By Tim Mengler, Senior Pastor of Vineyard Christian Church of Crystal Lake, Crystal Lake, IL
I apologize in advance for my vagueness, but due to the nature of the story, it is necessary.
Refugees have been in the news a lot lately, but this is a story of good news among refugees. In the one of the countries where I am involved in missions work, there is a large UNHCR refugee camp. Some of the people in this camp have been there for as long as 20 years. The residents of this camp come from approximately seven of the surrounding nations; some IDPs (internally displaced persons) live here, too. Residents of this camp represent several different faiths and religious backgrounds.
For several years now, we have had two Vineyard pastors working in this camp and in the surrounding villages. Recently they sent a message to say that they have 27 people who are ready to be baptized, half in the camp and half in a village just outside the camp. They sent me pictures of the “church” in the camp, and their gathering is just a group of people sitting under a mango tree. Here in the midst of the despair and hardship of life in a refugee camp people have found the love of Jesus compelling. It wasn’t the flashy nature of the church, a glamorous building, or the promise of money or help - it was just Jesus. These two Vineyard pastors have no building and no money or help to offer them - just Jesus. For many of these refugees it was other religious practices that forced them to flee their homeland and become refugees, so the peace Jesus offers is appealing.
But for me here is the best part of the story, the plan is to baptize these refugees in two groups, some on December 23rd and the rest on December 25th. That’s right, Christmas Day! Refugees are being baptized into Jesus on the day we celebrate His birth.
The two pastors have asked that we pray for the baptisms, pray that the Holy Spirit would greatly fill each person being baptized, and pray their baptisms would be a great witness to the camp and surrounding villages. I would also ask that we pray for their protection.