The plight of refugees dominates global headlines. The utter chaos within certain corners of the world has forced men and women and boys and girls by the millions to flee, sometimes for their very lives. Of course, while there are refugees on the move all across Earth, the circumstances of those from the Middle East—places like Syria—are especially moving because of years of warfare and brutality. This matter truly is overwhelming the geopolitical conversation. Politicians across Europe are scrambling to address the refugee dilemma, as thousands of refugees cross Europe’s southern borders. And because of the wicked tragedies of Paris and San Bernardino, politicians throughout the United States are being forced to address the crisis as well, often in exceedingly clumsy ways that greatly aggravate people’s understandable fears.
And there are understandable fears. The woman participating in the San Bernardino terrorist attack was a foreigner who legally entered the United States; whatever nefarious intentions she had were not exposed in our entry process. This certainly implies that even legally documented immigrants may well arrive with evil intentions. The idea that thousands of refugees from places like Syria might enter the United States, using the process as legal cover for wicked aspirations, ought to make us cautious.
Stepping back from the complex security and political dynamics, one wonders what disciples of Jesus Christ might do. What might be one or two exceedingly practical and strategic ways to counter the crisis of refugees and the the correlated concerns with Kingdom-vision? For New Hope Church, seriously devoted to being a Christ-centered community for all people, it has been important to find meaningful answers to this question. Here are three practical answers.
First, we’re going to pray. In a context wherein political calculations regarding refugees, especially Syrian refugees, are all over the proverbial map, one thing that is most effective is prayer. Thus, we are inviting our church family, and any others who wish to participate, on a forty-day journey of prayer, known as Project 424. Matthew 4:24 tells us regarding Jesus that “his fame spread throughout all Syria.” We are desiring to pray very specifically about the conflict in Syria, against the likes of ISIS and other tyrannical influences, for the 4 million (!) Syrians who have fled their homeland, the 7.6 million Syrians displaced within Syria, and so forth. Our prayer commitment launches Monday, December 21, 2015, and runs through Friday, January 29, 2016. Let us pray that Jesus’ fame—his grace and peace and power—would permeate the souls of our Syrian neighbors and their broken homeland.
Secondly, we are creating a strategic partnership with Arrive Ministries in Minneapolis, Minnesota, wherein small groups of disciples may voluntarily come alongside refugees who are trying to integrate into the Minneapolis area. While these are predominately Somalian and east Asian families, as opposed to Syrian or Iraqi, their needs are equally unique. Providing for them a meaningful, Christ-like influence is a significant gift to extend to them, particularly as they are desperately seeking to settle into their new environment. At a time when people remain understandably anxious about refugees from any location, followers of Christ have a remarkable chance to model Christ’s love and grace as a means of mitigating fear and focusing souls toward a Kingdom-orientation. At New Hope Church we are praying for at least ten of our Life Groups to voluntarily step forward to partner with Arrive Ministries in a year-long effort to help refugees in Jesus’s name.
Thirdly, we are going to choose to lay our fears at the feet of Jesus. As God Almighty, Jesus would have known a fierce storm was going to descend upon the Sea of Galilee. Yet, as Mark 4:35 and following reveals, he had his disciples push their boat from the shore anyway. He was very clear to them: Let us go across to the other side. He knew that regardless of the storm, he would get them through to the other shore line. That is the way Jesus is. Even when things are brewing and dark, we can trust him to take care of us and protect us. No wonder he said to his disciples after the storm was stilled, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” We are going to choose to lay our fears at the feet of Jesus.
There is understandable anxiety permeating our culture today because of the refugee crisis and the notion that the movement of refugees may make it easy for terrorists to infiltrate our communities. The simple fact is there are many strategic questions that our politicians have to wrestle with regarding things ranging from security to resources. We need to pray political leaders will have wisdom for such weighty issues. In the meantime, however, followers of Jesus Christ can move past the political concerns with prayer and partnerships that benefit men and women and boys and girls who find themselves on the move because of geopolitical realities that they cannot control. While some wish to put forward angry fists, we can put forward hands that emulate the nail-pierced hands of Jesus. For those who are, in fact, in our midst, extending the love of Jesus Christ is the best thing we can do. For those not in our midst but on the run still, we can pray. It is incumbent upon the Church of Jesus Christ to seriously believe that the geopolitical tumults of time and space are not accidents, and that God can redeem the movement of people groups for his eternal glory, so many more would find salvation through Jesus Christ.