By Stephen Lewis
Around our world today, 1 in every 122 humans is either a refugee, internally displaced, or seeking asylum. It may well be the greatest humanitarian crisis that the world has seen. The conflict in Syria alone has displaced 12,000,000 people, half of whom are children. Of these, 7,600,000 are displaced within Syria; more than 1,000,000 are in camps in Turkey; another 1,000,000 are in camps in Lebanon; and nearly 1,000,000 have made their way to Europe.
For more than two years, long before this summer’s European refugee crisis, the Disaster Relief Committee at Church of God Ministries has been working with Church of God-related organizations in Lebanon and with a ministry contact in Turkey to provide funds to help supply food and basic supplies to refugees, primarily from Syria. Funds have been provided to the Church of God in Lebanon and to Heart for Lebanon, an organization founded by Church of God people that works directly with refugees, providing holistic care. In Turkey, funds have been provided to a ministry contact who places orders for food and basic supplies at local chain stores; those orders are then delivered to stores on the opposite side of the country, where they are picked up by local Christian pastors and congregations; these pastors and their congregations distribute the supplies in the refugee camps along the border.
Since this summer’s refugee crisis in Europe, Church of God churches and the Global Strategy team across the region have been wrestling with how they might serve the refugees crossing the continent, heading primarily for Germany. One of the challenges is that few Church of God congregations are located along the major refugee routes.
The situation altered considerably in late summer when Germany opened its borders to all refugees, with nearly a million expected to cross into Germany by the end of 2015. As the German government has dispersed these refugees across the country, this has created a greater opportunity for the Church of God in Germany, with nearly thirty congregations, to reach out. An Arabic-speaking congregation of the Church of God in Germany has been leading the work among the Syrian refugees. As 2015 has wound down, the Disaster Relief Committee at Church of God Ministries has also begun to partner financially with the Church of God in Germany to support their refugee work.
Since late September 2015, the Global Strategy personnel on the Three Worlds team in Europe and the Middle East have been working to bring all of those in the Church of God across Europe and the Middle East who are working with refugees together for planning and coordination, with the goal of finding solutions that have a lasting impact. A meeting took place in early January. Ben Shular, the chief international officer at Church of God Ministries and the director of Global Strategy, was in Europe for this meeting. We look forward to sharing more with the church in the coming months.
As the Disaster Relief Committee and Global Strategy continue to work with refugees in Europe and the Middle East, would you consider donating today to the Disaster Relief Fund? You can also send your donation to Attn: Disaster Relief, Church of God Ministries, PO Box 2420, Anderson, IN 46018. Be certain to clearly designate your gift to Project #45.04502.