Being Neighbors with Refugees in Europe

By Dina Horne

The Wesleyan Church is poised to reach refugees in Europe like never before.

How can the gospel reach people from Syria, Afghanistan, and Iran? One open door that presents an amazing opportunity is the flood of refugees into Europe. We are compelled by the compassion of Christ to reach out in love to the victims of war and persecution. This brings many refugees into contact with loving Christians for the first time.

The Refugee Relief Fund assists Wesleyan missionary teams in Europe to provide for the needs of refugee families. With tens of thousands of dollars in assistance already received, we rejoice that the North American church has begun to make a huge difference. This includes not only immediate relief but also ongoing development to help with longer-term solutions.

The Wesleyan churches in Europe are helping as well. The British Isles Wesleyan Holiness District made a donation of over $5,000 to the Refugee Relief Fund. The Brno, Czech International Fellowship, with Wesleyan missionaries Matt and Crystal Blake, collected and delivered a van full of water, blankets, and supplies to the desperate refugee camp at the Slovenia/Austria border.

The crisis is serving to strengthen the ties of Wesleyan churches all across Europe.

Very recently, a team of 10 from Remedy International Church [Wesleyan] in Poděbrady, Czech Republic came to Austria to see firsthand and help prepare a transition facility for refugees. Remedy Church is a growing group of young first-generation Christ-followers that meets each Sunday in a coffee shop near Prague. Barča Vanišová, one of the Czech young adults, helped coordinate the details of the experience with the Global Partners team in Vienna. “We at Remedy Church have been praying about going on a mission trip. We know that many people need help and even more importantly need to see the love of God.”

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Team Austria with the Czech Team at the Refugee Home

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The Czech Remedy Church and Austrian Wesleyans worked side-by-side preparing lodging for refugees who have applied for asylum in Austria. The expectation is that it will take four years to receive asylum. Over 200 people now live in the temporary facility: families and individuals, including minors who have made the journey alone. It was a dream fulfilled for Tomáš Mojzis, Remedy Church pastor, and Dave Horne, Global Partners Europe area director. The crisis is actually serving to strengthen the ties of Wesleyan churches all across Europe. Barča explained, “For me, it was also a great time of building relationships with friends from another country and feeling great being a part of The Wesleyan Church.”

The Refugee Relief Fund is also benefitting the Global Partners team in Macedonia. In partnership with the Macedonian Evangelical Church, Wesleyans Joel and Tiffany Toonstra are making weekly trips to the Macedonia/Serbia border delivering clothes, gloves, and socks to refugees as they pass through on trains in groups of 500-1,500 at a time. Some of the church’s volunteers are not yet believers, but the opportunity helps them experience God’s grace and presence. This weekly ministry gives the Toonstras the chance to not only be the hands of Jesus to the passing refugees, it also provides them the opportunity to encourage others in their own church to serve in the name of Jesus.

The need for men’s shoes at the refugee camps is staggering; 1,000 pairs of shoes are requested every week at the refugee camp on the border of Croatia and Bosnia alone. Fortunately, Global Partners is partnering with sister agencies and has made connections with a large shoe distributor who is giving deep discounts to help.

This summer Wesleyan missionaries, Rick and Jonell (last name withheld), and their children, plan to transfer to Vienna to join the Global Partners team in Austria and begin working at Oasis, a refugee ministry center run by a sister organization. The Oasis ministry center shares the love of Jesus through meeting practical longer term needs as well as offering a safe place to discuss Christianity and the hope that Jesus offers.

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Churches in Austria are finding that German courses are a wonderful way to meet refugees’ needs for integration and employability and also are great venues for them to develop relationships with Christians. Churches are reaching out to the Muslim world that is now living almost on their doorstep. The Refugee Relief Fund has provided German language materials as well as discipleship materials for ongoing ministry.

Global Partners Europe would like to thank the North American Wesleyan Church for your generosity to make possible Wesleyan ministry in Europe to people fleeing war and persecution. The humble, tired refugees thank you. We are seeing people respond to the hope and freedom that Jesus offers. The need for resources continues and we ask for your prayers for wisdom in fostering further partnerships. Thank you for investing in long-term missionaries as well, who will continue to develop these ongoing partnerships.