Cast Out But Not Forsaken

July 25, 2013

Turkey´s citizens have seen it before. First the outbreak of war that brings terror to one of their Middle Eastern neighbors. Then the inevitable swell of desperate refugees knocking on their doors for sanctuary.

Since the start of the civil war in Syria two years ago, over 400,000 refugees have poured into Turkey, placing great strain on the nation´s already stretched resources.

Those who reside near the border are not happy about this tidal wave of newcomers. They complain that refugees drive up the costs for food and rental units. Sometimes they may find themselves in competition for the same low-paying but much-needed jobs.

If Turks seem thin on patience, they may have some justification. Exacerbating the problem is the estimated half a million displaced peoples who have spent extended time inside their borders during the past 20 years due to war in their home countries. In particular, Turkey experienced a large immigration of Iraqis between 1988 and 1991 because of the Iran-Iraq War and the first Gulf War.

Refugees from Iran, Afghanistan, and Palestine have also flocked to Turkey. The wave of war-weary Syrians adds to the feelings of resentment as officials seek a workable solution that is beneficial to all parties.

One strategy involves containment of refugees by setting up camps and assigning specific locations where they can live. Families who find camp life undesirable seek whatever housing they can find in nearby communities. Recently the government began placing refugees in the cities of Samsun, Sinop, and Ordu along the Black Sea.

Not everyone treats the refugees with disdain, however. Aware of the enormous need, Mission Pontus welcomes the opportunity to reach out with the love of Jesus Christ to those who are homeless and rejected. Christian Aid is supporting their efforts to meet physical needs and share the gospel message.

In Samsun alone 5000 refugees are expected. This gives the ministry a large group of individuals and families to serve.

In the past the government has placed some of the Iranian and Afghan refugees in Amasya, about an hour´s drive from Samsun. That area can no longer accommodate additional people. Mission Pontus had an effective outreach among the refugees living there, and those refugees helped the ministry plant a church.

In addition to assisting refugees, Mission Pontus has enjoyed a very effective outreach to foreign students. Some students return to their home countries as ambassadors for Christ and become active in local ministry.

Because Mission Pontus has already evangelized and discipled people from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Palestine, they have personnel who can reach out to the latest round of refugees relocating to Turkey.

“Mission Pontus is a fruitful ministry,” said Stephen Van Valkenburg, Middle East Director for Christian Aid. “They are reaching Turkish Muslims, college students, foreign students, prisoners, and refugees. Now with these refugees being assigned to Samsun, this is a good opportunity for the ministry to reach them with the gospel.”