Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Offering Hope in the Midst of Transition: Responding to the Refugee Crisis

Mark Landerholm, Missionary, Hungary
April-June 2016

“And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days!” (Mark 13:17 ESV) 
Missionaries helped refugees when they traveled through Hungary.
These difficult words of Jesus echoed in my head as I stood in a refugee camp in Croatia watching pregnant women and nursing mothers come into the camp, one after another. I thought of my wife, Eszti, and my 13-month-old son, Samuel, and imagined having to decide that it was in their best interest to leave our home and everything we had and put them on a raft for a highly perilous sea crossing. And then to make them walk across unknown and often unfriendly countries to settle in a country that doesn’t want us. I cannot fathom the difficulties and fears that such a journey would entail, yet I have encountered thousands who were on such a journey. Thousands who have no homes, no beds, and no ability to provide for their children.

These mothers have stuck with me, as have these words of Jesus, and they have shed light on one another. I always looked at these words of Jesus as simply being practical: being pregnant or having a nursing baby would make fleeing much more difficult (Jesus spoke these words about fleeing Jerusalem before it was destroyed). However, these mothers had conquered great dangers and difficulties; they had successfully fled with their nursing babies—some had even given birth during their journey (one night, a 13-day-old baby arrived in camp). I saw desperation in their eyes: fear of how they were going to provide nourishment, warmth, and life to their little ones. Despair as to whether or not they could be the mothers these children they love more than life itself need. I saw that the extreme evilness that humanity is able to perpetrate can pervert even life’s greatest blessings. Jesus’ words say to me that to have children in the midst of extremely evil days is equivalent to a mother (or father) having their heart ripped out and stomped on. This is what I saw mothers and fathers experiencing as they feared for the provision, future, and very lives of their children. My heart ached and continues to ache.

However, the fear and despair were not the only things I saw in their eyes; I saw hope! As I handed apples to them and their children, a spark of life came into their faces; they had reason to believe they could go on, reason to believe their children’s needs would be met, and reason to believe the future might be brighter than the past.

Thank you for your generosity in responding to the refugee crisis. Your gifts have contributed to this hope. You helped purchase apples, bananas, granola bars, juice boxes, blankets, winter jackets, shoes, baby carriers, winter hats, gloves, and more. You helped to enable lunch bags to be made and distributed to the migrants for their journey. You helped the love of Christ reach these desperate people. Because of that love, hope is conquering the despair.

While our interactions as refugees enter Europe are few and brief, we strongly believe that how we receive these desperate people—the majority of whom have never encountered the gospel of Jesus—will make a huge impact in both how they integrate into life in Europe and how they respond to the gospel. We are excited at hearing news that many in Germany are coming to Christ, and have been encouraged to have the opportunity to look at Scripture together with a group of refugees that have settled here in Hungary. Responding with the love of Jesus isn’t to be manipulative or conditional, but His love always moves us to point to the ultimate hope and life in Him. 

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me... ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” (Matthew 25:35-36, 40) 

GIVE: You can partner with Mark, Eszti, and Samuel as they continue to show Christ’s love to refugees by making a financial gift

PRAY: Ask a close friend to join you this month in praying for the refugee crisis. Pray for God’s grace and peace to be with the refugees who are fleeing violence and poverty. Pray for missionaries as they reach out to them in Christ’s name. 
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