God on the Move
15 May 2019
In a world that has an estimated 68.5 million people who have been forcibly displaced from their homes*, we want to echo God’s heart for the vulnerable, the disempowered and the displaced.
People from some of the most ‘unreached’ places on earth are coming to Australia. Their decision to leave their homeland has meant risking everything for the slim hope that they might stay alive and be able to offer some kind of life to their children. Their life journeys have already been marked by persecution, war, conflict, poverty, desperation and hopelessness. Many have traversed mountains, sailed oceans and crossed borders in terrifyingly dangerous situations, clinging to the hope of finding refuge and a place to call home. Along the way, they may have had to endure forced family separations, leaving partners and children behind. For many, these separations have lasted years – even continuing to this day – and always accompanied by the fear that they might never embrace one another again. This continual state of limbo is further reinforced if they are held for years in Australian detention centres, never knowing when or if they will ever have a chance of freedom or being reunited.
Into these traumatised but very resilient lives, we have the God-given opportunity to be present and really listen to their stories. We can step up and be the refuge they have been searching for.
One of the ways our team has become a place of refuge is through our English classes, SMILE – Serving Migrants In Learning English. Many refugees and asylum seekers are finding that SMILE is a safe place, not only to learn English but to be accepted and valued for who they are. After attending our classes for about 6 months, one of the Iranian asylum seekers in my advanced class pulled me aside and asked:
‘Why on earth do you do this?’ He said, ‘Your teachers are volunteers, there’s no financial reward, you don’t owe us anything, there’s nothing in it for you, we’re not that easy to love…why would you care for us… love us so unconditionally?’ I replied that Jesus loves us and calls us to love others. He was gobsmacked by this and decided he had better find out more about this Jesus person. He started attending a local church and was later baptised. Now he is helping to lead a church of over 100 Iranians meeting together each week.
God is powerfully at work amongst the movement of refugees all around the globe and we have the opportunity to be a living example of God’s welcoming embrace; we have the honour of listening to their precious stories; we have the privilege of walking alongside them, serving them and loving them. We partner with local churches, equipping, inspiring and empowering God’s people to be able to do the same. As this happens, the lives of all those involved are transformed and we experience a foretaste of God’s kingdom.
-Naomi Chua, Pioneers Victoria Refugee Team Leader .
*UNHCR The UN Refugee Agency, Statistical Yearbooks
If you resonate with our diaspora ministry and would like to get involved, get in touch.