LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) -- Many refugees will never be relocated to North America. However, mission leaders believe Christians in the U.S. have a great opportunity to impact the nations through reaching refugees relocated to American soil and going to serve those in refugee camps.
Leaders from the International Mission Board (IMB), North American Mission Board (NAMB), Baptist Global Response (BGR), Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU), and a number of state conventions, local Baptist associations and churches are calling on Southern Baptist Convention leaders to collaborate on strategies to care for the displaced and to reach them with the gospel.
“There are currently 72 million people under the care of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees,” according to Trent DeLoach, pastor of Clarkson International Bible Church in Clarkson, Ga. DeLoach is also a consultant with the North American Mission Board.
He says only one percent of those refugees will ever be relocated to North America. Yet, he sees a great chance for churches to reach them. Organizations like Refuge Bowling Green in Bowling Green, Ky., are helping churches welcome refugees, build relationships, and help them acclimate to the community.
The Woman’s Missionary Union is helping bridge the gap as they host refugee simulations called Seeking Refuge and Displaced: Seeking Home. “Seeking Refuge focuses on what a refugee experiences at a detention center and refugee camp,” said Sandy Wisdom-Martin, executive director of WMU. “Displaced: Seeking Home focuses on what a refugee who’s been relocated to the U.S. experiences.”
Wisdom-Martin said the simulations build awareness so people will “engage the lost among the displaced.”
“Last year I sat with a woman in South Carolina. She and her husband travel to a difficult region of the world multiple times each year to teach photography to refugees as a way to earn income,” she said. As the couple helps refugees learn skills to provide for themselves and their families, they respectfully share the gospel with them.
Jeremy Simmons, National Ministry Center Director for NAMB, says a collaboration of efforts increases the chances the gospel will reach the displaced, “There is a far greater likelihood that an American Southern Baptist will grow in their compassion for refugees in the Middle East or Africa if they’ve had the opportunity to engage in refugee ministry here on U.S. soil.”
He believes this kind of impact will only happen if there is collaboration from the Southern Baptist Convention, SBC agencies, state conventions, and local churches and associations.
DeLoach agrees. “I never knew about refugees until I started ministering among Bosnian refugees in Louisville, Ky. I don’t know that I ever thought about refugee ministry until then.” He said combining efforts will help Southern Baptists in “the work of refugee ministry domestically so that they’re more inclined to be involved internationally.”
Wisdom-Martin hopes that ongoing conversations between ministry leaders will produce new partnerships in efforts to reach the displaced. “There is a synergy with joining hearts and hands for the sake of the gospel. Each entity brings strengths to the table that can enhance the entire effort,” she said.
A formal conversation among denominational leaders is planned for April 23 in Atlanta.
This is the third article in a series of three. The first article told of Southern Baptist leaders' desire for collaboration to reach displaced people. The second article explained the categories of displaced people around the world.