Church of God in Canada, Germany Partner to Help Refugees

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Photo: Cultural differences fade when Christ is in view.

By Audrey Weiger

“You fear that which you do not know.” —Martin Luther King Jr.

The Three Worlds team in Europe and the Middle East entered into a partnership to help German Church of God congregations ministering to refugees. They brainstormed ways to make this partnership happen and decided to connect Glamorgan Church of God in Calgary, Canada, to the Bad Segeberg Church of God in Bad Segeberg, Germany.

Standing there nervously at the airport, not sure what to expect, I waited. Texts were flying back and forth—it felt a bit like I was meeting a blind date. But really I was waiting on the ministry group to arrive from Calgary, Canada.

“You’re taller than I expected,” said the group leader. I laughed and replied, “Oh, yeah?” We both laughed again and smiled. We’d been planning this trip together for over six months, but we still weren’t exactly sure what we were getting into. That was just one of the many reasons I was so thankful to have my teammates, Dan and Christy Kihm and their daughter Sofie, arriving later that evening to help brief the team on what to expect in interactions with refugees and to give an overview of the work we do as the Three Worlds team in Europe and the Middle East. Having the context is critically important before entering into a situation. With the Kihms setting up our meeting room space and leading the orientation seminar, I knew we’d be okay and that the ministry team would get the whole picture.

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Photo: Group from Canada at the airport.

Meanwhile, Pastor Frank Bonkowski, of the Church of God in Bad Segeberg, Germany, and Jan Anton, one of the leaders of the Arabic church in Bad Segeberg, were having conversations with refugee families—asking if they’d be willing to have small groups of Canadians in their homes for a short time. Some refugees were very skeptical, even saying no, until after they had met the group. But, after they met, deep friendships started developing, even across language, culture, age, and gender. I was so impressed with how the Canadian group dove into those relationships—asking questions, playing games, dancing, and getting to teach the refugees and Germans how to play baseball. You could see the walls of skepticism and fear coming down as they played billiards and learned words in each other’s languages.

“The Calgarians got to witness how we actually cry and laugh and sometimes mourn and often eat, dance, and celebrate together as one group. This is very exciting because it takes away the fear of the unknown, which leads to so much conflict in this country,” said Pastor Bonkowski.

What a beautiful ministry concept—breaking down the fear of the unknown.

“Every year we have someone in the family designated as ‘Santa,’” said Gabriel, a refugee from Syria, reminiscing about Christmastime in his homeland. “The whole family—aunts, uncles, cousins, everyone—gives their gifts to ‘Santa’ who then goes around on Christmas Eve, knocks on doors, and delivers all of the gifts.”

“I had no idea your culture was so into Santa,” said Grant, a Canadian missions team member.

“We have had Santa for about 100 years,” Gabriel replied. “It’s a very big thing now.”

And just like that, something foreign becomes something familiar, something known, something loved. And the fear of the unknown loses its power.

Be a part of what the Church of God is doing to help refugees. Give online, or 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. Learn more about Global Strategy at www.chogglobal.org.

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