Remember back in 2015 when Syria’s refugees were flooding out of the country in record numbers? Thousands died crossing a sea on what should have been a forty-five-minute boat journey. Rescue and relief organizations were out in record number.
In the years since, many more refugees have filled the news cycle. More than a million Rohingya people have been forced out of their homes in Myanmar, taking shelter in Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Thailand with no hope or plan for the future. Uganda is also hosting more than a million refugees from South Sudan. And refugees from Somalia, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Nigeria join Syrians in their quest to somehow get beyond the reach of terrorist groups.
But even though there are more refugees today than ever before in recorded history, for some of them, their story has led them to a freedom they never knew possible. God is working in the midst of their suffering to accomplish the highest good—his name being proclaimed by every tongue, nation, tribe, and people. And he wants his church involved in this work.
That’s why Pastor Bryant Wright said he and his church, Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Georgia, have invested heavily in refugee ministry both at home and overseas. “It’s a humanitarian disaster,” Bryant asserted. “It just makes sense to me to reach out with love and concern to them rather than withdrawing in fear. We are not naive about the dangers; we know they are there. But that doesn’t change our calling to reach out with the love of Christ.”
“We are not naive about the dangers. . . . But that doesn’t change our calling to reach out with the love of Christ.”
There in the Atlanta area, members of Johnson Ferry Baptist are walking alongside nine Syrian Muslim families who are trying to rebuild a life. “They needed someone to sit with them and pray with them and be with their family,” said an IMB worker overseas who partners with Johnson Ferry Baptist. She has experienced the same kind of need in the country where she lives.
She and other IMB workers are scattered across the globe to serve as a consistent presence in refugee centers and camps in Europe, Africa, and Asia, sharing Christ in refugees’ moments of deepest pain. As volunteers from the United States have come to partner with them, they have heard story after story of devastation and tragedy. They’ve heard about family members lost and long journeys on foot. And as they have listened to refugees’ stories and wept with them, they have also shared hope with them.
“It was so hard,” one volunteer admitted. “These people challenged my narrow view of the world. They aren’t just news headlines anymore. Their faces left a lasting imprint on my heart, and I see them in my dreams. I now pray for them with such compassion and tenderness, just like I pray for my own family.”
- Pray for God to guide the path of refugees to a place where they might find salvation in Christ.
- Pray for churches to consider ministry to refugees right where they are and through partnerships overseas.
Grace Thornton is the author of the book I Don’t Wait Anymore: Letting Go of Expectations and Grasping God’s Adventure for You. She writes for the International Mission Board, Baptist Press and other Southern Baptist ministries, and blogs at gracefortheroad.com.