Contributed by James Naugle and edited by Laura Walls in Ideas for your Ministry
Jim Naugle is one of the Leadership Team members for the New York/New Jersey area and inspires both his regional team and the national team with his passion and heart! He joins us on the blog today to share a two-part post: first, how we can change the dialogue about refugees, followed by how we can position ourselves for action on the refugee crisis.
As World Vision Child Ambassadors, we've learned about the refugee crisis in Syria - the 12 million displaced people, and the fact that more than half of these are children. We know about the leaky tents, the lost loved ones, the 4 million children who are unable to attend school. We are aware that the refugee children need ongoing financial help and we have volunteered to help obtain it for them. We can’t imagine any other reaction but compassion and generosity in the face of such overwhelming need. Yet in Rich Stearns' book, Understanding the Syria Crisis and the Role of the Church, he points out that World Vision US raised barely $700,000 in each of the first four years of the Syrian conflict. This stands in sharp contrast to the $8 million raised in the first week after the 2015 earthquake in the Nepal.
Recently at the Collyde Summit in New Jersey, Rich pointed out that we are having the wrong conversation about Syria. When we hear discussions about refugees, too often it is about fear of terrorists infiltrating our borders and how their suffering affects us. Much of the news coverage has been missing the fact that at the heart of this conflict, millions of innocent lives have been changed forever.
One day in September 2015, many of us woke up to see the picture of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi’s body washed up on the shore in Turkey. The boat that his family had boarded to escape Syria’s war-torn landscape had capsized and Aylan, his brother, and his mother perished. Later that day it was on the national news. People couldn't look away, they were outraged, and many asked what they could do to help. For an optimistic moment, it looked like the tide had turned and people were beginning to understand what was happening on the other side of the world. Soon after however, the news cycle turned away from the refugee crisis and the conversation turned to more domestic issues.
Then on August 17, 2016 another little boy became the face of the Syrian refugee children. Omran Daqneesh was pulled from the rubble of his home in Aleppo. The video of him sitting, bloody and dazed, in the back of an ambulance traveled around the world. Once more there was awareness, outrage, and an increase in the outreach and involvement of American citizens.
Approximately two months later, I'd like to think that we are seeing a change. Mainstream outlets like CNN are posting opinion pieces with titles like “Why Syrian Children Should be a Global Priority”. Videos showing residents of Aleppo emerging from hiding during a recent cease-fire are being featured on the evening news. The New York Times posted a number of photos showing children caught in the crossfire of the conflict, comparing one of the girls to Anne Frank. And CNN tried to enhance understanding of how vast the worldwide refugee crisis is by posting an article entitled “What 15 Million Kids Looks Like.” (They would fill 2.27 million school buses and fill the largest college football stadium in the U.S. 464 times). FOX News has even covered the recent UN conference where world leaders focused on the refugee crisis and the Syrian conflict.
Maybe, just maybe, the conversation is changing and the American viewer is beginning to see more of the human side of this refugee crisis. And as they learn more about the refugees, many will be more open to asking what they can do to help.
That's where we come in.
We are positioned to be the experts, to be the ones to go to churches, talk to friends, to post on Facebook, and spread the word that we know of a great way to help. We know of an organization that has been working with the poor and oppressed for over 65 years. We can share about a group that has been in Syria since before the crisis began. We are involved with a charity that is a good steward of funds that provides food, shelter, clean water, healthcare, psychological counseling, school, and a safe place for children to just be kids. We know that encouraging people who care to partner with World Vision and become refugee responders is one of the most effective ways to support humanitarian efforts in Syria. We know these things and now is the time to share them.
The world is finally ready to listen.
Position Yourself to Take Action on the Refugee Crisis in 5 Steps
1. PRAY. Pray for the refugees. Pray for open hearts. Pray for the opportunity to reach as many people as you can with this message. Pray over the folders. Pray that you will find the part of this crisis that resonates with you and pray for the Holy Spirit to provide the words to transfer that passion to your listeners.
Also, pray for the nation of Syria. Below is a prayer by Dr. Chawkat Moucarry, who grew up as a Christian in Syria. Join him in prayer for Syria, for guidance, and for understanding of this crisis.
2. Get an overview:
Read through the Pastor Talking Points for the Refugee Crisis (below). It’s just a few pages long and there is a wealth of information about the crisis and what World Vision is doing about it. Also, I would recommend Rich Stearns' free book, Understanding the Syria Crisis and the Role Of the Church (below). You can download it to your computer, iPad, or Kindle. It’s a quick read and it covers a lot of different angles of the crisis. You can also find more information on the volunteers page and the church resources page.
2. Check out some videos. Nothing is more moving than hearing from the refugee children themselves. There are lots of videos to chose from, but my favorites are “What Would You take?” and “The Impact of the War on Children.” If you’re hungry for more videos and other fantastic resources, check out the volunteers.worldvision.org.
4. Organize your thoughts. Until I wrote out a presentation, I couldn’t get all my thoughts together on the scope of the crisis. We may be called upon to talk to someone while waiting for the kids at school or at book group and we need to be ready. It may be nothing more than “I saw a moving video on Youtube. Have you heard anything about the Syrian Refugee Crisis?" Conversely, you may be called upon to give a 5 minute (or longer) presentation in a small group or Sunday service. Once I had an outline in mind, I was much more confident in approaching local churches about presenting a Refugee Sunday.
5. Talk to your leader for help. I can assure you that the members of the leadership team are SO passionate about this topic and they are ACHING to speak to you and help you in any way they can. Drop an email to your leader and you will get the guidance you need. If you don’t know who your leader is, check here or here, or contact the Child Ambassador Help Desk via email at CAHelpdesk@worldvision.org and they will point you in the right direction.
Story & photos contributed by Javy Diaz / intro & editing by Paula Hemphill in Stories from the Field.
Today's post comes to us from Javy Diaz: fellow CA and Leadership Team member serving our greater DC area! Javy (pictured back left) just recently joined our ranks after seeing the work in the field first hand. A Vision Trip to Ethiopia and Uganda with other members of his workforce opened his eyes and heart in a new way and was one of the catalysts that brought him to our team. He has hit the ground running-- connecting many sponsors with children to love and serve. I have never met Javy face-to-face, but he is my friend and I consider it a deep honor to serve alongside him. He stewards the stories of the people he has met in the field so well, and I hope his recounting of his time in Africa will educate and inspire you as you continue to do the work God has called you into.
It was a beautiful, bright morning. You could tell that it was hot outside because there was condensation on the windows – the air conditioner had been on all night. I was so incredibly comfortable, though a little bit hungry and thirsty. Good thing there was a bottle of water waiting for me bedside. In the distance I could see my camera gear, ready for an exciting day, the camera bag completely covered in a fine, red-clay dust. Above me was a mosquito net, a tell-tale sign that I was very far from home. Off goes the alarm, time to start driving two hours into the bush to see God’s great creation and His mighty works. On this day, my life would change, my heart would break in just the right places, and my faith and hope in God and humanity would be transformed.
Today was WASH day. WASH stands for water, sanitation & hygiene. In Africa they have a saying – “Water is Life.” No doubt you’ve heard this before. I had heard this too, but for some reason it hadn’t worked its way up from my heart to my head. You see, I had no idea how foundational water was to every aspect of life. Try not using it for a few days and you’ll get an idea of how critically important it is to everyday survival. On our journey to the village of Lakwana, we saw many children & families carrying jerrycans by hand, and if privileged enough, by mule. The irony of jerrycans is that they were originally created to transport fuel and in many ways, the water that now fills them is as toxic to drink as the fuel that once filled them.
As we looked out from the comfort of our 4x4 vehicle, the road seemed to narrow, the tall grasses encroached further into the path until we could only see out of the vehicle’s front window, covered in dust. Soon enough I began to feel my heart pounding to the rhythm of the drums in the distance. As the sound crescendoed, louder and loader still, we entered a clearing in the small village. Welcomed by the entire village, in an overflowing statement of joy & gratitude, the people of Lakwana, dressed in their very best attire, rejoiced in song and dance as they invited us to experience the reason for their thanksgiving. Once a source of pain and multiple waterborne diseases like typhoid, diarrhea, and scabies, the polluted water source was slowly crippling this community. But then World Vision arrived and the trajectory of the community changed.
While we met with the leaders of the water committee they asked us if we would like to see their old water source. The drums had stopped pounding but my heart had not. We walked down a narrow path carved out by the feet of children heading towards water. At about 1,500 feet we came to a small bridge, a water-filled ditch underneath it. The path continued and I thought we would too. Camera in hand, I was asked to video some of the women fetching water and pouring it into the jerrycans. Like a flashback, I recalled the last 20 minutes of the walk to this waterhole, but instead of the faces of these sun-kissed African children, I saw the faces of my children. It was at this moment that knowledge and compassion moved from my heart to my head. Suddenly it all made sense. If it’s not good enough for my children, then it’s not good enough for these children. These children are my children. Children and all people deserve clean water. It’s that simple.
Where they once had a nearly impossible decision between illness and dehydration, today better choices can be made - enabling a community to thrive and rejoice. The ditch still survives, a distant memory of what was, and a new well now stands proudly in Lakwana Village, a beacon of hope and an instrument of change. It is maintained by a multi-generational water committee who knows the significance of water and how it can change lives for good. Time spent once fetching water or taking care of a sick family member, can now be used in school, play, and community. Illnesses that once threatened their survival have been reduced by 80% and in some instances completely wiped out. Crops that once had little yield are now flourishing allowing for economic development, bartering for other staple food items, and diets full of nutrition.
When water arrives, life arrives; they are inextricably linked. The children in Lakwana no longer have to be afraid. But there are many others who do not have such a luxury. According to World Vision, nearly 1,000 children under age 5 die every day from diarrhea caused by contaminated water, poor sanitation, and improper hygiene. As we have seen, this doesn’t have to be the end of the story. You are part of this story and like me, your heart can break in just the right places, and move forward in the confidence of our great God who gave us the ultimate well and water of life – Jesus.
Isaiah 41:17 tells us "[the] poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. But I the LORD will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them." May we be compelled to tap into the deepest source of life and bring it to the world in both word and deed. May we be part of the LORD’s response in His world.
To learn more about World Vision’s WASH program, click here.
Greater Together is a collaborative blog written by volunteer child ambassadors for World Vision.