On April 26, the EBF Commission on Migration gathered together leaders and practitioners from across the EBF region for a webinar entitled “Connecting Churches to Serve People on the Move.” It was a rich time of sharing, reflecting, and hearing stories of how God is moving in the midst of conflict and crisis.
Across the EBF region, unions, churches, and individuals have generously opened their churches and homes to those fleeing the war in Ukraine. The outpouring of support and hospitality has been a testament to God’s goodness and the working of the Kingdom through God’s people. Participants on the call shared ways their communities were rising to the challenges of welcoming those affected by the war in Ukraine. A woman from Azerbaijan, a country not without its own conflicts, shared how churches were collecting small offerings to send aid to Ukraine, small gifts that are honoured in God’s Kingdom.
During the call, groups discussed how this current crisis feels closer in some ways than past conflicts, even if they are physically distanced from the war. Unions as close as Poland and as far as the UK shared how the war was reshaping the conversation in their churches and unions on the topic of refugees and displaced peoples. While some fears were expressed, hope was emphasised. Despite the threats, some felt, the urge to welcome overpowered such feelings.
For many in the EBF region, the war in Ukraine is just the latest opportunity in a long history of expressing hospitality. EBF leaders have a wealth of wisdom to share based on how Baptists have been serving alongside refugees and displaced peoples for decades. Leaders in the Balkan region shared how their experiences of working with refugees during the war in the 1990s led them to serve Middle Eastern refugees fleeing conflict in the past years and now welcoming Ukrainians.
Rosette Mansour from Lebanon shared some of the lessons and pains experienced as Lebanese Baptists have welcomed Syrians, former enemies who have now been refugees in her country for over a decade. Many churches were very hesitant to reach out to Syrian refugees at first and for the few churches that did engage with refugees, many became quickly burned out by the great need that they couldn’t fully address.
However, Rosette shared that despite the pain, churches were transformed as they realised God was already at work among refugees. God was simply calling Lebanese Baptists to be good Samaritans to their neighbours and discover what God was already up to. She encouraged participants to start small, pace themselves and their resources, and trust that God will guide them as they act as the hands and feet of Christ to those in need.
In Germany, one church has reaped the blessing of reaching out to displaced peoples. Frank Fornaçon shared how his church in Kassel, Germany transformed from a predominately German church to a multiethnic church with worship in multiple languages. He shared how their church not only reached out with tangible help, but empowered people in their community, celebrating their achievements, like a passed German test, and integrating them into the church community.
Today, the church is perfectly equipped to help welcome Ukrainian refugees into their midst. In fact, it is integrated Syrians in the church who are teaching German to their new Ukrainian friends in the community. Frank closed his story by saying, “We are very grateful for the blessing of migration. It has made us rich, strengthened our trust in Jesus and set an example. In our city, we are known as the community where everyone is welcome – really everyone.”
Juliet Kilpin, a member of the Commission on Migration closed the time by reflecting on some of the themes expressed during the webinar. She noted that for many, it is an overwhelming time, but encouraged everyone to trust that God promised to care for us on a daily basis, leaving the troubles of tomorrow to themselves. She noted the beautiful solidarity of sharing burdens, that we could not only share in our resources, but share in the pain of those suffering loss in Ukraine, those displaced by the war, and those who are reaching out in the neighbouring countries.
Baptists continue to lead the way in showing hospitality to those in need. The challenges are great, but God continues to show up and unveil the blessings that come from welcoming the stranger into our midst. As you or your church continue to serve displaced peoples, consider using some of these resources curated from other ministry partners and trusted professionals.