God as Refugee and Refuge

By Rebecca Roman

God, in Christ, knows the experience of the refugee. “An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up,’ he said, ‘take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay here until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.’ So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘Out of Egypt I called my son’” (Matthew 2:13–15).

This experience mirrors many of the stories of those waking up in Kyiv in the early morning of February 24, 2022. A quick exit. Take only what you need. Travel to a place of safety.

At the time of writing, 1.45 million have fled the country. The UN has predicted that number could rise to four million, to become the biggest such crisis this century. Organizations in Canada are launching initiatives to host displaced Ukrainians seeking refuge.

The need is great for the Afghan people as well. Over two million Afghans are refugees, and many more are internally displaced. In Arley Loewen’s article in this issue (pp. 18–21), he concludes with an invitation to EMC churches and groups to consider sponsoring Afghan Christian refugees to come to Canada.

God cares about the refugee. The refugee nation of Israel was called from Egypt out of slavery and persecution to a new land of promise. The Bible abounds with reminders to the Israelites to “not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners” (Exodus 23:9). Beyond a commitment to not oppress, they are to “love them [foreigners] as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt” (Leviticus 19:34).

Part of the reason for the exile was Israel’s negligence of this command. “In you [Jerusalem] they have treated father and mother with contempt; in you they have oppressed the foreigner and mistreated the fatherless and the widow” (Ezekiel 22:7). Disobedience led to judgment.

Through his church, God wants to demonstrate his love to refugees in Canada and beyond. I hope you, like me, are prayerfully considering what God is calling you to do.

With the doors of opportunity wide open, tools to assist in the task are needed as well. Evangelical Fellowship of Canada is one of four organizations in Canada launching an initiative to help churches better welcome newcomers to Canada. Welcome Church is a free video-based training that launched February 1. The practical training listed, “engaging respectfully with newcomers’ backgrounds, providing practical hospitality, and how to start a welcome team” (p. 31), seems likely to me to have applications beyond welcoming newcomers; useful training as we emerge from a pandemic where, for many of us, our hospitality and listening skills have gotten somewhat rusty.

Rebecca Roman

As I reflect on the gravity of the current global situation, I’ve had the words of the song “God of Justice” (Tim Hughes) running through my head. I particularly love the petition in the song’s bridge, “Fill us up, send us out.” A powerful reminder that we don’t operate in our own strength, but in the Lord’s. “Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge” (Psalm 62:8).

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