How Can I Engage With the Syrian Refugee Crisis?
I love imagining the amazing things God could do in the world. There are so many issues in the world that I long for God to transform and I get excited about the possibility of him using me to make a difference in the world.
I want to share Jesus with my neighbours, I want to reach unreached people groups and mobilize labourers for the Great Commission, I want to pray with focus for my friends and family, and I want to do something tangible to help with big world justice issues—human trafficking and the sex trade, family preservation (or orphan prevention), the HIV epidemic, systemic poverty, and, more recently, the Syrian refugee crisis.
As I have considered how to get involved in the Syrian Crisis, I have felt stuck. When I heard that Molly Thomas would be hosting a workshop on that very topic at P2C PLUS, I decided to go.
To Syria With All My Heart, And No Resources
Around this time last year, my husband and I, together with a few friends from church, had talked about sponsoring a refugee family to come to Canada, but the timing just didn’t seem right for us. Our church had been navigating some big changes, and we were just finalizing the adoption of our daughter and didn’t know what life would look like as a new family of three. It wasn’t the right time to commit to a year-long all-in endeavour.
Yet my heart was still longing to do something.
I held back tears as I sat through Molly’s presentation about Syria. Molly painted a picture of Syria before the crisis; Only a few years ago it had been a tourist destination, economically and politically stable, a place of high-quality education and religious freedom. She then painted a picture of the loss and horror that exists now. I imagined families much like mine with their lives suddenly turned upside down, losing everything.
At the end of her presentation, I knew more about the situation in Syria than I had before the workshop; I knew more about the Canadian response than I had previously; my heart was newly stirred with compassion. But I still felt stuck in how to respond.
“At the end of her presentation, I knew more about the situation in Syria… I knew more about the Canadian response… my heart was newly stirred with compassion. But I still felt stuck in how to respond.”
Stuck In Two Lies
As I’ve reflected on my stuckness, I’ve realized I sometimes believe two lies.
The first lie is that when I imagine the big things that God wants to do in response to the big problems in the world, I assume that my involvement needs to be big.
The second lie is that when I imagine all the things that God wants to do in response to all problems in the world, I assume that I need to be involved in all of them. Or at least I want to be.
Believing these two lies leads me to two opposite but equally deadly reactions. I either take on too much and become exhausted and ineffective. Or I take on too little and become apathetic and ineffective.
With these two lies as my lens when I think about my potential response to the Syrian refugee crisis (which is exactly how I thought about it at the end of Molly’s session), I only see two possible responses: a) sponsor a Syrian refugee family; or b) give a little bit of money or stuff to the people who are doing the real help.
Because of the lies, I immediately dismiss option B as being too small, and therefore worthless. But option A is too large a commitment for me right now, given the many other things I also want to be involved in. I become tired just thinking about it. So I end up stuck.
I am learning to reject these lies and replace them with gospel truth.
Walking Into The Desert When God Calls
I loved the last session of the conference—Steevens Audige always does such a great job of highlighting gospel truth. As he wrapped up the story of the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8), he pointed out that Philip had a thriving ministry in Samaria—crowds of people were coming to know Jesus—but God called Philip to leave all that and go to the desert to meet one man.
To me, meeting one person seems small in comparison to what he was doing in Samaria. And Philip certainly couldn’t be in Samaria and the desert at the same time. But Philip was obedient to God’s instructions. Church history tells us that the Ethiopian eunuch became a great evangelist who led many people in Ethiopia to Christ. Philip’s simple obedience led him to play a role in taking the gospel “to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” even though he couldn’t see all that at the time.
If Philip had believed the lie that small actions are insignificant, he could have dismissed God’s call to go to the desert. Thankfully he didn’t.
“Philip’s simple obedience led him to play a role in taking the gospel ‘to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth’ even though he couldn’t see all that at the time.”
I am reminded that I simply need to be obedient to God. I am not the saviour of the world. As much as my heart breaks for refugees, I am not able to take on massive action at this point in time. Thankfully, God has plenty of resources to be able to manage every need and every concern. I can trust him. And more than that, he can use my small steps of faith to have a big impact (even if I can’t see that impact right away).
“I am reminded that I simply need to be obedient to God. I am not the saviour of the world.”
Right now, I believe that God is directing me to focus my energy and resources on a few key issues for which he has uniquely gifted and positioned me. I will continue to pray and walk in obedience, trusting that God is weaving together greater change in the world than I can imagine today.