““When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:33–34, ESV)
Imagine yourself in a country that is not your own. Instead of waking up in your comfortable bed in your comfortable house you awaken from a restless, fitful sleep on a pallet on the floor, or perhaps a cot. Your dreams have been plagued with visions of war, destruction, and death. As you clear the sleep from your eyes you hope it was just a dream. As you shake off the cobwebs and look around you realize you are in a tent, partitioned into four rooms that you share with 20 people. Or perhaps you awaken and see a one bedroom tenement apartment with a small kitchen and living area. Like the sun that is rising, realization dawns that you are not waking from a dream. This is your life, the plight of a refugee. You have no legal status. Your children are not allowed to attend school. Work, if you can find it at all, is manual labor and you are subject to the whims of your employer. Because work is hard to come by food and clothing, the very necessities of life, are hard to come by. With horror you realize that this morning, like the many mornings since you have been in this country, and unknown mornings to follow does not bring the promise of hope, the promise of a bright future. This morning brings only utter discouragement. You have no hope.
From July 26 – Aug 4 a team of 15 (including 5 children) from Johnson Ferry will be serving in two different countries in the Middle East. Some of our team members are already there. Our trip has three main purposes:
1. To volunteer with an organization that serves thousands of refugees in the region.
2. To encourage local believers on the front lines of the refugee crisis.
3. To visit and encourage friends who live and work in the region.
The plight of the refugee is harrowing. Refugees are not migrants who move by choice. Refugees have to move to save their lives or preserve their freedom. There are 15.2 million refugees who live outside their country (10.2 million of these have been displaced for 5+ years due to the conflicts in their lands). There are another 27 million who are internally displaced in their own country due to violence and oppression. Syria has the largest refugee population in the world (3 million), overtaking Afghanistan for that ignominious distinction last year. Syrians are displaced throughout the Middle East due to a violent civil war that has been raging since 2011 and has no end in sight. We will also be working with Iraqi refugees (426k) who have been displaced due to the conflict that has plagued their country for more than a decade. All the refugees we work with have painful stories. There is not one person who hasn’t personally experienced loss of life, or knows someone who was killed, is missing, or is captured. They have often had to flee their homes with little more than the clothes on their back. Refugees often live in deplorable conditions within countries that can barely sustain their own citizens much less a large refugee population. They have great physical needs, but they also have great spiritual needs. A vast, vast majority of the refugees do not have a personal, saving relationship with Jesus Christ. As bad as their physical condition is their spiritual condition is far worse.
So what can a team of 15 from a country across the ocean hope to accomplish in this vast sea of physical and spiritual need? Why do we go? We go because we are reminded that God commands his covenant people to care for the strangers in the land, to care for the refugees (Leviticus 19:33-34). We go because we were once separated from God, cut off from the source of Life with no hope (Ephesians 2:1-2). We were once enemies of God (5:10-11) and we were part of the dominion of darkness (Colossians 1:13). But God saved us (Romans 5:8) not because of anything we deserved, but because of His mercy (Titus 3:5; Ephesians 2:8-9). We did not have to find our way to God, but God came to sinful humanity through Jesus Christ (John 1:14). Our God ran to us (Luke 15:20)! We realize that a team of 15 cannot solve all the problems of the refugees in the region. But we go to help ease their physical needs, and to tell them about the One who can meet all of their needs; the One who gives Living Water (John 4:10-14), the one who is the Bread of Life (John 6:35). We go because we know from Scripture that God can use even the smallest offering to multiply and expand the Kingdom of God (Matthew 13:31-33; John 6:9-12). We go because we know that we go not with our own authority, but under the authority of Jesus Christ who is with us always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:18-20).
Would you join us in prayer throughout our trip? We will update the blog as we can with stories from our trip, and specific prayer requests as needed. Here are some “big picture” requests for our trip:
--Pray for God to work in us and through us as we go (1 Corinthians 2:4-5).
--Pray that we can encourage the believers that we encounter (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17).
--Pray divine appointments—that every day we will be able to share that hope of the Gospel (Luke 10:6; Acts 8:26-39).
--Pray that we would be bold in sharing the Gospel (Acts 4:31).
--Pray for safety in travel and in ministry. There are a lot of logistical challenges on this trip. Members of the team will be arriving on July 27 from three different locations.
--Pray that we will overcome jet lag quickly as we have a full day of ministry starting the morning after we arrive (July 28).
Thank you so much for partnering with our team through your prayers!