September 15, 2015
Am I My Brother's Keeper?
Post by Brittany Tedesco
"Jesus loves you," a native ministry leader, assisted by Christian Aid Mission, told an elderly Syrian woman he encountered in a Turkish refugee camp.
"Where is He?" she asked. Her response was visceral, angry. "How does He love us?"
It was a hot day. Masses of refugees crowded around the truck the ministry leader and his coworkers had filled with food, vitamins, and shoes for the many barefoot migrants. "People almost crush each other for two pieces of sugar that fall to the ground," he wrote. "They are climbing on the truck to get some pasta that falls from the packages."
The refugees have grown tired, malnourished, hopeless, and angry. Locals have taken advantage of them, offering them measly compensation for long hours working in their fields. Sometimes lunch is their only "wage" for eight hours of backbreaking work.
The elderly woman stood next to her teenage grandson. "ISIS killed the child's father," she told the ministry leader. The boy's mother had left them to marry a Turkish man.
Her anger erupted after the leader offered to pray for them. All of her pain boiled over into one question: how does Jesus love us?
His response: "ISIS hurt you, but Jesus sent me to you. He told me, 'Go and give bread, shoes, and vitamins to that woman and her grandson.'"
She didn't speak. The ministry leader watched as she turned and walked away. But as he turned to walk back to the truck, he heard her call out, "Thank you!"
He turned around to see her walking back toward him. She took his hand and then pointed to her heart. "So many wounds," she said. "Tell Jesus to save us."
In a recent interview with Christian Post, Steve Van Valkenburg, our Middle East Director, discussed the difference between large NGOs offering only material aid to refugees and the smaller, indigenous ministries we assist.
"Really what [the refugees] need is someone to listen to their story, to cry with them, to pray with them," he said. "It's more than just giving a box every week from a container, it's actually having somebody show care."
About a week ago, a terrible photo circulated the web. The heartbreaking image of a drowned toddler whose body washed up on a shore in Turkey after a refugee boat capsized seemed to capture everyone's attention. But attention spans aren't what they used to be. While the world paused for two seconds to be outraged at an injustice that has gone on for years, native missionaries continue working day in and day out amidst the broken, hurting masses.
They have taken personal responsibility for those refugees. They've made those refugees their problem.
What kind of love is that?
"We've not been taught that to love someone means we enter their suffering," writes Paul E. Miller in his book, A Loving Life. "To enter a broken heart means that our hearts will be broken as well. That's what happened to Jesus. That's the gospel."
He goes on to illustrate his point using the example of the Good Samaritan: "The weight of the beaten man's problems comes on the Samaritan. It affects his schedule (he stops), his provisions (he pours on oil and wine), his comfort (he lets him ride on his animal), his money (he pays the innkeeper), and his attention (he promises to return)."
It's the difference between throwing a drowning man a life preserver, and jumping into the water with him to pull him out.
The beauty of this love is what's attracting so many Muslims to the gospel.
Said Van Valkenburg in his interview with Christian Post: "I think that a lot of refugees see that there is something different there, they see the Muslim on Muslim fighting, and then they see how the Christians are reaching out with love and caring—that has to do something with their hearts."
Am I my brother's keeper? That age-old question first posed to God by Cain in Genesis 4 is one to which we all have to answer either yes or no.
The native missionaries on the frontlines have answered the question.
A ministry leader from Laos who recently visited Christian Aid Mission headquarters shared with us the kind of personal responsibility he takes for the souls around him. "In our culture, whoever leads a person to Christ is lifetime obligated to that person as their spiritual father or mother. If I lead someone to Christ, he will not follow other people, he will follow me," he said.
When you give to indigenous ministries working among refugees in the Middle East, you're giving to people who've made the choice to incarnate into the pain and grief of those suffering around them. How different from an aid agency that does nothing more than hand out food.
As Amy Carmichael, missionary to India, said, "You can give without loving, but you can't love without giving."
The most important way we could ever use our resources is to share the kind of love that draws people to Jesus.
Am I my brother's keeper? The answer, if I'm a Christian, is yes.
Please click here to help native missionaries share Christ's love with suffering refugees.