A PART OF THE ANSWERby John / Europe Diaspora Area Leader
I will never forget the article I read about a teenage girl who had to bury her mother and two sisters in the desert sand.
Shafa, 14, was the only survivor of 92 immigrants who were abandoned by their traffickers in the Sahara Desert. Each one had paid for passage to Libya, where they would wait to cross the Mediterranean to Europe in hope of a better life.
This article haunted me. I asked, “Who is on the other side of the Mediterranean welcoming such a victim of human suffering? Who is there to embrace her and offer her hope and healing?” I knew part of the answer needed to be me. How could I not be a part of the response to the growing number of refugees, asylum seekers, undocumented immigrants, and international students flooding the cities of Europe from the African continent?
14 million African-born immigrants already live in Europe, making up over 40% of Europe’s total immigrant number. 2015 saw the greatest surge, where over one million Africans made the perilous journey across the Mediterranean. This provoked us and our partners to action, and we mobilized short term teams to serve these new arrivals. Partnering with local churches and ministries we offered hope and healing, as well as necessities such as clothing and food.
On the first day of training one such team in 2018, we prayed earnestly that the Lord would lead us to those we could serve. None of us imagined how the Lord would so immediately answer this prayer. Within hours, the hostel where we were staying became a main receiving center for over 100 African immigrants rescued from the Mediterranean Sea. It was amazing to see our team jump to action with our local Spanish partners on the Spanish coast. The majority of those rescued were women from Morocco and West Africa. They were traumatized. They had been pulled from the sea and had lost everything. Many had been separated from their loved ones by the traffickers and appeared hopeless. It was too difficult for them to retell their stories of the trauma they had experienced. Our team was equipped to offer compassion.
Utilizing the long hours of waiting for medical checks and asylum processes, we showed the Magdalena: Released From Shame film in French. Tears streamed down women’s cheeks as they embraced the love and compassion of Jesus that was communicated through this film and the sharing afterwards. The next day, my wife, Maureen, and the team transformed one of the rooms into a boutique where they pampered the women. It was beautiful to see these women open up, smile, bond, sing and dance.
We have a lot to learn from African missionaries in Europe and therefore I have invited several to partner with us and train our members. Twins, Hamid* and Hakim*, grew up in a large Muslim family in Sudan. Faith in Jesus came to them through their older brother Hassan*. As a result of persecution and regional insecurity, Hassan brought his twin brothers to Egypt, where he was leading various ministries. From there he worked hard to provide for their needs and education. The brothers grew in faith, but Egypt became increasingly hostile to Sudanese, especially Christ-followers. Hassan encouraged them to pursue a promising future in Europe and so, after securing funds, they bought passage to Libya to then cross the Mediterranean for a future life in Europe. After months of abductions, imprisonment, and paying human traffickers, they finally made it to Paris. They were homeless and riding on trains at night. A divine encounter with a Christian worker serving immigrants and refugees in Europe eventually led the twins to be a part of an international team reaching people unreached with the gospel in France.
Three years of dedication and hard work later, the twins are now supporting their family back home as they pursue their calling to make disciples of refugees, people they are uniquely suited to reach.
What I know is that the harvest is truly plentiful in Europe, and he is calling us to increase our efforts and work force. Join us in asking the Lord to send us more laborers who can embrace these new neighbors. It was clear to me that God was calling me to be part of the answer, and I am so glad I responded because my life is made so much richer through those I get to serve among and with. Will you join me?