Christians seek ministry along ‘refugee highway’

November 11, 2015 | Blog, Hot topics | Comments Off on Christians seek ministry along ‘refugee highway’

by Charles Braddix, posted in Baptist Press News Monday, November 09, 2015

While the European Union grapples with the complexities of handling hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants streaming across its borders, Christians throughout the region see this as an unprecedented opportunity for outreach and ministry among those fleeing war, persecution and economic hard times.

“This ever-expanding crisis might just be the opportunity of our generation for Gospel advance among some of the least reached peoples on the planet,” said James Keath,* senior International Mission Board strategy leader for Northern Africa and the Middle East. “I believe God is working through the events of our day to move these least reached peoples into arm’s reach of the church so that they can encounter Christ.”

Mark Edworthy, Keath’s counterpart for Europe, noted, “The continent of Europe is radically changing, and we have an unprecedented open door to impact the newest arrivals with the Gospel,” he said.

The path across Europe varies, but the starting and ending points seem to be the same. Most refugees, asylum seekers and migrants make their way to Greece and ultimately end up in Germany. They come from the Middle East, Northern Africa, Central Asia and even as far away as East Asia.

According to the U.N. refugee agency, Greece has received more than half a million “sea arrivals” so far this year, while the total number of refugees arriving in Europe by way of the Mediterranean now approaches 650,000. German vice chancellor Sigmar Gabriel has said his country could be hosting up to one million refugees by the end of the year.

From Greece, the “refugee highway” formerly traversed countries of eastern and central Europe. Now, because of a spate of border closures, the highway crosses through the Balkan states, including Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia. Refugees then make their way into Germany.

Nearly 250,000 refugees passed through the Balkans since mid-September, according to the EU, with many fleeing conflict in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The Lord has abruptly brought tens of thousands of refugees through ministry points in Greece, Hungary, Germany and many other countries,” Edworthy said. “Our workers have partnered in the immediate response work in Greece, as well as the follow-up and settlement work in Germany. As refugees distance themselves from the strictures of an anti-Christian culture and see Christian love tangibly shown, they naturally ask about motivation and ultimately about hope,” he said.

Thousands of Bibles have been distributed to those spreading across the European continent, Edworthy said. “We have seen countless of these transients find hope,” he said.

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