Conflict inside Syria has been raging since 2011. But right now we’re seeing an incredible escalation of people being forced from their homes and fleeing their home country. Just last week, the Christian humanitarian organization World Vision shared some alarming facts regarding this crisis:
- Nearly 12 million Syrians have been forced from their homes by the fighting; half are children.
- At least 7.6 million have been displaced within Syria, and more than 4 million have fled as refugees in neighboring countries.
- In the first five months of 2015, more than 700,000 people were newly displaced, including more than 430,000 within Syria.
Vineyard Missions has received a number of inquiries about what we are doing and if there is a formal response to this crisis. Our role today, like it has always been, is to help connect and equip Vineyard churches who then send out their own mission teams around the world. We know that by equipping the local church to carry out the important grassroots work of missions, and to gain a personal connection and cultural understanding of those whom they have been called to serve, is far more effective than any top-down approach we could orchestrate.
When unanticipated crises emerge, we can take heart in Ephesians 2:10:
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
A local & global response
This is how we know the model works. We are seeing Vineyard churches and partnerships in this region – and around the world – rise to this tragic occasion to serve their displaced brother and sister, even though the crisis itself wasn’t the catalyst for being on the front lines. Discernment and prayer has led them to this place and perhaps for this very moment. Here are just a few examples of how Vineyard churches and partnerships are responding.
- Our Middle East and Jordanian Partnership are experiencing unprecedented opportunities to meet with, serve and witness to those who have fled Syria.
- One of our United Kingdom partnerships has been collecting clothes and is actively seeking an aid partner that will deliver clothes to refugee outposts. Through their own connections, clothing has made its way to refugees who are currently in Macedonia.
- Vineyard and local church contacts in Turkey are coordinating and giving away aid packages every week to refugees. The number of refugees has climbed to two million in Turkey.
- Sub-Saharan Africa partnership leaders are actively in conversation with an organization in Serbia with proximity to refugees and determining what practical help can be offered. They are also sharing with church supporters the One Million Refugees petition and its “radical act of hospitality.”
- Vineyard DACH and Vineyard BERN are working independently and with NGOs to reach refugees moving north toward Europe and into areas such as Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary and Austria.
Partnership placements such as these are not accidental – nor are the callings to serve at a time like this coincidental. But rather it is the full expression of God’s love and the incredibly practical way in which we do missions. We are reminded that our greatest ability is our availability – to the Lord and for our neighbors in need, whether they be a house, a city, a country or continent away.
You asked: “What can I do?”
We believe there are three practical ways you can make a difference, right now, regardless of where you are in the world.
We serve a God who can do infinitely more than we could ever imagine, and so at the forefront of anything we seek to accomplish, we start and proceed with prayer. Consider making the Syrian refugees – as well as our brothers and sisters who will encounter them with soft hearts and open arms – part of your regular prayer time.
Support a Vineyard Missions partnership.
This is how missions change lives. If the Lord has placed the Syrian refugees upon your heart, your engagement with and support of those who are in the vicinity and reaching out to refugees is a critical way to make a difference. Contact us if your church would like to get involved with one of our partnerships and learn more specifics about their in-country activities.
Engage in the conversation – and keep praying.
The Syrian refugee crisis is among the biggest and complex humanitarian challenges of this generation. There is no definitive roadmap for solving such a multi-faceted crisis. As we lean into God and seek his wisdom, we also need to ask those great “what if” questions. In doing so, what might we learn from our brothers and sisters who have gone before us to face similar humanitarian challenges? What might be able to accomplish together? How might avoid past missteps and instead build upon previous successes?
Let’s ask those great “what ifs” – of ourselves, in our churches and small groups, and let’s continue the conversation and share ideas. Let us lift up our brother and sister across the globe and invite in new ways to make a difference in millions of lives that are, in a word – desperate. Let’s pray that they become witness to the love and compassion of Jesus in ways they could never have imagined as they walk this difficult road.