By a worker in the Europe/Middle East Region
A year ago, an Alliance international worker who serves in an economically corrupt place in our region told me thousands of people were leaving his country and going to Germany, where I live. So I began to ask God to show me where these disheartened, hopeless people were located.
Four months after I began praying, a friend told me she had been volunteering at a refugee center only 15 minutes from our home. I decided to volunteer as well and hoped I would meet people from areas where my husband and I oversee Alliance work in Europe and the Middle East.
The first day I was there, I helped with a children’s program started by a German volunteer organization. That same day, I met several people from the country our international worker had mentioned and learned that some of them had come from a town where there is an Alliance church and where CAMA (Compassion and Mercy Associates) workers still live. This discovery fueled my desire to be a bridge to the people from that country and to seize opportunities to share Jesus’ love with them.
Throughout the spring and summer, my time volunteering with the German organization increased, and my time with the refugees grew as well. I was no longer just playing with kids, but I was sitting and drinking tea with the adults, while learning their language and building trust.
In the fall, our local English-speaking church asked if I would become its refugee ministry coordinator, a new role established because of the increasing number of refugees in our area. Because I speak German and had built relationships with Germans who are engaged in work with refugees, I agreed. Little did I know that shortly after that, Germany’s leader would open the gates for thousands more refugees to come in.
It has been a great joy to mobilize believers to meet refugees’ needs and to build relationships with them. One of the most exciting opportunities has been to help facilitate high-school students from Black Forest Academy, an international school in southern Germany, to join the efforts. In October, we held a day-long training for those who want to work with refugees. We covered topics like helping without hurting, understanding trauma and culture, and sharing our faith.
The next day, we partnered with a local German church to offer an English-speaking evening service for the refugees. We hadn’t made fliers to distribute, as that’s prohibited in the state-run camp; rather, the news got out by personal invitation and word of mouth.
When we arrived with four vehicles to pick people up, they were so excited to come that they started jumping into the cars. By the time the four cars had made three trips back and forth, around 60 people were seated in an evangelical church—most of them for the first time.
After the music and a simple message on God’s love through the story of the prodigal son, I meandered through the roomful of guests. I heard over and over again, “I like church!” and “Church, gut (good)!”
We may not know the lasting results of this service, but we know that God provided an opportunity for us to plant more seeds in the people’s lives. The majority of those who attended that service are leaving soon, as they will be sent back to their “safe” countries to allow more room for those coming from war-torn areas.
As new people arrive daily, their hearts are soft and open as well. The German church plans to offer services the last Sunday of each month in partnership with us. That’s only one opportunity we have to share truth.
Our regular interactions with the refugees allow them to see Jesus in ways they never would have in their countries of origin. The strangers among us will, Lord willing, soon become family. We will continue to work and pray to that end.
- Pray for wisdom as we seek to initiate efforts among refugees in other areas within Europe.
- Pray for unity between existing churches that are reaching out.
- Pray for national believers to be mobilized.
CAMA and the Alliance family have responded with compassion on behalf of Syrian refugees, both in the Middle East and in Europe. Read how Alliance churches in the United States can help too.