Contributed by Celeste Sherman and edited by Laura Walls in Ideas for your Ministry
3 years ago, we decided that our ministries, due to Stu’s physical condition with ALS, needed to be honed down. We were youth leaders, church chair, missions chair, church board, Child Ambassadors and also new to the Leadership Team. Our criteria for what needed to be stripped away was -- anything we did MUST be KINGDOM work. Which is why we now entirely focus our service to World Vision. Sharing our hearts for the Syrian people and allowing God’s people to respond by becoming Refugee Responders IS building the KINGDOM. We are so very blessed that God allows us to do that. And we will continue to speak for the least of these, as long as He gives us strength and voice.
Child Ambassadors have focused on many targeted campaigns over the past years: clean water, education, child protection, the ‘margins’, and now the refugee crisis. I confess, some of these have had a greater impact on me and have allowed my husband, Stu, and I to share with more passion. One in particular, was child protection. As a mom and dad of two beautiful girls, I cannot imagine what parents go through when their daughter is stolen from them. We shared passionately, from the heart, and people responded.
The refugee crisis has a similar impact on us. We've been moved to respond for the following reasons:
We believe children should be carefree!
I’m a teacher: a teacher who LOVES summer. I spend many summer days hanging out at the beach. I love people watching, but the people I love watching the most are the kids, perhaps, because they love summer as much as I do! I love watching them play chicken with the waves, build sand castles with their dads, chase seagulls and then scream with delight. There is no crying at the beach.
Children should always have that carefree existence.
So, when I watch videos of children…. babies, telling about the horrors of war that they themselves witnessed, it deeply touches me. They talk about how they cry at night because they are scared of the sounds of planes. They miss their friends, their houses, and in some case their parents. No child should have to carry these burdens. Every child should be tucked in, given butterfly kisses, and float off to night filled with sweet dreams.
We know what it's like to have life come to a grinding halt.
We have a glimpse of what it is like to have your world turned upside down.
3 years ago, Stu was diagnosed with a terminal illness, ALS. We felt like we were sucker punched. Our world turned upside down. Then, God showed up. His peace and protection surrounded us. His people ministered to us. We were restored.
2 years later, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Based on past experience, we knew God and His people had our backs. Terminal is not a term we use anymore. God gave us hope and a future, and we are convinced that these infirmities that He allowed in our lives, make us more sensitive to the difficulties of those around us. For example, normally a car breakdown would cause much stress. Our car broke down on the way home from my first 5 hour-long chemo infusion. I laughed as I told my daughter that upon calling AAA I played the cancer card and said we needed a tow truck right away. Her reply, “as if a guy with a walker and a service dog isn’t pathetic enough!” Compared to some of the other serious issues with our health we faced, a broke down car was pretty minor.
I’m sure the Syrian’s would long for the day to have a deadline on a work report, or a flat tire, or having to meet payment for the monthly the bills. We have an idea of what it’s like to have your world come to a screeching halt. We also know what God’s peace and provision does to take away that mindset and give hope for a future. I want my Syrian friends to know that same peace and hope when God shows up and His people respond.
We want the love of God to be known.
Very dear friends of ours are missionaries to the Muslims. We are in awe as they share with us God’s working to draw the Muslims unto Himself. Henry Blackabee says: ‘He (God) wants to demonstrate His nature, His strength, His provision, and His kindness to His people and a watching world. This is the only way the world will come to know Him.’ We want to see God be glorified through World Vision as these workers assist these precious people: to those Christians, many who have faced severe persecution and to the Muslims, as God makes Himself known to them.
Our missionary friends tell us of the many who are coming to know Jesus, even in secret. We will be surprised, one day, when it is the Muslim-background Believers who will make up the Majority Church. We want to be part of that movement. The church needs to be a part of that movement. It is our job to let them know what can be done!
And that, my fellow CA’s, is why we ALL do what we do with passion and excellence. Speak you heart, find YOUR passion, let the world know and watch God work.
Would you like to host a Refugee Sunday at a church in your area? Here are 4 steps to get started!
1. Watch some of the videos below, read some current articles like this one recently written by World Vision's president Rich Stearns, and pray that the Lord would break your heart for what breaks his.
2. Visit volunteers.worldvision.org and click on the "resources" tab. Look for the "Refugee Response Initiative." On this page, you'll find TONS of videos, articles, talks, email templates to send churches, a powerpoint, and virtually all you need to host your own Refugee Sunday!
3. You can order Refugee Responder folders on the "supplies" tab of the volunteers site or order a Refugee Sunday kit. (Enter your CA Source Code under "Role at Your Church.")
4. Research the churches in your area. Hop online and read their mission statements and the ministries they're involved in. Pick one of the churches to go to and visit on a Sunday and then take a minute to introduce yourself to the pastor. Let him know that you're a child ambassador with World Vision and that you are working with area churches to host Refugee Sunday (and/or Hope Sunday sponsorship) events. Ask him if you could send an email that explains more and then follow that email up with a request to meet for a few minutes sometime. Be sure to keep your CA Leadership Team member informed of your plans so they can help you along the way and pray for you!!!
Greater Together is a collaborative blog written by volunteer child ambassadors for World Vision.