What Is God’s Heart for Refugees?

photo by Helen Manson/Tearfund NZ

It’s a tendency some of us have – though we may not want to admit it. We look at someone or something from afar and infer we know most everything about them. Their personalities, behavior, and why they made the decisions they did.

But when we ask ourselves how God sees each person, then our hastily formed opinions shift perspective.

So today, on World Refugee Day, let’s ask ourselves the question: What is God’s heart for refugees around the world? Continue reading What Is God’s Heart for Refugees?

Who are Rohingya Refugees? Part 2

No one wants them.

Squalid, hastily constructed camps near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh are the only places they can find refuge, the only places they can call home. But these camps are anything but safe and look nothing like home. No words can convey the magnitude of the Rohingya refugee crisis. Every person who crosses the border has their own horrific tale of loss.

Their stories deserve to be told.

Continue reading Who are Rohingya Refugees? Part 2

Who are Rohingya Refugees? Part 1

No one wants them.

Squalid, hastily constructed camps near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh are the only places they can find refuge, the only places they can call home. But these camps are anything but safe and look nothing like home. No words can convey the magnitude of the Rohingya refugee crisis. Every person who crosses the border has their own horrific tale of loss.

Their stories deserve to be told. Continue reading Who are Rohingya Refugees? Part 1

What You Need to Know About the Rohingya Refugee Crisis

Noor, a young mom, gave birth on the run. A month later, her malnourished body cannot produce milk to feed her baby. Every day Abu, her baby, grows weaker. She tries to crush rice and mix it with water, but it’s not enough. Her other five children run around and drink from contaminated ponds. If Noor isn’t eating, her children aren’t either.  Continue reading What You Need to Know About the Rohingya Refugee Crisis

Emergency Survival Supplies Can Save Lives in South Sudan

As I see report after report of the destruction caused by hurricanes, earthquakes, and flooding, my thoughts turn to the crisis in South Sudan.

The images are chillingly similar. A woman stands amid the wreckage of her home in Houston, knee deep in water. A child in South Sudan stands beside a tarp upheld by a few sticks, wading in muddy water.

When disaster strikes at home, we can count on aid workers and our local government to provide shelter, food, and clean water. But in places like South Sudan, none of these provisions are available. Continue reading Emergency Survival Supplies Can Save Lives in South Sudan

Homeless – but not without hope – in South Sudan

One year ago, World Concern staff were evacuated from Wau, South Sudan, when armed conflict broke out in the area where we’re working. Although our team was able to resume work within a few weeks, for tens of thousands of people, life is far from returning to normal. More than 40,000 are still homeless and living in squalid camps around Wau. Continue reading Homeless – but not without hope – in South Sudan

Oh my dear World Concern

With all that’s happening across our world, we wanted to take a moment and thank you for all that you’re doing. The work of World Concern happens because of you—your prayers and your faithful support. And it’s through you, that Christ is shared, and lives are changed. This poem, written by a young Bangladeshi girl that was saved from child marriage, illustrates your impact perfectly.

Oh my dear World Concern,

From far away you are praised,

Your wondering works will never fade away.

You lightened up so many lives,

You will stay always in our hearts

Wiped out the darkness from our lives

You gave us a fulfilled life

Oh my dear World Concern.

As you ponder this precious girl’s thoughtful words, we want to leave with a reminder from Jacinta Tegman, the World Concern president, who shared a few years ago the reason for the season, and why our journey with the poorest people can be so life-changing.

With this in mind, we encourage you to pray about how you can show the love of Christ to a family that’s waiting for hope, and healing this Christmas.

Merry Christmas from everyone at World Concern!

As we celebrate this special time of year, it is a wonderful time to remember that God himself came to earth. What is so extraordinary is that He chose to identify with the poor and marginalized. He gave up all of His splendor, was born in a stable, and laid in a manager.

In 2 Corinthians 8:9 we read, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor.”

The heart of God is close to those who are poor, forgotten, and alone. Of all the classes and peoples on earth, He chose to identify with them. He lived and walked among them. He knew their pain and struggles. He opened His arms to bless and heal them. I am keenly aware that God continues to walk with the poor. He does that through you and me. I see it every day.

This Christmas, amidst all the joy we will experience, let us pause and remember. Join me in prayer for the poor and marginalized—those close to God’s heart.

Please Don’t Forget About Haiti

“We are in a desperate situation,” Pierre pleads.

“The population here is really in need. But I cannot send you any pictures due to communication issues. This is all I can send …”

The view of Hurricane Matthew from the International Space Station was like something out of a horror movie. For a brief moment we saw a swirling mass, its eye menacingly clear, devouring the land underneath.

Torrential rains and gale force winds tore through Haiti's weak, and flimsy infrastructure.
Torrential rains and gale force winds tore through Haiti’s weak, and flimsy infrastructure.
Some of the first images of Hurricane Haiti show the devastation on the ground.
Some of the first images of Hurricane Haiti show the devastation on the ground.

The above images were taken less than a day after the aerial shots from the space station and while they are some of the first images to come from Haiti, they clearly show what happened under that gruesome storm cloud.

That’s where Pierre is.

Haiti is once again under attack. Six years after a massive earthquake tore apart the flimsy infrastructure and killed more than a quarter million people, Haiti is back on her knees.

Friends, we must not forget Haiti … our neighbors … our friends … people like Pierre.

The true devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew is still unknown. And that’s a frightening thought. Because when a disaster strikes within our own shores we have the capability, and the resources needed to respond. We spend money. We rally together. We pray. We stay strong.

But when a disaster like Matthew hits a country as impoverished as Haiti, everything is wiped out—communication, electricity, utilities—it’s near impossible to send for help.

“Almost everything has been destroyed by the strong winds,” Pierre says. “All the trees have fallen. The winds tore off all our roofs.”

That’s why we must respond, and respond quickly and generously. Not because we’re asked, but because it’s the right thing to do.

Moms and dads frantically scoop up their children and search for shelter during the storm.
Moms and dads frantically scoop up their children and search for shelter during the storm.

Because as humans, we have a responsibility to help our brothers and sisters in need. Alexis is one of the few people that we’ve been able to speak with. She was sharing an evening meal with her family when her roof lifted off and disappeared into the stormy sky. Scooping up her daughter Alexis ran to the nearest shelter, a church, and waited for the hurricane to stop.

“I was very afraid to go outside because the wind was so strong. I saw a lot of damage on the road. I saw metal sheets from houses carried by the wind.” Alexis whispers.

There is not a lot a media coverage about Haiti.

The death toll stands at 842 but will almost certainly climb.

The number of homes, buildings, businesses, and farms lost is unknown.

There are only a few photos that show the devastation.

But that’s not because the damage isn’t there—

We must not forget our brothers and sisters in Haiti.
We must not forget our brothers and sisters in Haiti.

The reality is that there are people in need. There are families mourning the loss of loved ones. And countless people are scared, and in desperate need.

So as Hurricane Matthew gathers strength and barrels its way towards more developed regions, we have but a short window to focus our attention on Haiti. On people like Pierre. And Alexis.

These people are there. They just can’t ask for help …

So please don’t forget about Haiti.

The Forgotten Faces of the Nepal Earthquake

When Nepal shook more than a year ago, the world quickly responded with an outpouring of aid and support. In the aftermath of the disaster, a dark and sinister threat has been lurking beneath the rubble, just waiting to pounce.

As thousands of livelihoods lay in ruins, and humanitarian organizations scrambled to save lives and rebuild flattened communities, opportunity knocked for evil men. Fueled by a growing demand for child labor in nearby countries and fed by the perverse desires of a growing sex industry, these men had one goal—to exploit the desperation of local Nepali families.

Hoping to build a better life for their children, unsuspecting moms and dads are lured with false promises and quickly fall into the debt of evil men. With no way to repay, women and young girls are being trafficked across poorly patrolled borders. And without anyone to police, or prevent this horrific injustice they are being abused, exploited, and completely forgotten.

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In the most remote Nepali villages, young women and girls are at great risk of being trafficked across open borders.

World Concern has been active in Nepal ever since the earthquake hit, working tirelessly with the local church to rebuild communities and reach the most vulnerable with livelihood support, and income generation opportunities.

Recognizing that trafficking is a threat in the poorest Nepali villages, World Concern is actively leveraging its Child Protection experts to provide in-country training. The aim is to raise awareness of the problem, and begin mobilizing a network of local partners to seek out and stop the threat of trafficking in high risk communities.

“There is a huge opportunity to prevent human trafficking in Nepal,” says Selina Prem Kumar, World Concern’s Sri Lanka Country Director who is in Nepal training church and community leaders to prevent trafficking. “Women and children are being trafficked into forced labor and as sex workers into neighboring countries with no border patrols.”

Having established a comprehensive child protection program after the bloody Sri Lankan civil war, Selina is now taking what’s she’s learned and accomplished across Southeast Asia, and is well aware of the dangers families face in the wake of an emergency.

The communities she’s visiting are within a few miles of the India border, where no visas are required to cross, making it an extremely high risk area.

DSC_0172Braving heavy rains, flooding and mountain road closures due to mudslides, Selina and her team traveled close to the Indian border, and into one of the trafficking ‘hot-zones’ to conduct the workshops. Proof that World Concern truly does go beyond the end of the road to serve those in need.

Expectant for change and eager to become more active in fighting trafficking in their communities, more than 40 volunteers from local churches, schools, and human rights groups attended.

“People walked through the jungles to get here,” Selina says. “Some traveled for over 7 hours—the landslides and floods turning what would have been a 3-hour journey into a day long trek.”

While there is much to do in Nepal, Selina is hopeful, “There is a lot of meaningful and deep possibilities in Nepal. We will continue working to train and mobilize border villages, churches, and organizations to prevent human trafficking.”

Even in the darkness, there is always an opportunity to shine light, and the work happening in Nepal is proof that there’s always hope for a brighter future.

Children of War

Photo by Christena Dowsett
Photo by Christena Dowsett

I woke up last Saturday morning in my 72 degree house, safe in my cozy bed. Birds chirping outside my window and thoughts of doing yard work today on this peaceful Saturday.

Little did I know, at that very moment, gunfire was erupting in a town in South Sudan. Bodies were strewn in the streets and families were running for their lives to the bush.

But God knew, and He redirected my thoughts. I had fallen asleep the night before reading an intense book about World War II. My pleasant early-morning meditations were interrupted by images of the horrors people suffer in war—especially children, who don’t understand what’s happening around them. All they know is that their parents are scared, chaos surrounds them, and “home” is wherever they can find a place to curl up and sleep that night.

These images haunted me as I got up to pour a cup of coffee. As a mom, I have such a strong instinct to protect my children. My heart aches for moms who are unable to keep their children safe. And it’s happening to millions of children around the world today.

Working at World Concern, I have to be mindful not to become anesthetized to the circumstances I hear about every day. A mother scooping up her child and fleeing gunfire in terror. Waking up the next day on the hard ground, enveloped in sweltering heat to hear her child crying because of hunger pains. Panic when she realizes the child is not just hungry, but sick with fever.

I can’t ever let this become “normal” to me.

14-year-old Mary waits for a hole in the ground to fill with muddy water so she can fill her water can.
14-year-old Mary waits for a hole in the ground to fill with muddy water so she can fill her water can.

I took a sip of my coffee and thought of the people in South Sudan whose tragic circumstances seem to get worse each day. A colleague who had recently returned from a visit told me he saw children picking leaves off of trees to eat to quell the hunger pains. I felt sick. He showed me a video he’d shot on his iPhone of a 14-year-old girl scooping scum-covered water from a hole in the ground, bees swirling around her head as she waited for the hole to fill up again.

“Sometimes I wait several hours for enough water to fill the hole again so I can scoop more,” she told him.

The water Mary collects each day is filthy.
The water Mary collects each day is filthy.

I pondered this as I sipped my cream-sweetened coffee, which suddenly tasted extraordinarily decadent.

And then I pick up my phone to see an email that our team was evacuated as violence erupted in Wau town, the base for several new villages in our One Village Transformed program. I prayed for the hundreds of families who lost loved ones in the fighting and for those who had fled in terror.

Earlier this month, I had barely noticed the automatic withdrawal from my checking account. $33. That’s my humble gift each month to that 14-year-old girl’s village outside of Wau.

It’s not much. I spent about that on a new shower curtain liner and cat litter at Fred Meyer yesterday.

Photo by Christena Dowsett
Photo by Christena Dowsett

But I felt a twinge of relief when I thought about that gift this morning. God reminded me I was doing something. That $33, combined with yours and someone else’s and others, is enough to do some amazing things in this one village. Not just a meal far better than leaves for today, but empowerment for the parents in her village to plant colorful, vibrant vegetable gardens that will supply many nutritious meals. It will help them dig a well where she can collect cool, fresh, disease-free water every day—without having to wait for a mud puddle to fill up. It will enable her to attend school, learn to read and write. And she’ll be introduced to a group of neighbors who meet twice a week under the shade of a giant tree to sing worship songs and study the Bible in her native language, allowing this child of war to experience peace in the midst of turmoil.

Village prayer. Photo by Christena Dowsett.
Village prayer. Photo by Christena Dowsett.

She will see her neighbors working and starting small businesses and thinking about the future, and it will all be new and different and hope-filled. She will begin to see the possibility for a better life and focus beyond waiting for the water hole to fill or picking leaves from a tree to eat.

I’ll never miss that $33 from my checking account each month. But it will mean a child of war is fed and cared for and a village in South Sudan is transformed.