Meeting migrants at our doorstep: SIM missionaries looking to Europe
By Josh Chard | United Kingdom in Europe
In the past year, we have witnessed the worst migrant crisis in living memory, as more than 1.2 million people have fled to Europe to escape poverty and war.
We have all heard the stories of perilous journeys, separated families and lost lives. There is now one simple question challenging people across Europe: how do we respond?
While we human beings sometimes struggle to see past the suffering, we know we have a God of mercy who wants us to know his compassion and love. As Christians it is certainly important that we address the physical needs of people in desperate situations (Matthew 25:34, 1 John 3:17-18). However, it is crucial that we see their spiritual need as well (Acts 3:1-26) - their need of Jesus as Saviour and Lord.
We believe this is an opportunity for God's word to spread in a new way. Many of these migrants and refugees have come from places where the good news of Jesus cannot be spoken of openly. Now these people are on our doorstep where we can freely share the hope of Christ.
We are not alone in our vision. In July, SIM UK hosted mission organisations from across Europe to discuss this great opportunity for evangelism.
Gospel-centred agencies including SIM France, SIM Switzerland, DMG, Greater European Mission (GEM), European Christian Mission (ECM) and European Missionary Fellowship (EMF) agreed to unite with SIM UK under one banner to see God's word reach migrants and refugees across Europe. Additionally, we are discussing these issues with other church network leaders from southern Europe.
There is a shared vision to see churches in every country reach out to migrants and refugees to make a long-lasting impact. We want to see communities growing and learning together with new brothers and sisters in Christ. Over the next six months, SIM UK is running a research project to learn how best to support churches in this ministry and to identify opportunities for mission work in different regions.
We will partner with local churches across Europe to see how our workers could reach out with humanitarian and social aid while sharing the gospel.
I am SIM's researcher for this project and will visit several European countries to engage with church leaders. I hope we will all gain a more mature understanding of what is needed for the growth of ministry in each region. Once the research is complete, we will be praying our organisations will move forward together to equip churches with training, short-term action teams and longer-term mission workers.
With God's grace, we will see his word spread among peoples who do not yet know Christ. There are challenges ahead, not just with the migrants and refugees, but with the changing attitudes of Europeans. The welcome signs have come down and the fences are going up. This is an opportunity for the healing, for the uniting love of Christ to do its work. We pray churches across Europe will respond.
We need to see beyond the suffering, the political concerns and the division. We need to see this as an opportunity for God to be glorified across Europe.