The Accessibility and Importance of Refugee Ministries

Imagine, for a moment, being torn from your home, all you know and love, and sent to a new, unknown location. Sure, you could have stayed, but doing so may have brought more devastation. Now you cling desperately to the hope that you’ve made the right decision. You don’t know if you’ll see your home, your family, again. In fact, you have no idea what your future holds.

One of the most accessible ways of serving in Europe is with refugees. Over the years, millions of people have been displaced due to war, famine, or dreadful living conditions. These people long for refuge and new life in Europe. As God’s hands and feet, we have the opportunity and privilege of showing our neighbours God’s love in practical ways.

There’s an unfortunate stigma surrounding refugees, though, with society often viewing them as a problem. “Because refugees often arrive lacking basic necessities, many assume they are uneducated people who are accustomed to sleeping on the street and begging for food… this is rarely the case!” Rachel Carlson, a global worker who serves refugees in Greece, says. “Most refugees have left living standards on par with most of us —highly educated with businesses, cars, cell phones, and kids in school before suddenly losing their entire network of life, relationships, and stability.”

“He ensures that orphans and widows receive justice. He shows love to the foreigners living among you and gives them food and clothing. So you, too, must show love to foreigners…”

Deuteronomy 10:18-19 (NLT)

Working with an integration and refugee program offered by a Greek Church, Rachel shows love to foreigners by helping them become more self-sufficient while living in Europe. “Many of the refugee ministries in Athens are day-centers, which can serve possibly hundreds of refugees daily with food, language classes, laundry rooms, etc. My primary ministry is a bit different,” she explains. “Our center is a place where families live and go through a holistic integration program, focusing on about 15 families at a time, who are with us for 1.5 years on average.”

Sacrificing their time and energy in serving the newly arrived families, Christian workers often get the unique privilege of building relationships and trust among the refugees. This opens windows of opportunity for sharing the Gospel. “While refugees are at different points on their physical journey, so it is with their spiritual journey,” Rachel says. “We can help them take the next step toward Christ. [In fact], we have seen refugees come to faith and be baptized!”

Though every salvation is celebratory, the seeds that have been planted can also bring much inspiration. “One Syrian family with two small children was with us for about a year,” Rachel starts. “They were not believers but were part of our church integration program. The father showed up on a Sunday morning as their family was preparing to leave. He told our pastor, ‘We’re really grateful for the help and love you have shown to us Muslims. I didn’t become a Christian here, but you know something? I will never teach my children to hate Christians the way I was raised to as a little boy.’”

Though many missionaries move to Europe expecting to share the Good News with local Europeans doors for new ways of serving have been opened, and people groups from outside the continent are now experiencing God’s love through His faithful workers. May we show God’s love to all who are in need and uplift these workers in prayer who are not only making Kingdom impact among the European people, but also among those from surrounding continents!