"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:34-35).
It's a word that often provokes a strong response, causing arguments and stirring up feelings of hopelessness. The global refugee crisis is not a simple matter, and discussing the ins and outs of the crisis makes many people uncomfortable. So uncomfortable that, today, many people don't talk about it at all.
We are paralyzed by fear, paralyzed by overwhelming numbers. But ignoring the refugee crisis is the worst thing we can do. In fact, it is by loving those in need that we truly demonstrate our faith.
This is the time for us as the global church—and as individuals—to be the hands and feet of Jesus to refugees in need. We can help meet their urgent physical needs and hold them up in prayer.
Right now, more than 65 million people worldwide are considered refugees or displaced persons. That number continues to grow every day. But these refugees aren't just leaving their homes for a fun trip; they are leaving because if they don't, they could very well lose their lives.
During the past few years, thousands of refugees have made their way from war-torn South Sudan into northern Uganda. Most of these refugees are young children. They fled from the sounds of gunfire, but the refugee camps aren't exactly safe, either. There isn't enough food, enough water or enough medical aid.
At World Help, we have the privilege of working with partners all around the world. They constantly remind us of the work that still needs to be done—particularly when it comes to the refugee crisis. They tell us many refugees have begun to lose hope. They no longer believe the government will save them. They no longer believe organizations will come to their aid.
The only place they can confidently place their trust is in God and in His generous, compassionate followers. One refugee pastor in northern Uganda recently spoke about the impact a simple gift can have on a refugee:
"Life is not easy in the camps," he says. "[But] people are really, really coming to Christ because of all [the donors] are doing. We can cry to God, which we love. It's only Him who can make a way when it feels like there is no way. We believe He will do great things in our lives."
When a refugee receives a shipment of emergency supplies, he is reminded that God loves him. He is reminded that no matter what, the global church is standing with him. This is the kind of hope you give when you support a refugee. And that is why we, as the body of Christ, must respond to the global refugee crisis by demonstrating Christ-like love.
Although there are refugees around the world, people are most familiar with the refugees pouring out of the Middle East. Thousands and thousands of men, women and children have resettled in camps across the Middle East and into Europe.
Pastor Nikos is one man who has chosen to not run away from this crisis. He ministers in the refugee camps in Greece, and most of the refugees there are from a Muslim background. However, since he's begun working in the camps, the refugees have seen his love for them, and they accept him—despite his Christian faith.
Pastor Nikos goes to the camps every day. He takes people to the doctor, the hospital and the supermarket. He provides for their needs. Refugees come to his house for coffee and lunch. And he does all this in the name of Jesus.
"If they feel accepted, they will also stop looking at us as their enemies, and it will be easier for us to speak to them about the love of Jesus Christ," he said.
As a church, we have been called to share the love of Jesus with everyone. We have been chosen to be His ambassadors here on earth—His hands and feet to the hungry, the lost and the forgotten.
While we cannot all travel to a refugee camp in Greece or Syria or Uganda, we can do something. We can pray for refugees around the world. And we can give whatever we can to help meet their needs.
Isaiah 61 declares a calling all believers share—one that Jesus himself would quote and claim as His mission in Luke 4:18:
"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor; He has sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound" (Isa. 61:1).
After Jesus shared these verses, He shocked those around Him by declaring that He was the fulfillment of this passage. He was the binder of the brokenhearted and the freer of the captives.
Today, He asks us to join Him in that mission.
Right now, refugees around the world are suffering the painful effects of hunger and a lack of medical care. Malnutrition and disease are contestant threats to a refugee's life. They are not thinking about the future; they are just trying to survive this day.
As a follower of Jesus, you have an anointing and a calling to help those in need. By generously giving, you can provide the essentials that one refugee needs to survive. Refugee camps are some of the most hopeless places in the world—but as children of God, we carry hope with us wherever we go. It is our most precious gift.
Each and every one of us has been uniquely created and equipped to share that hope with others, and to share the love of Jesus with one of His precious children.
There is a refugee right now who is praying for help—and the church is God's answer.
Emily Towns writes for World Help, a Christian humanitarian organization serving the physical and spiritual needs of people in impoverished communities around the world.
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