A Journey to Bulgaria
As I was preparing to go on our Annual Young Adults (City Rock) Mission trip, which happened to be in Europe this year, the part I was most looking forward to was visiting the Refugee Camps in Sofia, Bulgaria.
The Refugee Crisis
Did you know, we are living during one of the greatest migrations in the history of our world since World War II? Millions of people are fleeing Iran, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Afghanistan and other nations in search of a new life, as they move, full of hope, looking for a brighter future of freedom.
Each one of these refugees has a story: some are fleeing from poverty and hunger and looking for job opportunities, while others are escaping war and terrorism, seeking freedom from their oppressive governments. Then there are those who are simply hoping to be reunited with their loved ones and join family members they have been separated from on the other side of Europe. ( Read more about what’s happening in Europe with the refugee crisis here, and here)
Bulgaria, where we visited, is one of the many nations that are receiving these refugees and helping them during this significant transition.
Close to Home
As I have kept myself informed on what has been going on internationally, and have been talking to people from these different backgrounds, I’ve come to understand how their situation and their stories aren’t that far removed from my own. My own parents were immigrants from Korea to Brazil. Their parents left Korea after the Korean war, which affected millions of people and made Korea one of the poorest nations in the world at that time. My father tells me that Korea was so devastated by war that it was poorer than Kabul, in Afghanistan, is now. I grew up listening to stories about how my father and his siblings grew up eating flour mixed with water just to keep their bellies full.
While it may seem like we are worlds apart we are truly closer than we think to our brothers and sisters in these nations. I will share more in a future blog about my family and how God is a God of redemption, hope and divine turnaround. He can completely change your life and prosper you so that you can be a blessing to many!
Words of Life
With all of these thoughts in mind and with my heart full of expectations, our team went to visit one of the Refugee camps in Sofia. We had the opportunity to minister to four people in this compound and they were all believers! In fact, I met a woman from Iran who told us that her church was shut down by the Iranian Government after they found out that they were meeting to worship Jesus. Can you believe it? After that, for the next two years she was not able to fellowship with any other Christians beside her daughter. They would read the bible together at home, trying to understand the Word of God but it was very hard for them to understand the words. She even had to leave her daughter back in Iran because her daughter can’t physically handle stress without her body coming under paralysis. This mother’s hope is that one day, she will be able to be in a free country reunited with her daughter again. Even though she is not in the best of life’s circumstances, she said she is so happy that she can finally read the Bible in freedom, and have someone from the Refugee Ministry who can explain the Word of God to her as she is able to fellowship with other believers.
There was also a couple there who had just received Jesus as their Savior two weeks ago. The wife was being so touched by our words of encouragement that she kept on saying how much she loved us for coming to see them. I shared with her and her husband that we were there because God wanted us to come and show them that He has not forgotten them. I assured her that He is in control and will open the paths for their future, wherever that may be. He is their Shepherd and they are His sheep. We all are. And He will take care of them and guide them toward a good future (Jer. 29:11). They don’t have to fear anything, for Jesus never abandons His sheep and He is always with them (John 10:1-18). She hugged me so tight and kept on thanking us for taking the time to come and see them. This precious couple had to leave their 11-year-old daughter behind in Iran with her grandparents because it was too dangerous to take her with them. They hope to make it to Germany (where many are seeking asylum) and they pray that one day they’ll be able to bring their daughter with them.
And finally, we spoke with a man from Iraq, who had left his country in search of peace and freedom. This man was strong in His faith and He is truly a man of the Word of God. We recognized what God was doing in this man and we prophesied over him that he would lead many to the Lord, teaching them the Word of God wherever he goes. We also saw how God was going to use this man especially in this transition facility, that so desperately needs the hope and light of Jesus.
God is in the midst
Sometimes it’s hard to understand why we’re stuck in a certain place, situation or circumstance. We might not understand or see how God can work even in the worst of our situations. But our God is so big and so good that He can use anything and any situation for our good. For He makes everything work together for our good (Romans 8:28). We were so encouraged to see how God is working in the lives of the people, even in this challenging situation. He is bringing His children to the knowledge of His love and power even in these circumstances. And, God isn’t just using people who are visiting them to show His love, He is using the ones who are right there!
We visited two more refugee camps that day. These complexes vary in how strict they are and in the kind of people that are housed in them. This camp was a more strict, men-only facility, with a much different atmosphere than the one with families. Their stories were similar, but at the same time everyone has their own unique story. You do too. At this camp we spent our time worshiping and hearing their stories as we finished by encouraging and praying for them.
And the last place we visited was an open refugee camp. In this kind of facility the people are allowed to come and go. Some who live here have received their paperwork in Bulgaria, while some are waiting to be transferred to another nation where they desire to take asylum. Most of the people here are in transition to another nation, like Germany. But some have found their home in Bulgaria and are now a part of the local church that we were partnering with, that hosted our missions team.
Just like this father and son, who had both just given their lives to Jesus a few months ago and had chosen to stay in Bulgaria because they had encountered Jesus and found community at this loving church that they are now a part of. All of these people’s stories touched my heart. God knows each of their names.
But one of my favorite ones was of this lady who came from Nigeria and is trying to get to the UK to join her husband and her children. She is a hard-working woman, who was formerly a doctor in her country. Every week she brings a little bag with water and goodies for her pastor, to bless him. With the little that she has been given, she gives it all back to other people. When she got her first paycheck a few months ago, she brought it to her pastor and gave the whole thing to him as first-fruit offering to God.
She reminds me of the woman in the Bible who had just a few coins but she gave it all to the Lord as a sacrifice offering (Luke 21:1-4). I know that this Nigerian woman will be very blessed and that her and her family will prosper without a doubt. For she has placed God first in her life, and she understands that it is better to give than to receive. It’s impossible to out give our God. He will always give us back a hundred fold more than we could ever give.
Family Around the World
My heart is so full of joy for meeting these sisters and brothers in Christ from all over the world. It was like meeting my siblings that I was longing to meet, but I didn’t know it until now. I don’t know when or if I will ever see them again. But my life is definitely fuller and richer because I have.
We are all pilgrims in this world (1 Peter 2:11). We are all in transition to a better place: Heaven and eternal life with our Creator, our Father God (2 Corinthians 5). But there are many brothers and sisters who are looking for a better place in this world until then. Just like the generations of my family before me dreamed of a better future and migrated from Korea to Brazil and eventually to America. My hope is that many of these people with the same dreams as my grandfathers and my parents, will one day soon, be able to find a resting place in a new nation. A nation where they will have peace, a future, and fulfill their God-given destinies and purpose in this world. They have already begun that process the moment they have given their lives to Jesus.
There are many ways that we can help the refugees in Europe. Let us be informed and bless these people with our prayers and in any other ways that we can help.
In His love,