Salvation in the Midst of a Refugee Crisis
Robbie McAlister is the People Group Strategist at the South Carolina Baptist Convention. He has heard hundreds of stories of Christians facing persecution in their home countries after accepting Christ as Savior, but one story stands out to him.
*Omar is a young Central Asian man. He hopes to better himself, attend college, and become a nurse. As of right now, Omar is a refugee fleeing his native country. He intends to make it into northern Europe, but, along with many others, he encountered an issue crossing the border to Greece and now finds himself stuck in Greece.
Since 2015, millions of refugees have migrated through the Mediterranean region into Europe. The most common nationalities arriving were individuals from Tunisia, Bangladesh, Egypt, Syria, Iran, Côte d’Ivorie, Iraq, Afghanistan, Guinea, and others, most fleeing war, conflict, persecution, or deteriorating conditions. Omar is just one of the millions of individuals experiencing this.
While stuck in Turkey, Omar’s life changed when he met a Christian couple who shared Christ with him. As a Muslim man, Omar knew about Jesus as a prophet but did not know of Jesus the Savior. Omar, like many Muslims who first hear the gospel, was hesitant to become a Christian right away but knew that he would decide to follow Christ one day. Scrolling on Instagram one day, Omar saw a photo that stuck with him. It was a drawing of a man standing above water, hand outstretched as if to lift someone up out of the depths. As he crossed the border from Turkey to Greece, Omar went without food for four days and without water for two days, but, amid his crisis, he dreamed about the image he had seen and realized the man was Jesus reaching down into the water. When Omar woke up, he knew that this Jesus would help him through his crisis, and he accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior.
Robbie McAlister met Omar the day after he became a Christ-follower. Omar sought discipleship and came to a community center in Athens, Greece, working with national pastors. Robbie struck up a conversation with him, and over a few hours Omar opened up about his story. During the conversation, Omar said, “I know the Bible says you should honor your father and mother. But if I tell them that I’ve become a Christian, they’ll have me killed. How can I tell my parents this?”
Robbie said that this is a moment for the church to “pray, give, and go.” He said everyone can pray that God would provide, protect, and raise up workers. “The thing that’s so beautiful about this is that God is sending the nations to us,” Robbie said. “Even though migration is a horrible situation for those involved and it’s often motivated by violence and famine, it is redemptive in the fact that God is using it sovereignly to put people in places where they have access to the gospel.” Robbie stressed that this is a strategic moment for the church to act. “These are people coming from countries that we can’t get into easily – countries where it would be illegal to share the gospel,” Robbie said, “and God is bringing them to us in places we can easily access and share Christ with them freely.”
*Names have been changed.