Foreigner in Your Land02/27/2017 .
Even before ISIS invaded the Middle East, King Abdullah II of Jordan saw the challenge Arab Christians were facing because of their faith. In 2013, the king hosted a gathering of 100 church leaders from across the region. Among them were patriarchs, archbishops, and bishops of Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant churches. As the only American church leader invited to the gathering, Pastor Rick was asked to deliver the opening address.
Less than a year after the gathering, ISIS broke out and stormed Syria and Iraq. The attack resulted in millions of refugees seeking safety in the neighboring countries of Lebanon, Northern Iraq, Jordan, and eventually in Europe. Churches across that region were preparing for the worst . . . and the worst was unleashed.
Saddleback Church was already prepared to quickly respond in partnership with local churches in Northern Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan. These were all areas where refugees were fleeing in a desperate attempt to escape ISIS. Our Saddleback campus in Berlin reached out to refugees flooding into Germany, while several other Saddleback teams responded to their needs in Greece. Underground networks of house fellowships discretely engaged by rescuing and resettling affected families in areas of direct conflict.
Local church members in these countries embraced these terrified and tormented newcomers by caring for the refugees with more than just food, water, and medical supplies. They also provided assistance with language translation, education for displaced children, and financial support for housing and other practical needs.
The local churches were living out Jeremiah 22:3: This is what the LORD says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner who lives in your land, the orphans or the widow.
"There are many people who fit those descriptions,” says Saddleback's Pastor of Missions, Pastor Andrew Lossau. In response to the refugee crisis, Pastor Andrew recently traveled to the Middle East where he saw the work of Saddleback PEACE Teams, local church partners, and our financial assistance.
According to Pastor Andrew, “It’s incredible to see the church taking action, as they mobilize their members and care for the refugees. Our local church partners are responding in remarkable ways through their members who are volunteering in tireless ways. By helping resettle these refugees into stable and safe conditions —versus just serving them in refugee camps—the church is seeing an amazing openness to the Gospel.”
As refugees are sensitively being integrated into churches, members are welcoming them with open arms. In one local church alone, over 400 Syrian refugees and 350 Iraqi refugees are regularly attending Sunday services and gathering in small groups.
The refugees’ search for hope has resulted in PEACE teams reaching people we’ve never had access to before. Through this opportunity, we can honor God by spreading his Gospel in the Middle East.
To help pave the way, Pastor Andrew has asked our church family to pray for three things: For openness of the refugees’ hearts to hear the Gospel; for their needs to be met through finding work, shelter, and documentation; and for members of local churches to take action and have compassion.
“Our local church partners are asking Saddleback to come alongside and serve their members,” says Pastor Andrew. “You can join a PEACE trip, pray for the local churches who are helping the refugees, or give to the refugee crisis. These needs are real.”
Now is our chance to be the hands and feet of Jesus by committing to join one of the Middle East PEACE trips scheduled for this summer. If you’re feeling led to go on mission, and to be part of the Daring Faith goal to help share the Good News, email firstname.lastname@example.org. To give, visit saddleback.com/relief.