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Children inspire me in very special ways.  I find they often feel the needs of others more deeply than adults, they see injustice in things we often overlook, and when inspired they can be amazingly generous in their desire to help others.  Over 800 children from the community came to participate in the Vacation Bible School activities at Fellowship Reformed Church in Hudsonville, MI, this week.  They played games, did arts and crafts and ate lots of cookies.  They also learned about some global refugee realities. 

As the children learned about the Bible, and the way it can guide us in our lives, they also heard that many refugees do not have a Bible of their own, due to the fact that they had to run away from their homes and leave most of their belongings behind.  They also do not have access to shopping malls, book stores, or Amazon to purchase them while living in isolated refugee camps and settlements. 

This inspired the children to raise money for bibles for refugees through the work of IAFR.  Together, over 4 days, the kids raised over $8,000 to buy 800+ Bibles.  This was far and away the largest amount of money raised in the history of the VBS program.  They have sent us a message in their generosity: that we can all come together to help those who walk the refugee highway, and let them know that they are not forgotten. 

Thank you so much to Fellowship and the VBS program!

-written by Jake Tornga

Learning from refugees

Refugees bring a wealth of experience and perspective.  When we’re willing to get to know them, we deeply enrich one another’s lives. Here are three things I’ve learned from my refugee friends.

Generosity

One definition of generosity is having “a readiness to give more of something than is expected.” Refugees have often lost everything, and presently live in demanding situations full of unknowns and insecurities. Logic might tell us that people in refugee camps are simply supposed to be receivers of generosity from others, but this has not been my experience. When you meet refugees, when you walk through a refugee camp or community, you find people who are generous in truly inspiring ways.

I have seen members of refugee churches give 10% of their monthly food ration to orphans and widows in their community. I have heard refugee Christians praying for hours and hours for victims of natural disasters and persecution in other countries around the world. I have been blessed with meals fit for a king from families I know would not eat for days to come. I have been welcomed into family and community events of people from tribes and religions that are not my own.All of these and more are living examples of pure and perfect generosity. Refugees have taught me what it means to have a constant readiness to give more than is expected.

Thankfulness + Gratitude

As I have lived and worked with refugees, their lifestyle of gratitude has deeply impacted me.  I have found this to be something unique about refugees - they do not lose sight of the blessings in their lives, especially in the midst of the struggle.  They do not lose sight of the good things even when they are surrounded with pain, struggle, and hopelessness. This is one reason I believe all nations would benefit from welcoming refugees with open arms. 

My refugee friends manage to keep a proper perspective in life, and this inspires me. They appreciate and feel deeply what they have, not what they don’t have. In my experience, refugees are always ready to show appreciation for assistance and any good thing that comes to them. They acknowledge these with kindness and with thanks, and feel deeper joy than most people do when someone is kind to them. Their spirit of gratitude is contagious, and I have been blessed by it in many ways in my life.

Perseverance

I have seen so many refugees have their dreams dashed time and again, only to keep working, keep fighting, and keep going.  Every obstacle you can imagine has come against them: people have lied to them and cheated them, friends they trusted have turned their backs on them, all their hard work has come to naught due to wars and fighting in their country. Yet I have seen these same people find new ways to move forward, find new reasons for hope, and find new ways to work harder when doors are continually closed in their faces. 

I have met refugees who completed college degrees in their own country, but lost all their documents in the wars and destruction of their villages.So they started over in a new country, and completed their course work a second time, just to do what they loved. I have seen 40 and 50 year old men and women going back to school or learning a skill they have dreamed of since they were children, but were prevented from achieving because of their situations.I have seen refugees with business ideas and innovations be threatened and harassed all along their journey, only to one day succeed and turn around and bless others.

It takes resiliency and perseverance to get back up time and again, and to start all the way from zero multiple times in life.Very rarely are there small setbacks in the life of a refugee, they are often huge setbacks most of us cannot imagine.Yet these incredible people find a way to keep hope when the world takes it away. They have shown me what real perseverance looks like, and I am a better person because of it.

-written by Jake Tornga

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6 1/2 minutes for 65.6 million people

It is World Refugee Day. Would you set aside 6 ½ minutes to pray for the 65.6 million forcibly displaced men, women and children in the world? If you don't know where to start, perhaps the following prayer will be helpful.

A Prayer on World Refugee Day

Father in heaven, we pray for the tens of millions of men, women and children in our world today who have been uprooted by persecution, war and violence.

We pray for the children who make up over half of the global refugee population. We especially pray for unaccompanied minors and the fatherless. They are among the most vulnerable people in the world. Reveal yourself to them as their loving Father, their Protector and their Provider. As the Good Shepherd, go before them and lead them on their journey. Hear their cries and rescue them.

We pray for the displaced women in our world – grandmothers, mothers, wives, sisters, daughters. We pray especially for single women and single mothers among them. You know that they are unprotected and face many dangers and challenges. Protect them from those who would try and take advantage of them. Surround them with supportive community. Renew their strength and hope today. Hear their cries and rescue them.

We pray for uprooted men – grandfathers, fathers, husbands, brothers, sons. Their fellow refugees often rely on them for leadership, help and protection. Grant them wisdom. Renew their strength and hope today. Reveal yourself to them as the Good Shepherd and faithful Provider who has walked with many displaced people throughout history. Hear their cries and rescue them.

We pray for the refugee church – our brothers and sisters. Remind them today that they are in the company of many of your children who were forcibly displaced in years past. Remind them today that you, yourself, were forcibly displaced along with your family shortly after your birth. May they know your faithful presence with them. Renew their faith. May they extend supportive community to their fellow refugees. Hear their cries and rescue them.

We pray for refugee-producing countries in our world – especially those generating the largest number of forcibly displaced people: Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Somalia, Sudan, D.R. Congo, Central African Republic, Myanmar, Eritrea, and Burundi. We pray for peace and justice to take root. We pray for the people living in these troubled nations. Hear their cries and rescue them.

We pray for the nations providing refuge to people – especially those hosting the largest number of refugees: Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon, Iran, Uganda, Ethiopia, Jordan, Germany, D.R. Congo and Kenya. May your blessing be upon these nations as they provide safety and refuge to desperate people. Increase their capacity to care for the refugees within their borders. Bless them with political, economic, and social stability.

Father, we pray as did the psalmist thousands of years ago:

Some are wandering in desert wastelands, finding no way to a city where they can settle. They are hungry and thirsty, and their lives are ebbing away. They are crying out in their trouble, O Lord. Please deliver them from their distress. Lead them by a straight way to a city where they can settle. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.

Psalm 107:4-9

It is in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that we bring our prayer before you.

Amen.

Posted by Tom Albinson

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