Dear pastors, missionaries, chaplains and friends,
Steve Jones here… The United Nations declared June 20 World Refugee Day and the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) is encouraging Christians and churches to mark in their calendars the two Sundays (June 18 and 25), falling on either side of World Refugee Day, as World Refugee Sundays.
These Sundays are an opportunity for local churches, small groups, and/or individuals to demonstrate their concern for the welfare and protection of the world’s displaced people.
My recent experience with Syrian refugees
In March 2017 I visited a number of ministries in Lebanon that are ministering to the over one million Syrian refugees that have poured into Lebanon due to the Syrian civil war.
In northern Lebanon we met with Pastor Michel and his team, including Anthony, Melody, Stephanie, Adna and others. Their centre is associated with six Baptist churches in the area and ministers largely to Syrian refugees and Lebanese families. Since the civil war began in neighbouring Syria, many refugees began entering northern Lebanon. Thousands came to the Centre. In 2013-2014, the centre distributed vouchers of $80 USD each month to 825 families, provided for by Lebanese Baptist Churches. With each passing year, their capacity to give has dropped. They currently care for 35 families with a voucher of $60 US each month, along with caring for other families and women through the Centre’s women's ministry. Pastor Michel explained that refugee women are invited to join a friendship group and many have done just that. How encouraging to hear the news that 650 refugee women have come to faith in Christ in recent years through this ministry.
The Centre hosts classes for refugee children and also provides medical and dental clinics, in addition to offering ESL classes. We visited two classes during our visit: one teaching Arabic writing skills, and the other French. Pastor Michel hopes the Centre will soon become a church-plant of the Baptist churches in the area.
We were accompanied by two members of the Centre’s team, Anthony and Melody, as we visited five Syrian refugee families in the immediate area. One family escaped Syria four years ago and now the mother, three sons and a daughter are all living in a small cement block enclosure, farming their small patch of land to make $300 a year selling vegetables. Another family lives in a small cement block building – a husband, his wife and five children – rent-free because they care for the flocks and land of the landowner. We visited three other families living in a triplex strip mall with loads of very young children. The wives of these three families had their papers submitted with the U.N. authorities with hope of sponsorship to France. With each home we visited, a box of food stuffs was presented, the Gospel was shared, and we prayed for the family.
Refugee Highway Partnership Resources
The World Evangelical Alliance and the Refugee Highway Partnership have developed a number of resources for churches to promote and observe World Refugee Day (June 20). Go to Refugee Highway’s >website< for posters, an excellent video and other resources.
Have a blessed week,