Refugees

Tea with an Enemy

By Our Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa

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Scores of refugees, fleeing violence and oppression, crowd into sprawling, poor regions of the Middle East seeking to survive each day.

In one area, a wealthy believer had it on his heart to deliver food and supplies to the refugees encamped miles outside his city. He needed help, so he contacted Anwar (not his real name), who is now a Navigator leader.

Anwar was hesitant. The region was far away. He and his team had no experience with refugees, and he knew that terrorists often lived among them. Taking food and supplies could be extremely dangerous.

Anwar’s fears were heightened by his past experiences. One of his friends, a 50-year-old widower in his ministry, had been killed because of his faith in Christ, leaving his children orphaned. Anwar has been taking care of the children ever since they lost their father. As a result, Anwar sometimes receives death threats.

Despite the risks, Anwar spoke to his team about taking the food and supplies into the refugee areas. They prayed and read the Scriptures, seeking God’s guidance. God led them to Leviticus 19:33-34, which says, “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”

“God hit me with that verse,” said Anwar. “We knew that we had to serve these people.”

Anwar and his team started visiting the refugees twice a week, delivering water and food. Fearful, Anwar at first told the team not to talk about Jesus. But they gradually felt more comfortable and decided to pray with people in their makeshift homes.

In one of these homes they met a man who was known to have been a former terrorist leader. His face was weathered. His eyes expressed his soul’s heaviness, the guilt of serving dark causes. The conversation was superficial and brief, but Anwar told the man that he was a Christian. He even gave the man his phone number.

About four days later, Anwar received a phone call from the former terrorist. He pleaded for Anwar and his team to return to his home because he had had a vision about God and wanted to know more. “Honestly, I was very afraid,” said Anwar about that phone call. “I was worried that he was inviting us into a trap.”

Anwar told his team about the phone call and asked for counsel. What should they do? After much prayer, they decided to accept the man’s invitation. Trembling with fear, Anwar and the team headed back into the refugee area and approached the man’s door. He greeted them warmly and they entered the house. As the man served tea, Anwar watched every move suspiciously, praying for God’s protection.

“He started to tell us about the dream,” said Anwar. “It was about God. God was pressing him and convicting him of his sin, calling him to seek forgiveness for all he had done. He told us in tears that he had killed many people. And he looked me in the eye and asked, ‘Can Jesus forgive me?’”

Anwar and the team shared scripture with the man, assuring him that Jesus had paid for his sin on the cross, and that if he gave his life to Jesus he would be forgiven. That very day, the once-hardened and violent terrorist accepted Jesus as his Lord.

“Today that man can’t stop talking about Jesus to everyone around him,” Anwar said. “He’s having a major influence among the other refugees.”

Please pray for Anwar and other Navigators in the Middle East as they boldly take the Gospel message of Jesus and His kingdom to the hard-to-reach places.

Gardening with Refugees

By Bill Sparks

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Holland is famous for its spectacular fields of tulips, but in one town a Navigator mom is cultivating flowers (and relationships) with refugees from the Middle East.

Burdened about the plight of families who have fled from war-torn countries, Meredith (not her real name) and her husband decided to move into a multicultural neighborhood where they could develop relationships with families displaced by violence and oppression. Meredith and her husband knew that these families needed help to adjust to life in Holland, to feel welcomed, to find friendship.

God moved her heart when she read Matthew 25:35, which says, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in . . .”

“My husband and I asked, ‘Can we let people in who are strangers?’” Meredith said. “We realized at that point that we needed to be living among them in order to invite them in.”

After moving to the new neighborhood, Meredith’s first step was to sign up for a women’s Arabic class offered at a local mosque. The class wasn’t very organized, but after drinking lots of tea with the other women, she gradually gained rapport and friendships.

A natural connection developed between Meredith and a Muslim woman, who was a community organizer, in part because they were both pregnant. Meredith invested a lot of personal time in this friendship, and soon the woman was opening doors for her to meet more people in the immigrant community.

Cultural barriers gradually fell as Meredith listened to them, learned about their lives, and brought food to their social gatherings. They were all legal immigrants. Many were asylum seekers. Some were migrant workers who had settled in Holland decades earlier. But all of these families were from broken nations. They were all looking for a better life.

Meredith, an avid gardener, saw another opportunity to help the immigrants become more integrated into the neighborhood. She decided to start a community garden, blending her own hobby with an outreach effort. Her goal was, in part, to connect the entire neighborhood. She organized some community meetings, worked with local government officials to use a plot of land, and set up a coordinating team.

The garden has served as common ground (literally) for people to get to know each other, and for Dutch residents to get a better understanding of immigrant needs. For the Christians who team with Meredith, being involved with the immigrants has helped them learn how to relate well with Muslims.

From the relationships that blossomed in the garden, Meredith has many opportunities to share her faith in natural ways. In fact, at a multicultural high tea with about 60 Muslim women, Meredith was invited by a dear friend to speak about God’s grace.

“All of this is happening at the Spirit’s pace,” she says. “I’m now a respected outsider.”

Meredith’s heart for Middle East refugees and immigrants stems from birth. When she was two-months old, her family moved to Syria, where her father worked in agricultural education for the Dutch government. At age four, she moved with her family to Pakistan, living near the border with Afghanistan until she was nine.

Back in Holland, Meredith’s family opened their home as a refuge for Middle East immigrants. “Sundays, we always had people at our table,” Meredith said. “Yemenis, Iranians—I always had them with me as a kid. I was also a third-culture kid, which meant that I was like them. I didn’t know where I fit either.”

Today, Meredith says, “I am at home with God. Part of me is Pakistani and Arabic. Part of me is Dutch. But because I am home with God, I can feel at home everywhere.”


Bill Sparks has been serving as the Navigator Regional Director for Europe since 2016. Between 2009 and 2016 he was director of U.S. NavMissions. He and his wife, Cathy, previously served in Japan and Taiwan. Today they live in England and have two adult children.