|Date||May 20, 2016|
The world took notice of one lifeless child on the beach, and responded with tears. Yet thousands of refugees continue to make desperate border crossings in hope of something better. The UNHCR estimates 4.8 million Syrian refugees have flooded into neighbouring Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. This region, known as West Asia, is buckling under one of the gravest humanitarian crises in modern memory.
The onward journey is complicated and slow at best. As time stretches on, poverty and ill health become problems, and despair sets in. Many have given up hope.
But there is hope. In West Asia, a small local church with a big heart is reaching out to refugees, with amazing impact. They began with blankets, mattresses, baby formula, and gas stoves. The refugees were astounded – no one else treated them like these ‘Bible people’ did. As numbers increased, a refugee centre was opened, and they now provide regular food relief and programs for over 5,500 refugee families.
The church knows they are in this for the long haul. They want refugees fleeing violence and strife to find love in Jesus' name and, by God's grace, faith in Him. Multicultural Interserve teams have been serving alongside this local church for over twenty years.
Two new Australian Interserve families are departing this year to join the refugee work of this church. These families bring skills in trauma recovery, special-needs education, IT and project management, and experience with asylum seekers in Australia. Experience tells us that as Interserve workers apply these skills, we will see innovative solutions developed. The smartphone-based system for managing food distribution at the refugee centre, for example, was created by an Interserve worker.
These two families are committed to long-term service –to making West Asia their home, and being attentive to what God is doing there. We believe that this kind of investment in long-term workers – who themselves are invested in a local body of believers – is the single most effective, sustainable and innovative contribution we can make.
This project has been submitted as part of the Mission Travel “Giving Back” campaign. If you are a Mission Travel client, you can help by voting for this project at missiontravel.com.au/givingback.
Brendan and Penny* have just departed for West Asia. Joel and Erin* are raising support. If you would like to be a part of their support team, you can give online using the supporter code 2059 or contact us for more information.
These families are not superheroes. They are ordinary Christians who are responding to the world’s need and God’s call to serve.
*Names have been changed.