3 Ways Christians Can Respond to the Plight of Refugees Around the World
by Cathy Gohlke
There are more displaced persons in the world today than at any time in history, according to a CNN report, and the crisis shows no sign of abating. Hardly a newscast airs that does not at some point focus on the poverty, starvation, persecution, displacement, alienation, anguish and helpless, nearly hopeless plight of those we, as Christians, are called to care for.
Because the dilemma is so great and widespread, and because many of the world’s refugee victims are beyond our physical reach and hemmed in by leaders who limit humanitarian aid, most of us don’t know what to do, how to help. Our meager offerings in donation bins and collection plates feel like spits into the wind of poverty and deprivation.
Yet we know, if God has called us to a task, He will also equip us to complete it (Hebrews 13:21). But how are we to carry out that admonition—to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ here and now in the face of such great and desperate need?
Helen Keller, in wise and timeless words, framed the solution: “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”
Harnessing that mindset, here are some ways we can help right now:
1. At home and abroad: Engage in full- or part-time mission and humanitarian work through churches, humanitarian organizations and local venues at home or abroad. Opportunities abound for church mission trips for those who can afford them or who are able to raise supporting funds to go to countries that need help. Those of us with specialized skills—medical, legal, dental, sanitation, engineering and more—can partner with organizations allowed access to countries in need. Check out Doctors Without Borders, Save the Children, UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief), International Rescue Committee, Catholic Relief Services and USA for UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency).
2. From home: Advocate for refugees through local, state and federal legislation. Give financial or material assistance to groups providing help and resources to those in need. Check out charitynavigator.org for a long list of charities and details of their fiscal responsibility and reach. Enter “refugees” in the search bar, and you will be amazed at the opportunities to help. A few well known for helping refugees include Compassion International, World Vision, Samaritan’s Purse, Remember Nhu, Hear the Cry, World Orphans, Run Ministries and World Relief. Check my website’s resource page (authorcathygohlke.com/resources) for charities that assist women and children caught in human trafficking or help raise awareness. Think creatively and act—for example, my son’s office ties the privilege of wearing jeans on casual Fridays to donating to SOS, an organization that helps orphans.
Close to home, we can offer even more than finances. For refugees who have entered or live in the United States, we can offer household, healthcare and clothing goods to newly settled families. We can open our homes to provide temporary shelter to a refugee family through the International Rescue Committee partnership with Airbnb. We can speak out to help raise awareness of the plight and need to help refugees. We can lead or assist in fund-raising, mentor a refugee family through the confusing waters of life in America, or teach English as a second language (often through churches and public libraries). Those in a position to do so can hire refugees. We can advocate for employment, help write résumés, provide child or elder care while a refugee looks for work or seeks legal help, or help find clothing suitable for a refugee’s new work environment. We can all invite refugees as welcome guests into our homes, our communities, our churches. We can patronize businesses that hire or support refugees and purchase goods made by refugees.
Numerous organizations sell native handwork online to raise funds so crafters can provide resources for their families and within their communities. The women of Swaziland, Africa, who create Timbali Crafts, daily feed more than 2,500 orphans and vulnerable children at Care Points through money raised by selling their decorative bags and gift items. Despite their own hardships, many have taken children, orphaned through the rampant HIV/AIDS epidemic, into their homes. This is only one of many organizations that sell handmade products for charitable purposes.
3. Pray: Individually and collectively—at home, in community and at church—for refugees, for widows and orphans, for the persecuted church, for our country’s leaders and leaders around the globe, for persecutors, for the world, for Jesus’ return. Join others in praying at prayforthem.com. If you are not a member of a prayer line or prayer group, you can find one through a local church or start your own. Life’s greatest battles are fought on our knees.
If each of us works, and all of us work together, our efforts can make a difference. In the words of Mother Teresa, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”
Cathy Gohlke writes novels steeped with inspirational lessons from history. Her stories reveal how people break the chains that bind them and triumph over adversity through faith. When not traveling to historic sites for research, she, her husband and their dog, Reilly, divide their time between northern Virginia and the Jersey Shore, enjoying time with their grown children and grandchildren. Visit her website at www.cathygohlke.com and find her on Facebook at CathyGohlkeBooks.
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