Throughout September, Assemblies of God World Missions has continued to work closely with missionaries, national churches and Convoy of Hope in Europe as a flood of refugees continues to strain local governments.
In 2014, an estimated 280,000 reported refugees crossed Europe’s borders from regions plagued by violence and poverty in Africa, the Middle East and as far as Afghanistan. The figure for 2015 has grown to more than 500,000 new refugees during the first nine months of the year.
“The UN estimates nearly 250,000 people have crossed through Greece this year alone,” says AG missionary Tony Sebastian. They all want to head north. Once processed on the islands, they are transported to Athens by boat, and then they find transportation near the Macedonian border.”
Refugee families travel by foot looking for a safe haven.
During early September, Sebastian and his team watched as many as 8,000 people a day pass through a field and wait on train tracks ready to move to the Macedonia side. They have given out shoes to barefoot children, and formula and diapers to mothers with babies. And they look for creative ways to minister to very practical needs.
“Communication is critical as people want to call home to let families know they are safe, or try to find family already in Europe, or to try and find out how the migration path is working,” Sebastian explains. “We have had a generator on site for phone charging.”
In the midst of the crowds, small miracles.
“Our interpreter met his brother at the camp,” Sebastian says. “They had not seen one another for a year. They were in tears as they embraced. For a few hours they talked and finally his brothers group had their time to pass through and travel to the Netherlands. Watching them say goodbye wrecked me.”
Christian workers have been working with International Christian Fellowship in Athens to assist refugees near the city.
“During a food and clothing distribution, the entire foyer and hallways of ICF were full of Syrians, both Christian and Muslim,” one worker says.
Refugees flocking onto trains and following other routes often find themselves in camps in other nations
Hungarian authorities construct a border fence to stem the tide of refugees.
with no timeframe for permanent asylum. In Austria, Vienna Christian Center continues to serve thousands of refugees at a camp near the church.
“We are so grateful for a shipment of Bibles in Arabic and Farsi,” says Larry Henderson, who leads VCC with his wife, Melinda. “We quickly sent a team to the refugee center to distribute them. The need is enormous. We saw a record influx of 20,000 refugees pass through Austria just over the weekend of September 18-20.”
The Bible shipment is a reminder that every offer of material assistance creates an opportunity to share the gospel.
“After giving out food and water,” says Colleen Thomas, AG missionary to Macedonia, “we prayed for a young boy whose Afghan family was seeking medical treatment for leukemia. We laid hands on him and prayed, and God’s presence was so real.”
“We went to eight camps in just one day recently,” says Rick Pasquale, AG missionary to Italy. “The needs are great. We need to get supplies ready for the winter for them.”
Omar, a refugee from Sudan, told Pasquale many are sleeping in the parks while the weather is nice, but families with babies need more shelter.
Convoy of Hope Europe has remained active as well, offering key assistance.
“We have given out about 6,000 packets of supplies as well as some cooking stoves and other resources at ‘The Jungle,’ an overcrowded and sometimes lawless camp near Calais, France,” says AGWM missionary and Convoy of Hope Europe Director Michael McNamee. “We are also preparing to build a temporary church in the camp. We have a similar outreach ongoing at a camp in Belgium.”
The need is vast, and growing, and will continue to expand. By addressing the continental crisis incrementally, AGWM and its partners are making a difference.
“As of Monday, Sept. 21, AGWM is committed to provide food parcels in our area for up to 600
AGWM missionary Raegan Glugosh speaks with a young man who received help from a ministry team.
people every day. Each parcel will include water, juice, croissants, bread, nuts, fruit, hand wipes, and various meat products to make sandwiches,” says Brian Thomas, serving in Macedonia with wife Colleen.
And team members are exploring ways to increase goodwill with local authorities equally overwhelmed by the constant flood of new arrivals.
“We have offered to help with the distribution and organizing of the clothing and shoe area when we are in the processing center,” Brian Thomas says. “In addition, we have offered our gospel tent to be used just outside the fenced off processing center as a temporary shelter from the weather, and we have offered to the local municipality to help clean up trash outside the processing area. This is fulfilling a big need, and it will give us even greater access for ministry.”
To assist Assemblies of God World Missions and Convoy of Hope in responding to this vast and growing ministry need, visit giving.ag.org and click the “Europe Refugee Crisis” button. A video of AG ministry teams in action can be viewed at crisisresponse.ag.org.
“The video is helping us communicate some of the needs and raising awareness of our situation in Europe,” says AGWM missionary Raegan Glugosh, who is coordinating relief projects with missionaries in seven nations.
“We are so grateful for anything followers of Christ can do to enable our AGWM missionaries, national believers and Convoy of Hope to extend the compassion of Christ and, in many cases, share the gospel with nonbelievers and connect them with churches to receive spiritual ministry,” says Keith Boucher, Convoy of Hope senior vice president.
(source: Scott Harrup, agwm.com)