What About the Refugees?

Part 3 - The Missionfield Next Door

by Mary Stephens
Jan. 2016

In Part 1 on this series we discussed the history of immigrants and refugees who came to the U.S. in the past seeking a better life.  Some of them also brought ungodly or evil things with them.  We also talked about the Good Samaritan and the example that Jesus gave us through that parable.

In Part 2 we discussed some Biblical examples of refugees - both positive and negative.


There has been a lot of worry and fear in various places about the possibility of Syrian refugees (to say nothing of “illegals” from Mexico) arriving “here.”  Stories of their alleged evil intent, of possible “terrorists” among them and other horrors have spread.  Some things that have actually happened somewhere have been represented with doubtful accuracy as “normal” behavior for “those people.”   But, what is the mind of Christ?  What does this mass migration mean to the child of God who is entrusted with the precious words of life?

An Opportunity

Immigrants, "illegals," and refugees present a unique opportunity for the Christian.  We may be able to give the gospel to people whose lives we would never touch, to people whose home countries may even be closed to Christianity.  The stories of immigrants and refugees who have been born again after coming to the U.S. are too numerous to list, but it has been an important part of the history of the church in this country.  I should include Canada, Australia, England, and other places in that as well.

One example that I know of among our own friends, is a missionary couple who worked with Iranians in Australia.  They witnessed and taught the truth of God to a number of young men there and were able to distribute the Bible to them in Farsi.  This is something that they could never go to Muslim Iran and do! (They are hoping to continue at least part of that work as they return there soon.)

There is a saying among those who have been involved with preaching the gospel to Muslims: "The farther you get a Muslim from Mecca, the easier it is to win them to Christ."  One example of this that my dad saw personally happened years ago when we lived in western Michigan.  There was a young woman who had been sent to this country for college from a Muslim country in the Middle East.  I think her brother may have accompanied her for her "protection."  Anyway, she heard the gospel, believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, and if I remember correctly, was baptized.  (Being baptized as a Christian is a big deal in Islam.  They don't consider a person completely "lost" until they've been baptized.)  For her it was true.  She had escaped the heavy hand of Islam and in the process she heard the gospel and believed.  However, she still feared for her life and fully expected to be killed for her faith if her family ever got ahold of her again.

There is a great deal of missionary work that could be done for the Lord but has been neglected over the last decades, I think.  It is curious how the Lord has driven the mission field to where the Christians are in many places.  I see this to be especially true in America.  But, what are we doing with the opportunity?

When Jesus was going back to heaven after His resurrection, He told His apostles, But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.  Acts 1:8  As the book of Acts progresses we don't see the disciples leaving Jerusalem in any great number until the great persecution began.  Acts 8:1 & 4 And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles...Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.

The church in America has not been sending out missionaries at the rates that they used to in the past.  We hear stories of it taking long periods of time for missionaries to raise the support they need.  Added to this is the complication of alleged missionaries who are simply using their proposed "work over there" as a means to support themselves indefinitely in one way or another.  I think it is merciful that God has allowed so much of the mission field to come here within easy reach for us rather than forcing us to go by fleeing persecution, don't you?  What are we going to do about it?

It reminds me of a poem my dad found some years ago.  He and I collaborated on writing some more verses to "update" it.

But Still I Wait
A Voice from the Past.

Circa 1935:

Bearing their burdens o're the desert sand;
Swiftly the boats go plying up the Nile,
The needs of man are met on every hand;
  But still I wait --
For the messenger of God who cometh late.

I see the cloud of dust rise to the sky,
The measured tread of troops falls on my ear;
Again, the foreign soldier marches by,
Bringing the pomp of war, the reign of fear;
  But still I wait --
For the messenger of God who cometh late.

I sit here looking o're the ancient waste,
Where broodeth terror as the darkest night;
From many a mosque I hear the call to prayer,
But, nothing changes, nothing heals my plight;
  But still I wait --
For the messenger of God who cometh late.


So, I immigrate to L.A. and Detroit,
To seek my fortune and a life of ease;
This life is good, with richness to exploit,
Yet something's missing -- I can feel no peace;
  And still I wait --
For the messenger of God who cometh late.

Peace for the Middle East you say?
Only the Prince of Peace to them can give;
What of the many Arabs in the USA?
Who brings us Christ that we might live?
  Next door I wait --

              and wait --

                     and wait -- 

Author of original poem unknown
Update - Steve Van Nattan and Mary (Van Nattan) Stephens

What Can We Do?

Show them the love of God.  Many of them need love.  Their lives have had a lot of fear.  It is only God's perfect love that casts out fear.  1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.  Muslims don't have a loving god, a god who died to save His people from their sins.  People from Mexico and South America may have only known that hard, cruel form of Catholicism - the type more common in the past.  They all need to hear the true gospel of Jesus Christ.

Show them that Christians love one another.  This is our sign, so to speak, our way of being identified as the followers of Jesus Christ.  John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. 

Give them the word of God, the truth of God.  John 17:17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.  Many among them have probably known little to nothing about the truth of God.

My family once knew a man whom I shall call Jose.  Jose came to the United States to work, possibly "illegally," although it was years ago when things were very different than today.  He wanted to send money back to his family, but one of his main goals was to buy a Spanish Bible and read it for himself.  You see, back then in Mexico the Roman Catholic Church still taught that they shouldn't have Bibles because they "couldn't understand it" for themselves, and where he came from he was unable to get one at all.  (I'm going to guess that this is still taught in some areas.)

When Jose finally earned enough money to buy himself a Spanish Bible he discovered something that changed his life.  He was reading the book of Hebrews when he realized that the sacrifice is over, and our salvation is complete - that he did not need the sacrifice of the Mass to save him!  The thing that particular struck him was Hebrews chapter 9, and the fact that testator (Christ) had died and so the testament is now in full effect.  Hebrews 9:16-17 For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.  You see, a testator can only die once, only has to die once, for the testament to be put into effect.  This means that the repeated "death of Christ" in the Mass of the Roman Catholic church is completely unnecessary for our salvation.  Christ died once, and the testament is in force now.  No further death is needed.  Jose understood the truth of God at last and for him there was no looking back.  He was free from that bondage in which he had been held.

This is the whole point.  How can we help someone out of the spiritual snare in which they are trapped?  How can we show them that they can be free indeed?  John 8:36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

Practical Ideas

There are practical things that we can do to show the love of God to "strangers," as the Bible calls them.  By helping and showing love, you will make it easier for them to understand the gospel.

One thing that is important to remember is that we need to take care of physical needs first.  People who are troubled, hungry, or in danger may very well "convert" if they think that it is directly connected with the help they need.

When the mission SIM (formerly Sudan Interior Mission), was working in Ethiopia in the 1970s there was a severe famine.  They provided food to the people, but they made the choice to feed them first and preach the gospel later.  The reason for this was to avoid the problem of "rice Christians" as they were called in China years ago.  These are people who come and pretend they are believers so that they can get the handout - food, help, money, clothes, shelter, water, etc.  As I've mentioned there have been reports of Syrians "raising their hands" at preaching meetings in Europe, and there has been concern among some about the reality of those alleged "confessions of faith."  It would not be surprising in the least if they were simply trying to become "one of those" who are accepted and "safe."  It's nothing new.  There were Jews who taught their children to say the "Hail, Mary" and cross themselves in hopes that they could pass themselves off as "christians" in Europe and so be safe.  Who can blame them?  But, we ought not to put them in a position where they feel the need to do that.  SIM intentionally tried to avoid that by choosing methods that made that unnecessary.

  • Listen to their story and show sympathy and/or empathy.

  • Make suggestions, teach them things they need to know.  Give important and useful warnings.  Explain things that might seem strange to someone from another country.

  • Be generous, but don't allow yourself to be abused by them.  This won't help them in the long run.  This includes money, excessive time and goods, etc.  Helping and encouraging is important, but being discerning about those who are only using you for their own selfish means is part of being a good steward of what God has given you (time, money, resources, etc.).

  • Pay attention to their children.  Remember that Jesus wants the children to come to Him, and sometimes the adults can be reached through kindness for their kids.  Sometimes the kids will remember later even though the parents never accept the gospel.

And, remember - don't act fearful.  Ask the Lord to help you with that if it's an issue.  I know that it will be for all of us in some instances.  But, xenophobia doesn't bring people to Jesus Christ.  The preaching of the gospel brings people to Him.  (1 Cor. 1:21)  If you have filled your mind with things that are anti- ____________ (Syrian, "illegals," black African, Middle Eastern, Jewish, etc.), you need to ask the Lord to help you cleanse your mind from those things.  They will not help you reach souls for Jesus and they do not reflect His willingness to see them saved.  2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

Another thing that is needful is to make our calling to be ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:18-20) a higher priority than political views, social and church status, conspiracy fears, and all of that.  I have heard and seen some appalling things said by believers regarding people from the Middle East.  It is a shame to the name of Christ when these things happen.  If you let these into your attitude toward people whom you are trying to help, you will show them the mind of man instead of the mind of Christ and they may think it is the same thing!  We are called to be saints, peculiar people, to go and preach the gospel.  When we allow the affairs of this life to interfere with that we are wrong and we are unfaithful.  And, by the way, all those things I mentioned in the first sentence are of this world.  They are not the real, unseen lasting things of eternity!

Jesus said, Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.  Matthew 5:14-16  The point of our good works should be to glorify our Father, God.  Showing them the love of Christ is one way that we can do that.


graphics and backgrounds by Mary Stephens