My previous post has generated so much interest and sparked so much discussion about how best to respond to the current European refugee crisis that I felt that a further post was necessary. Here are 5 ways to get engaged:
1. Get clued up
I was going to put prayer as the first thing we should do, but controversially, I’ve put this ahead of prayer. That’s not to downplay the importance of prayer. Far from it. Intercession is the most crucial thing that we can do! But I’ve put this point first because I believe that getting clued up will help us pray with more clarity and more compassion.
How do we get clued up?
Well obviously the news is a good place to start, especially right now as we are being bombarded by a torrent of information from pretty much every available news source. But there is certainly more we can do. A really helpful thing to do would be to speak to those who are already on the frontline of local outreach to refugees and ask them to give their perspective on what the greatest needs are. Similarly we can read articles and books from experienced practitioners. Furthermore we can contact our local councils and others who are responsible for policy making and coordinating emergency provision. Getting educated from these kinds of sources will really help with the next point…
2. Get on your knees
If you’re anything like me you probably look on at the refugee crisis as it unfolds and feel totally overwhelmed. What difference, if any, can I make? This is actually a healthy place to be as it’s when we feel small, weak and incapable that we are perfectly positioned to cry out to the only One who is wise enough to understand the situation in its totality and strong enough to do what’s right. Sometimes prayer can feel like a token gesture that we do when we don’t know what else to do. That is the wrong perception of prayer. Prayer is where the power is at:
“The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”
– James 5 v 16
Can I encourage you, if you haven’t already, to take God at His Word and to spend some serious, considered time on your knees on behalf of those who are suffering right now. (If you don’t know what to pray, the Evangelical Alliance have written a model prayer you could use).
3. Get in touch
One of the most simple yet practical things you can do is to write to your MP / AM and express your concern for the current situation. Tell them that you, and your church, are burdened about what’s going on. Ask them what they are doing about it and implore them to press our government for meaningful action. Furthermore, if your church is willing and able to help out practically let them know. There are some helpful pointers on what you could offer here. You’d be surprised how encouraged they will be to know that there are people in their communities who are ready and willing to serve. It also testifies to the life and love of the local church. Finally, you can also put pressure on the government to act by signing this official home office petition.
4. Get your wallet out
There will always be opportunities to give financially. Already my inbox is pinging with messages offering opportunities to respond. Tear fund, World Vision, Oxfam and Open Doors are just a few of the organisations you could give to who have people at work on the ground. However, you might also consider helping to support a local ministry that is serving refugees and asylum seekers who have already made it to the UK. I guess this is where I’d like to raise one specific opportunity for those of us in South Wales to consider.
My friend Liz Perret-Atkins runs an outreach in Cardiff. Every Thursday she and her team of amazing volunteers at the Rainbow Centre bag up loads of food and give it out to the scores of asylum seekers who attend. They also faithfully share the gospel with these guys each week. I have had the privilege of speaking at the Thursday morning outreach and it is incredible to see how the work is growing as more and more men, women and children from all over the world come to receive food. Apparently they had 75+ there this week and there will be more again next week. I was there last week and the demand was so great that they started to run out of food. Liz shared with me that it is becoming increasingly difficult to finance the work as it is entirely donation based and funds are short. If you have some money that you would like to donate to a gospel-centred practical outreach to refugees and asylum seekers then I can personally vouch for Liz and the ministry at the Rainbow Centre. If you would like to give then get in touch with me (contact details are here) and I’ll put you in touch with her. Alternatively you can text a donation to 70070, citing “Matt25” plus “£ (amount)”.
5. Get the red carpet out
Finally, we can get involved by opening our hearts and out homes. If you live know of any refugees who have come into your area, why not make every effort to welcome and befriend them. Be the one who chats to them at the bus stop or in the park. Smile at them. Serve them. If you don’t personally know of anyone who has come to this country under duress, find out what is being done for refugees in your area and volunteer you help. If no one is serving refugees in your area – you and your church should start something up. Serious! A coffee morning. Toddler group. Anything…
Finally, a few crazily radical ideas on how you could roll out the red carpet for refugees and asylum seekers:
- Could / would you host an individual or family in your own home at your own expense? Could your church building be used as emergency accommodation? If so, tell your local council. Tell your MP. Obviously be wise and realistic, but also be compassionate and courageous. There’s more chance that the government will let refugees into the UK if they are persuaded that they will not be alone in having to make provision. How beautiful it would be if the church of Jesus were at the front of the queue to serve in this way!
- Could / would you be willing to provide emergency, or even long-term, foster care for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children? If so, Home For Good are collecting names of those who are interested here.