Imagine— your ethnic group has been oppressed by the government for years, but they are getting more and more brutal. Last year a number of shops and homes in your community were burned to the ground, and the military is taking full responsibility for the crimes. A few months ago your cousin was killed in broad daylight, and last week your uncle was arrested on false terms.
Yesterday you found a notice posted on your door that warned that everyone in your home would be killed if you did not leave the country. You are faced with a decision – do you stay and risk the lives of everyone you care about, or do you leave everything you have ever known behind to start over in another place? 17.1 million refugees in the world have faced this decision.
Due to the seriousness of their various circumstances, refugees have chosen to leave everything behind in their struggle to survive. Most refugees find some relief in refugee camps, where they are provided with adequate shelter and basic food rations. While these camps are not intended to be a permanent solution, most refugees remain in these camps for at least a decade, unable to work or live freely.
Others live undetected in various countries, striving to find some sort of income while avoiding being noticed by the national authorities. These refugees are often not welcomed anywhere. Many Somalis who flee to South Africa have had their shops burned down or had family members shot. The Karen in Thailand are not allowed to leave the refugee camp – or they will be given to the Burmese authorities, the very people from whom they are fleeing.
Some refugees pay smugglers to bring them into a country and find themselves sold into slavery. Almost all face racism and oppression in the countries to which they flee.
A very small proportion of these refugees are given an opportunity to be permanently resettled in another country – like the United States. And we have an incredible opportunity to show them the love of Christ by welcoming them. One Somali mother, after being told that she would have a church team help them adjust to their new home in the U.S. wouldn’t stop saying thank you. She later said, almost with tears in her eyes, “We have never been welcomed before [anywhere else].” She saw Jesus through the church.
Will you be the welcoming arms of Jesus to a refugee family?
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