refugees

Update from Andrew

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Though its a little late, I wanted to say Happy New Year! Wishing you a bright and hopeful entry into 2017. Thank you for your friendship and support. 

2016 was the toughest year ever for our family. As you know, my wife Debbie passed away in June in Ethiopia due to malaria and typhoid. This has been an indescribable loss for me and also for our five kids. We are getting on with our lives but she has left an enormous hole. Thank you all for your consolations, encouragements, thoughts and prayers. 

My health has improved, after contracting the same illnesses Debbie had, and I feel like I am almost back to normal. I still have to keep an eye on my blood pressure and heart rate but my weight has returned (still skinny though).

I’ve been musing  on the reformation of the church in this 500th anniversary year, focusing on the creative missional entrepreneurs who are reshaping the form of missions and church to impact the world. (Contact office@nzcms.org.nz for more.)

Your financial support helped us equip Europeans to reach out to refugees from Syria and beyond and bring God’s light to spiritual seekers in various festivals and gatherings. It also helped us to mentor African agriculturalists and social entrepreneurs in seven West African countries. 

In 2017, we plan to increase our efforts in Europe to respond to the refugee crisis, assist the formation of a training base in Europe, equip Christian leaders in at least 14 European countries, and offer training and teaching to churches and organisations in impacting the next generation. Your continued prayers and gifts will make this possible. Our support level is critically low at the moment and we really need your help.

Thank you for your partnership!

Reaching the Nations through Migrant Workers

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By Tan Kang San & Loun Ling.

The following is from a recent update by our sister organisation, AsiaCMS.

More people than ever are living abroad. In 2013, 232 million people, or 3.2 per cent of the world’s population, were international migrants, compared to 175 million in 2000 and 154 million in 1990. In 2013, South Asians were the largest group of international migrants living outside of their home region. Of the 36 million international migrants from South Asia, 13.5 million resided in the oil-producing countries in Western Asia. In the UAE, 8 million out of its population of 9 million are migrants.

In the Book of Ruth, Elimelech and his wife Naomi were economic migrants seeking food and better living in the land of Moab. However, similar to the stories of contemporary migrants, Naomi suffered the loss of family and future hope. “Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.” (1:5).

While some migrants are skilled professionals, the majority of migrant labourers are hired to do the 3-D jobs (dirty, difficult and dangerous!). Like Elimelech and Naomi, many left their homes and countries to seek better life, but very few nations instituted legal and social frameworks which ensure just structures in welcoming migrant labourers who are cheated and oppressed in foreign countries.

The Book of Ruth holds out the practice of ḥeseḏ (loving kindness) as the ideal lifestyle for Israel. Christians often ignore their responsibilities toward the growing migrant population in global cities. When addressing the issue of migrant communities, churches often reduce their responsibilities to conducting migrant discipleship classes or worship services.

The Old Testament principle of hesed may be an important and rich biblical ideal that integrates Christian responsibility toward migrant communities as doing good, as addressing issues of injustices and oppression faced by migrants, and to love kindness. “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness (hesed), and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).

Reaching the nations through migrant workers in our midst is a biblical mandate as well as an effective mission strategy. The testimony of Maria below is one of many that bear out this truth.

There are tens of thousands of Asian migrant workers from the Philippines, Nepal, Bangladesh and Indonesia in countries such as Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong. One of them could be in our home, our workplace, our church.

Maria writes:

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”

Thank and praise God, about 26 years ago while working in Singapore as domestic helper, I was drawn by the heavenly Father to His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to His saving grace. My employers brought me to Grace (S.C.C) Church and I attended English Congregation, Bible studies and later I decided to join the Foundation of Faith class. I received much encouragement from my employers.

Indeed, God’s truth has set me free from wrong ways/practices of worshipping Him. Truly, God is just and righteous that He delivered me from idolatry. Although He allowed me to experience trials (anticipation of persecution from family members, clan and friends), He gave me victory through His words and encouragement from brothers and sisters in Church. I was baptised in 1989. After baptism I was asked a prayer request and my reply was about the need for evangelism back in my home town. From then I was more eager to study His word in order to prepare myself spiritually to defend my faith in Jesus Christ and be ready to go home.

Every day, I had my devotion before work and while doing my work I memorised Scriptures (written in small pieces of paper stuck near to me) until I decided to take a course at the Singapore Bible College inspite of the language barrier. I attended class once a week at night, with the support of my employers. Finally, God confirmed His call for me to go for full-time theological studies. I left to work in Canada knowing that the work there was only 8 hours a day which would give me time to study. When my church in Singapore knew about my calling and desire to study, they decided to support me.

Eventually I returned to the Philippines. By God’s grace, I was bold to share my faith and gave Bibles to my family and relatives. The Lord opened the door for me to study at Doane Baptist Seminary and I graduated after 2 years with Bachelor of Religious Education.

I volunteered to serve in the church in my home town, Cabatuan Fundamental Baptist Church, during the 2 years of seminary training. After a year I was called to work as Bible woman while staying at home with my parents, brother and sisters. My parents have now gone to be with the Lord together with my eldest brother. Almost all the children and grandchildren of my family members attended our Church Kindergarten.

As a Bible woman of the church, I am also the Sunday School superintendent, teacher, and full-time worker in charge of the various church ministries. These include visiting Elementary Schools and Secondary Schools, hospital, prison, prisoners on parole, pawnshop employees, home Bible studies. The Lord has given me a burden to reach many lost souls. Every summer our house is one of the venues for Children’s Vacation Bible School. Sometimes we even have 15 children attending. With all these ministries, the Lord granted me a desire and opportunity to be further equipped through attending a Master’s class. He enabled me to graduate in December 2010.

In my journey of serving Him, God allowed me to go through many trials and challenges. In May 2012, I was hospitalised and had an operation. For 3 months I was unable to work. Grace Church in Singapore again responded in helping me financially and comforting me. After recovery I was more eager to serve Him. I now have less responsibility at the church but am involved with a government programme to help the poorest of the poor by conducting their Family Development Session. Every month I have the opportunity to minister to more than a thousand people from different barangays or villages. My desire to witness for Christ in the 68 barangays of our town is almost fulfilled. All glory and honour to God!

Whose Kingdom?

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By Katie Wivell

What is it that stops me?

What is it that keeps my eyes fixed on my feet when you walk past?

What is it that makes it so hard for me to stretch out my arms and welcome you?

Maybe it’s the ugly truth that I profess to be part of a Kingdom of grace, and unconditional love, and authentic community – and yet, I’ve still managed to carve out my own space.

My own space where I’m building a different kind of kingdom… Katie’s Kingdom.

In my kingdom, things roll smoothly for me. And I work hard to keep it that way, I please the right people and I make sure I belong. I make sure I have enough; love, respect, clothes, money, social hangs, Facebook likes, success stories… Security, comfort, and belonging. These are my treasured possessions.

And you, with your differences and difficulties, you embody the insecurity that I flee from daily.

Why should I be the one to give up my seat and make a scene, and walk over to the one who is different! I worked hard to get here! And I work hard daily, to keep everything in the right place.

So I’m sorry. This kingdom can’t accommodate for your complicated need set today. If I reach out to you, I’m afraid I’ll lose my balance. And I’ll fall. And this kingdom of comfort will slip from my hands. And I’ll be the one on the outside. Without a seat to sit in.

And that, that is the thing I fear the most.

 

For me, these are the worries that have stopped me from helping people far too many times in the past. And they are the same kind of worries I see popping up everywhere at the moment. We look at refugees, and their insecurity and need and state of loss, and are reluctant to offer them substantial support. At the root of our reasons to not help those in need is FEAR.

Fear of what the cost might be to us.

I think for many of us, we are reluctant to take a stand on this refugee issue because we are too busy asking the question: “If I do this, what will happen to me?”

If I welcome refugees into my country, my city, my community, what will happen to me?

Not enough of us are asking the question, “If I don’t to this, if we don’t do this, what will happen for them?”

And maybe we brush this question off by saying, well, someone else will help them, someone else will pick up the pieces. The countries closer to Syria will take them, and will be better equipped. We are just little New Zealand after all. But we weren’t just little New Zealand when we hosted the Rugby world cup, or signed the TPPA agreement…

As Christians, I think at a time like this we have an opportunity to be the voice of hope. And I would go as far as to call it a responsibility. Comfortable Christians have been saying, “somebody else will do it” about too many issues for too long. As followers of Jesus, who spent his entire life teaching us how to love sacrificially and restore what is broken, we are called to be those ‘somebody elses’ who do something about it.

This is a hard pill to swallow, especially because we live our day to day lives in an environment where nobody expects this kind of extravagant love and care from us. In our society, and sadly even in some of our churches, we are taught to pursue success. If we have a good career, stability, and still manage to be kind to others and turn up at church, then we are doing pretty well.

For a long time I was largely blind to the problem with this attitude in my own life.

But then I started to fall in love with Jesus. And study him more. And soak up his ways and his purposes more. And I realised if I was really a follower of Jesus, I needed to change my priorities, my goals, and broaden my social circles, to not just people like me, but to everyone, especially those who are strangers, or in need. And that is hard!

And this situation is HARD! And scary! And risky! I’m not saying that it isn’t. But that doesn’t mean we can step over the issue and walk away.

Sometimes I catch myself trying to side step the possible things I could do to show God’s love to these people who desperately need it. And when I do, or when I see other Christians in our nation doing a similar thing, I remember when Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan. If we’ve spent any time reading our Bibles or sitting in church, it’s a story we’ll be well familiar with. I remember this man who has been robbed and beaten lying in a desert road, close to death. And I see the priest approach him. Jesus sets up this scene so that we expect the priest to intervene and help, as any follower of a God of love would… But the priest looks at the man lying in the dust, weighs up his own desires and schedules, then steps over him and carries on his way.

When I deny any responsibility to help the refugees that want to start lives of freedom and safety in my community, I am like that priest. When we, as the body of Christ in New Zealand, deny or fail to rise to any responsibility to help the refugees that want to start lives of freedom and safety in our communities, we are like that priest.

I’m not an expert on the refugee crisis. I don’t claim to be. I don’t work with them every day. There are questions I have about risks of taking on large numbers of refugees, and there are worries I’d have about trying to support a family when I know nothing about the reality of the suffering they’ve faced. But I can’t look at Jesus, and claim to follow him, and do nothing.

So my hope is that we would look at this issue with new eyes.

That we would start to be brave, and remember the kind of God that we follow.

That we would stop only asking the question, “but what will happen to me?”

That we would see refugees not as a threat to our comfort but as men and women and boys and girls who are just as loved and treasured by God as we are.

And we would start asking, “God, we are scared, and at time overwhelmed, but help us, what can we do for these your children?”

 

Katie is a youth worker in Campbell Bay, and also studying for her Social Work Degree in Auckland.

 

THE MUSE

What are the fears that keep you from action? How have you responded to the refugee crisis?

 

THE MOVE

What can you do this week to counter your fears?

#NZCMS is all about exploring what it means to be God’s missional people in today’s world. Sign up for the emailer by filling in your email at the top of the page or join the discussion at the #NZCMS Facebook Group (and turn on ‘all notifications’ to stay in the loop!) 

Syrians in Turkey

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I write this from a poor fishing village on the Black Sea, about 120kms from Istanbul. There are eight street dogs outside on the road but they don’t move for cars. One of those dogs guarded our truck last night. They are not territorial like the city dogs and they don’t bark all night.

The cafe is full of men drinking tea and occasionally playing cards. The summer fishing season has ended yet a few boats go out early in the morning and return at 5pm with meager amounts of small fish. They must be operating at a loss. Perhaps they are subsidised? Perhaps the fishermen just need something to do.

Two days ago we were in Edirne, not far from the border to Bulgaria and Greece. The Turkish authorities were using the stadium to house many of the refugees but these were moved away from Edirne to, or so they tell me, the bigger cities of Istanbul, Adana and Izmir. Refugees are now no longer to be seen in the city although there are accounts of some of them inside houses of generous people.

On our way out of Edirne we saw a group of about 12 young Syrian refugees walking fast along the railroad tracks. We parked a little ways ahead of them and walked over to the tracks. They all looked about 17 years of age and were quite scared of us but I waved at them and they eventually walked up to us. One of them spoke English and told us they could not stop or even walk slowly since the police were after them. We were able to convince them we had no connections to the police and he told us they were trying to get to Greece. I left the group with 50 TL to buy bread and tea for the group once they arrived at the next town – this came from the funds people like you have provided.

We have pulled back to a fishing village on Turkey’s Black Sea, about 120kms from Istanbul. The last few weeks have seen some intense times. We have been moved off by the police on many occasions not just in Turkey but also in Serbia and Hungary. Most times they check all our passports and it takes a long time. The Turkish police were quite friendly to us and took photos of themselves next to our truck.

The Turkish are a friendly people. At the fishing town where we are currently parked up, I have been to the cafe a few times but have never been able to buy tea because someone always buys it for me. Last night we were given a large bag of fish by the portmaster. Sometimes the subject of Gallipoli comes up and they call me “Anzac”. I remind them that the New Zealanders and Australians fighting here a century ago felt a friendly connection to the Turks that was unexpected and actually caused the English to send many troops away and replace the with new soldiers since they were not motivated to fight the Turks.

In many ways, both New Zealand and Turkey discovered themselves during that war and entered a new era with a new identity after the war.

It’s good to be back in Turkey. I hope the friendliness they extend to our nations, and what they extended to the European refugees during WWII, will be applied to the two million refugees from Syria, along with the willingness to recognise them as true “refugees” (with work permits and permission to stay) rather than the current status of “guest” that allows them no such privileges.

 

The Thornberrys are now focusing on the Syrian refugee crisis. They urgently need more support to enable them to effectively serve many in need. Please consider donating towards their increased expenses that this ministry is incurring for them. Your donation, whether one-off or on-going, will support real ground-work with the refugees.

Information about giving can be found by clicking here.

 

Image by Freedom House.

Responding to the Refugee Crisis

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We’re currently in Turkey, witnessing what some are calling the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time and the largest mass movement of people since WWII. There are four million refugees from Syria outside their country and two million of them are here in Turkey, a country that doesn’t want them. We’ve been active in feeding them at the borders and helping to manage relocations into homes of compassion and missional centres in European cities. It’s been good getting to re-establish relationships with ministry leaders again, joining forces to respond to such a serious crisis and huge opportunity for the Gospel.

Half of the four million Syrian refugees outside of their country are under 18 years of age and half don’t have passports. The two million refugees in Turkey are not given ‘refugee’ status but are rather treated as ‘guests’ – without permission to stay or work. Thousands have died this year in boats during their desperate journey to Europe. Some have suffocated in trucks during the land journey. It’s a horrible crisis but there is hope. Thousands upon thousands of homes have opened up for them around the world and we are witnessing one of the greatest acts of compassion in our lifetime. Many of these homes are Christian and already stories are emerging of transformation by the power of Jesus.

Through connecting country leaders with houses of compassion and hubs of holistic service in many countries, we hope to create a network that will enable refugees to find a new home, even if only temporarily. And we feel the best way to help at the moment is to be present in the areas where the refugees are. Please pray for us that we will have everything we need to fulfil God’s purposes.

 

The Thornberrys are NZCMS Mission Partners in Europe who are now focusing on the Syrian refugee crisis. They urgently need more support to enable them to effectively serve many in need. Please consider donating towards their increased expenses that this ministry is incurring for them. Your donation, whether one-off or on-going, will support real ground-work with the refugees.

Information about giving can be found by clicking here. (The above image is from European Commission DG Echo on Flicker.)

Refugees in Gambella

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I spent 10 days in Gambella (in the west of Ethiopia) in April. Since the war broke out in neighbouring South Sudan, 150 000 new refugees have arrived and the number could rise to up to 300 000 by the end of this year. The total population of Gambella before the conflict was 380 000 so this is a huge strain on the already scarce resources of this region.

As many of the refugees are from Anglican churches, we have new congregations in the camps. I joined Bishop Grant and Wendy to visit Akula refugee camp. As we entered in a landrover, I felt like an outsider – viewing poverty from behind a glass window. But as I joined the church service, I became a member of God’s family worshipping together. ‘Church’ was a large tree around where 3000 Christians from many denominations were gathered. The camp, then only one month old, already sheltered 33 000, with more arriving daily.

Glimpses of the stories and thoughts of those who have fled here for shelter:

“My sister died on the way. Her children were suffering from dehydration so they were brought here for medical care without being registered. Now they are with me, but they are not registered, so I cannot get food ration cards for them. Pray that I can get rations to feed them”

“My husband Jacob has been missing since December 15th. I can get no news. I pray to know if he is alive or dead.”

“We should not be surprised at the calamity which has fallen upon us. It says in the Bible that these things can happen. But be encouraged, for nothing, not even this, can separate us from the love of God.”

“It was quarreling that brought us here. We must forsake quarreling.”

“Let us greet one another, and when Jesus comes, we will all love one an-other.” “Let us kneel together before our Jesus”

Bishop Grant was invited to preach: “Jesus hates suffering and death. He wept at the tomb of his friend, Lazarus. A couple of weeks later, he gave him-self to die on the cross and to rise again, de-feating suffering and death. Because Jesus rose from the dead we know that one day there will be no death, there will be no suffering – God will wipe away every tear from our eyes. And on that day people from every tribe will be together around the throne – white people and Chinese and Arab and Nuer and Anuak and Dinka and Murle – so we should get used to being together now!”

Many of our partners have given generously to the newly arrived refugees, and spoken out about the situation which is lost in the world news. See this video for more info about the situation in Gambella and South Sudan: anglicanaid.net/south-sudan-appeal