UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has called the current refugee situation “the largest humanitarian crisis of our generation.” Millions of people are forced to flee their homes in desperation for a new life. Most of the refugees in the current crisis are fleeing the violence in Syria and Iraq. The numbers alone are staggering. 13 million people (the same population as metro New York City) are living as either Internally Displaced People (IDPs) or as refugees. The majority of these are children. Yet beyond the numbers is the simple fact that each one of these people is an individual created in the image of our Lord. For the Church, this presents an amazing opportunity.
God has allowed World Witness to be a strategic and important partner in reaching out to the refugees. This work started 3 years ago when Alex and Jamie Pettett helped advise Turkish churches on reaching out to refugees spilling out from the Syrian civil war. This became a template for the current relief effort being done by the churches in Turkey. As the crisis spreads over borders and seas, God has again placed World Witness in key positions all along the way. This report is just a brief overview of the different “stations” along the refugee train.
Southeast Turkey: Our primary work is being accomplished through partnership with the churches in Southeast Turkey. The churches there have an open door to provide all levels of humanitarian aid to refugees. Most of these refugees are Yezidis from Iraq and Kurds from Kobane, Syria. These are the ones most directly affected by ISIS. The churches have provided food, shelter, clothes, as well as counseling, medical help, and a listening ear. God has given the churches an open door to share the love of Christ and many refugees have begun to come to faith in Christ.
Western Turkey: Many refugees, however, have grown impatient and desperate with their living conditions in camps. They see their only hope is to get to Europe to be accepted as refugees under asylum. Thus, they have gone to Western Turkey to pay smugglers to take them across the Aegean Sea to Greek islands. This picture of little Aylan Kurdi, the 3 year old boy on the beach, reminds us of the peril in this endeavor. Yet, World Witness again has been reaching out to the thousands of refugees waiting for their chance. For example, the New Birth Church in Izmir has begun weekly outreaches to the refugees giving them food and other basic necessities. The church in Balikesir continues to reach out to other refugees awaiting their hearing for refugee status. The church now has services for refugees every Sunday in Turkish, Persian, and Arabic.
Europe: With the unprecedented influx of refugees into Europe, the churches there have a unique opportunity to welcome the “least of these.” World Witness missionaries in Berlin have partnered with other churches and ministries to provide meals, tutoring, language help, even soccer camps for kids, and have personally “adopted” a young Syrian Christian couple. In addition, a church in Edinburgh, Scotland called Grace Church Leith pioneered a coalition of like-minded churches in the city to host the neediest of the Syrian refugee families. This Christmas, in cooperation with the City Council, the first 5 families will be resettled in Edinburgh thanks to the work of this World Witness-affiliated church.
United States: Much has been made lately about if and when Syrians will be admitted to the United States. However, for us at World Witness, this is merely the next logical step of opportunity. What an open door we have to love and welcome refugees who have gone to extreme lengths to seek a new and more peaceful life. Our hope is to partner with local churches, small groups, and resettlement agencies to help assimilate and care for the refugees. An ARP church in Memphis, Tennessee has done a great job reaching out and loving an Iraqi family through World Relief.
This refugee crisis is not only an humanitarian emergency, but also an open door for the Gospel to peoples previously unreached. God has allowed World Witness to be salt and light at every step of the journey.
CELEBRATE with us what God has already done.
PRAY with us for how we can continue this work.
JOIN with us in reaching out.
Erik and Laurie Meberg
Refugee Aid Liaisons