose me even if he tried. His stories sunk deep into my being; I knew I had to do something. I had to go to those villages, to those people. I had to help. I had to bring them Hope.
I believed everyone in that room must feel the same way. But maybe he was speaking only to me. Maybe I was the only one who heard him.
It took me a year to complete all the applications, training, and raise the money to go, but I did it. I expected my church family to support me, to rally around my conviction and to delight in the mission. I anticipated enthusiastic partnership to reach the lost and bring Hope. I mean, wasn’t this exactly what all those years of sermons and Sunday School led to? What they prepared me to do? I expected all those teachers, leaders, and mentors to be excited about my willingness to serve God fully with my life, to courageously follow wherever He led.
Some did. Most questioned my thinking.
Why would I dare go to a war-torn country? Why put myself in danger? If God wants them saved, He’ll save them. If He wants them helped, He’ll help them. Fear is a sign of wisdom. I should be smart rather than bold, wise rather than fearless. I should stay home and send money or pray rather than waste my life on foolish compassion. I should be thinking with my head, not my bleeding heart.
My family heard many of these same lines five years prior when we moved from a rural town in Indiana to the ghetto of Philadelphia. The situations, not just the rebuttals, were quite parallel. Both were dangerous. Both were unknown. Both were life-changing and seemed to require drastic measures. Yet in both we felt called to bring Hope to hurting people. And in the end, both permanently altered our lives, our faith, and our understandings of God and His desires for His people.
The same lines all over again…I’ve been here before.
I’ve hesitated to blog about the Syrian refugee crisis because I’m tired. I’m tired of the same arguments, the same defenses, the same lines over again. I’ve been here before.
I know that people must lead with their heads, not just their hearts. But if God is directing, is there anything wiser than following?
I know that we should not invite danger or entertain foolishness. But is it foolish to entertain needy strangers as Jesus commanded? Is there any place safer than in the center of God’s will?
I know that there’s more than one answer to every crisis. But does that mean I should hesitate to do what is within my reach and resources to do?
I know that God provides knowledge, logic, and wisdom, not just compassion, to make wise decisions. But does that negate the role compassion? Or overshadow Jesus’s teachings on mercy and provision for the oppressed and needy?
I also know that man’s wisdom cannot compare with God’s wisdom, that God thinks differently than we do. I know that my role as an individual differs from the roles of governments and government leaders. For that I’m thankful, but because I refuse to argue excuses and build walls when it is within my power to do something helpful. Anything helpful. And bring Hope.
Why has God called you here?
“If you keep silent at this time, liberation and deliverance will come to the Jewish people from another place, but you and your father’s house will be destroyed. Who knows, perhaps you have come to your royal position for such a time as this.” — Esther 4:14 (HCSB)
Esther’s story differs greatly from our present refugee crisis. I won’t even begin to go into all the distinct details. I do want you to think for a moment about this one verse and the truths it holds that transcend time and circumstance.
- We have a choice. We may choose to be silent or to be vocal. We may choose to act or not act.
- God will accomplish His purposes regardless of what we choose. He is omnipotent and He is sovereign. He will have his way no matter what role we choose to play.
- We forfeit blessings when we choose not to join God in His purposes. We may make sacrifices to follow Him, but those sacrifices — earthly goods, safety, or status — cannot compare to the blessings He has reserved for us.
- God uses us where we are with what He has given us. Position, resources, skills, time, knowledge … these are all useful. And we can use them — or not — for God’s glory.
We aren’t all called to identical action, but we are all called.
Maybe God will have you pray daily, hourly, for those in need. Maybe He wants you to sponsor a refugee family or contact your government leaders about action. Perhaps your role is to support European or Middle Eastern missionaries on the front lines of this crisis. You may be called to sew clothes or donate blankets and items in need. Maybe you need to volunteer time at a local shelter or lead a Bible study in your community. I don’t know what specific action God has set aside for you. I only know that we are all called to do something.
“For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.” — Ephesians 2:10 (HCSB)
I encourage you to read all of Ephesians 2. It’s quite stunning how much those verses reflect a refugee crisis. Seriously. Go read it —> EPHESIANS 2.
Then read some of the articles below, most of which I’ve shared over the past week on social media. In them you’ll find excellent content, biblical arguments, and practical resources.
More thoughts to consider…
The World’s Worst Refugee Crisis Since WWII
Syria’s civil war is the worst humanitarian crisis of our time. Half the country’s pre-war population — more than 11 million people — have been killed or forced to flee their homes. At times, the effects of the conflict can seem overwhelming. But one fact is simple: millions of Syrians need our help. READ MORE…
6 Things YOU and Your Church Can DO to Help Refugees
As I said, not everyone is called to identical action, but we are all called. Here Ann Voskamp offers six different ways to help, along with links and resources to equip you and make it easy to follow through. Whether you support resettlement or not, there are things you can do, and this link will help you. READ MORE…
Building His Church in a Refugee Crisis
Christians, we may disagree about what’s best for America to do in this situation. But as Christians, we also recognize that this is not ultimately as important as the gospel opportunity represented in the refugee crisis. God cares about these refugees suffering, and so should we. READ MORE…
Some Americans Don’t Believe the Gospel Anymore
“Don’t sing your Christmas carols of a baby laid in a manger and then with smug certainty turn your back on homeless, terrified children begging for a chance at life.
“It’s hypocrisy at its worst. You sit beside your lighted tree and tell the Christmas story to your children, the part about how there was no room for Mary and Joseph in the inn. . . and then in an irony that is completely lost on you, you become the innkeeper in the story.” READ MORE…
6 Reasons to Welcome Syrian Refugees after Paris
Arguments in this piece have nothing to do with faith or Jesus’s calls for compassion and mercy. Rather, these are pretty logical and political reasons to support resettlement in the United States. READ MORE…
How do Syrian refugees get into the United States?
It is important to understand the vetting procedures already in place when voicing support of refugee resettlement plans. This process may be “…the most stringent security process for anyone entering the United States.” The average processing time for refugee applications is 18 to 24 months, but Syrian applications can take significantly longer. READ MORE…
Why so few Syrian Christian Refugees? For the same reason you can’t find orphans in Haitian orphanages.
One of the major conditions people argue when discussing resettlement is that we (Americans) should only permit Christian refugees. This is ridiculous, insulting, and arrogant. (I’m sorry; I’m losing patience here.) First, Jesus didn’t tell us to only help those who believe in Him or agree with us. Second, there are reasons many of the refugees are not Christians. This article talks about that. READ MORE…
TALK TO ME.
I don’t want any debates about resettlement or the things our government should or shouldn’t be doing. Instead, let’s talk about OUR roles, our individual roles. What can WE do right where we are to make a difference? How can we bring Hope?