VIENNA, Austria — The flood of Middle East refugees to Europe represents the biggest mass migration since World War II. This wave also is also exposing many immigrants to a message never heard in their home countries.
So, while many believe the refugee crisis poses a great danger to Europe, some say it represents a great opportunity for the church.
“I was thrown out of Baghdad and I lived in Nineveh. I cannot go back to Baghdad and we cannot live in Nineveh,” Odai, who fled ISIS, told CBN News.
Pastor Joseph Moussa shared the gospel with Odai and others as part of a mission team from the United States.
The team included some members from Hershey, Pennsylvania, who came with a unique gift: a Hershey’s kiss, to show the Father’s love for the refugees.
“If we have three people like you in our country, we would have never been refugees and come to this country,” Odai said.
For Pastor Moussa and others on the mission team, this crisis is an opportunity to share the love of Christ.
“As we know, there’s a person. We don’t know who he is, his background, but he saw somebody who cares about him, someone who loves him and he just opened his heart,” Moussa said. “The crisis has brought him to a place where I am willing to hear about someone who cares for me. I am willing to hear about the God who loves me.”
The mission team witnessed spiritual hunger as they traveled through Europe.
“We’ve met people from all different nations,” Abby Abildness, with Healing Tree International, said. “Here they are together, fellowshipping together in a church and it’s mostly Muslims coming into the church trying to find out more about what Jesus is all about.”
The outreach, either on the streets or in a rented hall, is all part of an effort to present the Gospel.
“What’s happened as ISIS is sending them to flee, they’re looking at the fruit of Christianity and what Christianity does to help them. And, so we can share boldly with them, they want to hear,” Abildness said.
Omar and Fados are two examples of Muslims who heard the message.
Fados lived as a devout Muslim who heard the Koran contained mistakes and began to investigate other faiths like Christianity.
“After I studied for seven months, I came to realize the Koran is not right and Mohammad is not a true prophet sent from God,” Fados told CBN News. “I used to say, ‘Lord, I cannot go to you, but you can reach to me. Lord, show me your way. Where is the way to you?'”
As she read the Bible, Fados found the verse in John’s Gospel where Jesus says, “I am the Way.”
“How did he know that I am looking for a way? How did he know that I am searching the way to God?” she asked in wonder. “I saw that Jesus is God through the Gospel.”
Omar had a dream where he saw a man with a rod that had a cross on its top. Then, he read the Bible.
“I start reading the Gospel and compare the Gospel to the Koran. The verse that the Lord really spoke to me and make me confirm in my decision was the verse when Jesus said, ‘Whosoever wants to follow me, let him carry his cross and follow me,'” Omar said.
“When I read that verse, I felt that verse became real to me. When I held that rod that has on it the cross…I took my decision,” he said. “I want to be a follower of Christ…His love has captured me.”
Pastor Raafat Mashraki’s church reaches out to both Muslim and Christian refugees. He says many Muslims are facing a crisis of faith.
“They are dealing with the god of Islam and they feel that the god of Islam has abandoned them,” Mashraki said. “They needed healing, they need encouragement, they needed someone to stand with them and to be a help to them.”
Pastor Mashraki’s church has helped Ruba and her son Jacob, Christian refugees from Syria. The two fled the dangers of ISIS and other Islamic groups.
She described what happened when a car bomb went off near their home while Jacob was outside.
“I go to street and I say, ‘Jacob, Jacob, where are Jacob?’…I don’t like any mother to feel this sad and danger,” she said.
‘I am in the street and the car, explosive, everything,” Jacob said. “I don’t know why it’s ‘kill every Christian…you not Muslim, I kill you. You need Muslim.’ I don’t know why…but thank God now I am here and God has help me.”
While these leaders see opportunity, they also recognize the danger.
“I personally saw with my eyes people that have a connection to ISIS that have committed crimes overseas, but yet they are enjoying total freedom here,” Pastor Mashraki said.
Nevertheless, they weigh that problem with the potential abundance for the church.
“The amazing news is every time ISIS strikes, there’s more harvest that comes in,” Abildness said. “There’s more people that want to flee from that. They flee from the fear, but what they find is that the miraculous power of God is working for them to help them flee.”
Pastor Moussa is calling on the church in America to step up its prayers and work.
“For all those that hear us from the body of Christ in America: This is the time to pray and this is the time to labor among these peoples,” he said.
“We are seeing that the harvest is plenteous, but the laborers are few,” he said. “The body of Christ in America and around the world, I believe it’s an opportunity now to pray for the refugees, that God will reach them with his love and salvation.”
Ministries ministering to Middle East refugees: