What Can One Church Do?

Posted by John K on Monday, April 2, 2018 Under: Response
As 2017 came to an end, I sensed that I should schedule time early in 2018 with The Sanctuary, a church-run ministry for refugees in Newport, Wales. Kaylee and I first visited last summer and the director, Mark, participates in our MUM Network. My goal was to be a help, but also to witness what one church can do as they go about their day-to-day work with refugees.

I arrived in Newport after my overnight flight and three-hour bus ride from London. Mark met me at the bus stop and we walked the few blocks up the hill to The Sanctuary where a pile of donated clothes, toys, and miscellaneous things (some of which I couldn’t easily identify) awaited me. I got a crash course in sorting what can be used or distributed at the center, donated forward, or discarded. As asylum-seekers arrive with little or no belongings, donated used items such as clothing, games, and household goods helps these new neighbors with the basics. Delivery of these items then also enables The Sanctuary to engage in initial conversations to learn about other needs and begin to build relationships. You see, when you drop off something at the home of someone from one of the many cultures of Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, it is expected that you stay for tea and conversation.

During my visit, I saw that The Sanctuary is well named. People know this is a place where they can get a meal, coffee, or tea, and feel at home. (Some of the primary line items in the budget at The Sanctuary are coffee, tea, and sugar.) During Friday game nights, which are well-attended by the youth (Read my earlier blog for more about the youth programs.), Joe (not his real name to protect his identity) makes the tea. Joe has a fascinating story. He was a wealthy business owner in Indonesia. His favorite hobby was waxing his four luxury cars. His life forever changed when the local mafia decided it wanted his businesses and didn’t care if they had to eliminate him to get them. Now he lives half a world away and just hopes to be reunited with his family. Having been used to being served, Joe is now adamant that he serves whenever he can.

I saw other examples of asylum seekers serving during my visit. Alan (not his real name) translates Pastor Andrew’s lesson for the Iranian men’s weekly Farsi bible study (pictured above) at The Sanctuary. He desires to become a missionary in Africa after he receives asylum. I spoke with a few Iranians who told me their stories about fleeing Iran because they are Christian, but they also shared that persecution is not deterring people from seeking God.

I heard from others at The Sanctuary about their journeys to the UK as well. One of the conversations that really impacted me, and was perhaps my primary purpose for this visit, happened early in the week when we delivered donated microwave ovens to newly arrived asylum seekers. One of the houses we visited belonged to a man named Mohammad who told me, as others had, that he had rejected Islam because of contradictions he found in the Quran. His spiritual journey led him to explore Buddhism, and then, after reading a book written by Richard Dawkins, he converted to Atheism. In our conversation over tea, I asked Mohammad how, without a Creator, would he explain how orderly the universe is, or how intricate our eyes must be in order for us to see. He responded with a passionate, “Tell me which God you are asking me to believe in!” You see, his understanding of the Christian faith came from the Imams who believe the Trinity is three separate gods. While I wanted to discuss this confusion and explain how ours is just one God, at this point, I had to return to my host’s house so said we would have to answer those questions later.

We did not wait long though. The day before I left Wales, Mohammad had rearranged his schedule to come to The Sanctuary to continue our conversation. We sat in the café area and talked non-stop for four hours discussing who God is, why He created the universe, and the implications of that.

After this conversation, Sanctuary staff told me they wouldn’t have had the time to have such a deep, focused conversation with one person. Mark also had mentioned that he was glad I was the one being asked some of the questions; it was apparent to us both that God had equipped me for such an apologetics-type conversation. And, the truth is that sometimes someone will open up to a short-term visitor rather than someone they’ll see every day. Kaylee and I have both had this experience. It might be a matter of pride or just knowing that if they put their toe in the water and decide they want to take it back out, this person will be gone in a week so that’s ok. This was a good reminder to me that, when done in healthy ways, short-term missions can be an asset to programs “in the field” and can bring value to the long-term workers as well as to those they serve.

I have since learned that, after our conversation, Mohammad visited a church in Newport that had brought him furniture. He enjoyed the service and was very impacted by the church’s praying for his family. And they continue to have in-depth faith conversations.

I appreciated this example of how a church (in this case two churches in Newport, South Wales) can make a difference in individual lives such as Mohammad’s – and in the lives of many men, women, and children who are arriving in Europe. The youth and adults who come to The Sanctuary receive care for physical, social, and spiritual needs. And they build friendships within the community. By demonstrating the love of Christ in this way, this church impacts their entire city.

In : Response 

Tags: church  community  missions  volunteer  asylum-seekers 

Blog Authors

John and Kaylee Kolditz Kaylee founded Refugee Connect in 2008. John joined the work in 2011 as we investigated the refugee situation in Europe. But our faith and cross-cultural journeys have been a work-in-progress for many years. Much of this blog reflects that. ************************************************ We met in Austin, TX, while volunteering at a serving event at Gateway Church and have been married since 2002. Marriage, parenting and ministry all require a great deal of intentionality, humility and true reliance on God for strength, wisdom, and grace. It is a journey we are grateful to be on together. Ultimately, what matters to us is building into meaningful relationships in ways that, to the best of our ability and by God's grace, demonstrate the love and hope Jesus freely offers to us all. ************************************************ We bring both business and ministry backgrounds into our current work. John started a business in his 20's and helped build several other businesses. He has also served with churches in a variety of roles including as an assistant pastor, director of community development, and missions board member. Kaylee left her marketing career to become the global missions director for our home church in Austin, TX, then founded a local refugee ministry, and became TEFL certified (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) in order to prepare for our work overseas. We have led short-term teams domestically and internationally, and served with a variety of cross-cultural ministries. In 2008, we sensed a call to build into the church in Europe, which was also around the time when God broke Kaylee’s heart for refugees. Since then, God has continued to weave together this heart for refugees, desire to serve alongside the church, and focus on His call to Europe.

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