About Refugees: A Preacher, A Professor, A Rock Star & Me

Willow Creek _Celebration of Hope 2016_ - Nate Griffin _12160.jpg

Each spring for three weeks my church, Willow Creek Community Church, focuses on the work that our church partners are doing in under-resourced communities throughout the world. Everything in our weekend services, midweek services, and children's ministries focuses on how followers of Jesus around the world are being the hands and feet of Christ as they address issues like food security, healthcare, clean water, economic stability, education, leadership development, and others.

This annual emphasis is called Celebration of Hope(COH) and it's my favorite time of year at Willow.

One emphasis of this year's COH was the refugee crisis in the Middle East. Willow Creek leadership is convinced that this crisis is a defining moment for the Church. Will we we look at the refugees through the lens of our fear and self-absorption? Will we circle the wagons self-protectively and pretend the refugee issue isn't our problem?

Or will we look at the crisis through God's eyes, allowing ourselves to really see the pain and suffering of people who are just like us, who are created and loved by God just as we are? Will we acknowledge that there is no "them" and "us"--we are all part of the same human family?

I first visited Syrian refugees in Jordan in 2014. Since then I've also visited displaced Iraqis in northern Iraq.

I believe the American Church has an extraordinary opportunity to remake the Middle East through the only power strong enough to stand against the hatred, violence, and fear that currently dominate the region: the power of God's love manifested and enfleshed by God's people. The question is: will we do it? Will we show up?

Here are some of the video resources we used the past few weeks to encourage our congregation to respond with compassion and generosity to the refugee crisis.

In this brief talk I share a profound experience I had with Syrian refugee women I met in the Middle East. The clip also includes a video highlighting a Syrian refugee woman and the Middle Eastern church that embraced her family with love and practical help. On this page, click on my photo.

Christine Caine is her beautifully passionate and brilliant self in this dynamic sermon in which she challenges us to look at the world as Jesus does, through the eyes of love. On this page, click on Christine’s photo.

In an extremely casual (!) video clip, Bono sends a message to affirm the church's role in caring for refugees. On this page, click on Bono’s photo.

In a midweek service at Willow, Wheaton College professor Gary Burge offers a captivating Biblical case for a compassionate response to refugees. This link takes you directly to Gary's talk.

In a blog I wrote last December--Goodness and Light--I list reputable organizations working in the Middle East to provide both emergency relief an long-term intervention for Syrian and Iraqi refugees.

Yesterday I received an email from a man who said he formed his attitude toward refugees based on scattered news clips that fueled his fear and justified his hard heart toward refugees. But what he heard during COH "allowed the Holy Spirit to speak to my heart and remind me that the Syrians aren’t just Syrians, they are people that matter to God, just like I matter to God. It really has effected me in deeper ways than I even realize."

He'd just written a generous check to one of the organizations highlighted in our services and is praying for creative guidance on how he can get more involved. His email made my day, week, month.

May the Holy Spirit continue to speak to our hearts on behalf of refugees!