Röszke, HUNGARY 2015 — In the dim sunset Aisha stumbled into the makeshift camp on the southern border of Hungary. She limped weakly, her two small children at her side. She had come a long, long way, but still had so far to go. “Let me help you,” a missionary woman said, startling Aisha. Friendly faces had become as foreign as the lands she’d crossed in her desperate attempt to flee Iraq, to find safety, to find hope.
The missionary’s gentle concern drew her. Aisha couldn’t help but grab hold of the kind woman who gave her children food. The missionary stood before her like a life raft in this raging sea of humanity flooding into Europe from the Middle East.
“You are very good,” Aisha uttered in broken English.
The missionary shook her head. “There is no one who is good but God alone,” she explained. “The only good you see in me is Isa.” (Isa=Jesus in many Middle Eastern languages).
Aisha pondered these words. She had grown up in a world where the only option in a pursuit of God was Allah. How did Isa fit into it? The missionary told the road weary woman of a God who loved her and could walk with her even through this difficult time. “Aisha, can I pray for you, in Isa’s name?” the missionary asked. Aisha nodded with tear-filled eyes. In the face of her life’s greatest tragedy, she had found a spark of hope.
For decades, Christian missiologists have strategized about the “10-40 Window” – the countries of North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia most unreached by and hostile to the Gospel message. Christians have mourned the difficulty of getting missionaries into these regions and churches have earnestly prayed for breakthroughs.
Ironically, the onslaught of extremist groups like ISIS, the Taliban, and Boko Haram have driven countless people from the seemingly unreachable region of the “10-40 Window” into the very accessible West. The BBC reports that more than a million refugees migrated into Europe in 2015 alone.
The news media has repeatedly called it “the greatest humanitarian crisis in Europe since World War II,” but on the grand scale, few are eager to help. Hungary built a fence to keep the flood of refugees at bay, and in America 31 state governors have openly opposed allowing any of the refugees in the United States.
In this era of radical terror attacks, it’s easy to give in to our gut reaction of fear and self-preservation, but in this crisis, we as Christians should see something more.
World Relief President Stephan Bauman sees it. “Now is a unique moment for the Church,” he said. “Faced with the greatest refugee crisis in seventy years, the Church—the greatest social network on the planet—has the opportunity to rise up to stand with our persecuted brothers and sisters and to extend Christ’s love and compassion to those who might otherwise never encounter him.”
Some are rising to meet the challenge. Armed with blankets and bread, various humanitarian groups in Europe have left their comfort zones to meet the needs of these otherwise unwanted souls. But the refugees need more than survival sustenance, the also need spiritual succor. They need hope.
Chriss Kleinloh, Pastor of Calvary Chapel Heidelberg, Germany, has called on his church to meet more than physical needs. “There are so many great ministries reaching out to help, but there’s little gospel.” He recently told Christianity Today. “Christians need to find ways to reach refugees with the hope of the gospel.”
Pastor Kleinloh’s goal is easier said than done. In Europe, Bibles in English, German, Spanish, French and Dutch are as ubiquitous as church steeples, but Holy Scriptures in Arabic or Farsi are hard to come by. And although most refugees speak at least a little of one or more of these languages, the European tongues will never be the language of their hearts. Their hearts are what need hope.
Last year, GoodSports International, a Christian nonprofit working in Europe, caught a vision to meet this need. GoodSports found a like-minded partner in the Arabic Bible Outreach Ministry and networked with various ministry associates across Europe from Calvary Chapel to World Gospel Mission and others who do on-the-ground, face-to-face ministry with the refugees.
As a result, to date 5,000 Arabic New Testaments have gone out, along with 1,000 complete Arabic Bibles and 18,000 Farsi (Iraqi language) Gospels of John. Beyond that, this loose coalition of like-minded groups have provided 1,000 SD chips full of Christian literature, videos, and other resources in Arabic to these who have likely never even had the opportunity to hear the Good News before. And more shipments are planned.
“By getting Bibles to refugees in their own language,” Kara Fulop, GoodSports International Director explains, “We can give God’s Word a chance to speak to their hearts.”
In the days and months ahead, politicians worldwide will doubtlessly debate and decry refugee policy, and sadly, terror attacks are likely to continue. Emotions will run high in political forums and fears will reach deep. But perhaps we as Christians should set our eyes on the larger battle, the one “not against flesh and blood” – the kind of battle that, when waged correctly, can take the “greatest humanitarian tragedy since World War II” and make it the greatest opportunity for hope and faith that this generation will ever know.