Syria may dominate news headlines, but refugee statistics don’t reflect only those fleeing the Middle East.
Refugees receiving aid
Worldwide, there are 21.3 million refugees and 65.3 million forcibly displaced people, as reported in 2016 by the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR).
Often, refugees come from regions where the gospel has no foothold, areas where missionaries couldn’t get in or even where churches feared to send their best workers. Now, people are flooding to areas where the church is incredibly present. As Foursquare chooses to welcome people with Christ’s compassion, we can take the Holy Spirit’s transformative hope to those desperate for His healing.
Since 2011, 2.5 million refugees have landed in Turkey, where The Foursquare Church is the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. Today, Foursquare National Leader Ihsan Ozbek and Foursquare workers care for approximately 6,000 families in tent cities and camps, providing aid to those suffering physical, emotional and spiritual pain.
Across three key cities, Foursquare workers offer language classes, food packets, access to job opportunities and supplies to survive winter snowfall. “Because of our relationship, now we see some newborn Christians,” Ihsan says. “They have hope.” Amid tent encampments in Adana, 40 people have come to Christ, and in Istanbul strategic gospel outreaches are succeeding.
In Europe, Foursquare Disaster Relief (FDR) has delivered food and supplies across Croatia, Greece and Albania. But, local work is also present.
Foursquare Germany also has urged its churches to care for arriving refugees. “It is a great opportunity and also responsibility to bring the gospel to the people,” says Ewald Zelmer, pastor of Christ for All Foursquare Church in Bielefeld, Germany. “Who can help heal their wounds and their identity questions, if not Christians, if not the church, if not Jesus?” Today, Ewald is seeing young people come to Christ and take the gospel to their Arabic-speaking neighbors.
In Greece, Foursquare Missions International (FMI) Missionaries Chris and Laura Dakas share two apartments with four families so that expectant mothers can birth their babies in homes instead of refugee tents.
Nearby, at Foursquare-established phone-charging stations, refugees receive SD cards, funded in part by Foursquare Missions Press, that house gospel materials in Arabic and Kurdish.
“People are coming to church to ask more questions because of what they saw, heard or read from the SD cards,” says Chad Isenhart, Foursquare Disaster Relief’s international operations chief.
Even from home in the U.S., Foursquare churches can actively take part. In August 2016, the U.S. welcomed its 10,000th refugee fleeing the Middle East; they are hosted in 231 cities nationwide. Refugees arriving in the U.S. also come from nations such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and Bhutan.
To welcome these new neighbors and help them adjust in a new nation, a handful of U.S. Foursquare pastors and ministry leaders have forged the Foursquare Refugee Care Network. Even as they swap best practices, partnership opportunities and prayers, the network seeks to equip churches newly exposed to refugee care.
“As you educate yourself, it is easy to get overwhelmed, angry or frustrated,” reminds Bethany Seremet, a Foursquare Refugee Care Network member from the Northeast Atlantic District. “God isn’t scared of these emotions, and you’re not a bad person for having them. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth and perfect love He has for you and each refugee.”