New life amid refugee sorrow
Despite the heartbreak of violence and religious persecution that has forced millions from their homes in the Middle East and Africa, those serving with the Church Missionary Society NSW & ACT have also seen the miracle of a number of Muslim refugees coming to Christ.
Statistics released by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees state that, in 2015, 65 million people were displaced and 22.5 million were refugees. Across Europe and parts of the Middle East there are up to a million displaced people.
Mike Clark and his family went to Germany with CMS six years ago to set up a Bible college (the Martin Bucer Seminar, Munich), but in the past two years his role gradually developed to include a ministry to refugees from Afghanistan and elsewhere.
“Germans are kind people and they want to help [the refugees], but amid all their help there was nothing about the gospel going on in our area,” Mr Clark said at a Summer School session last month.
At his church, the Free Evangelical Community church in Munich, a weekly Bible study sprang up – first with Christian Afghanis who wanted to read the Bible, then with the friends they invited from their language courses or share house.
“In the Bible group we simply read through Mark’s gospel, then Romans 1-6, Genesis 1-12, and then Daniel. That’s all,” Dr Clark said. “And each week we’d say that ‘we encourage you who know Jesus to keep living for him, and for those of you who aren’t Christian, we want you to know about who the Jesus of the Bible is’.”
The faith of the men he ministered to is extraordinary. One man shared Jesus with his housemates – one of whom beat him over and over again because of it, and then eventually became Christian himself.
“He was ashamed of what he’d done but he’s found forgiveness in the Lord Jesus Christ and now he’s a brother. Have you ever shared the gospel with people knowing that you’re going to get beaten up?” Dr Clark
Sophie*, who serves in a secure location in the Middle East, said some of the refugees she lives among come from countries that are among the most hostile to the gospel, but “in our city there are opportunities to serve them and in that context build relationships and share Jesus. And most of those people would never have had to opportunity to hear about Jesus if they’d stayed in their home country”.
“Often everything they’ve ever believed in has been shaken and so they can be open to hearing new things,” she added. “They’re also freer from social constrictions than they would be at home.”
Catherine*, who also serves in the Middle East, spoke about the support her church offers Muslim refugee women, and the opportunities she has had to talk to them about Jesus.
“I spoke to one woman who… was stunned by the love that was shown to her,” Catherine says. “She listened, learned, and was wanting more… but she knew that if she believed she would be [in] danger. She had a dream about Abraham, and in the dream she asked him about Jesus because she wanted a clear answer about the right way to go. He took her by the shoulder and said, ‘Jesus is the way of truth’.”
This woman then bravely stood up in a group and told everyone she believed in the Messiah, and although she now experiences regular persecution for her beliefs (which have forced her to move house) she joyfully shares her new faith with others.
Said Sophie: “It’s a really strategic time to be serving in the Middle East. Praise God that he’s using tremendous brokenness to create something beautiful.”