International (MNN) — The number of refugees has now officially broken the record of most internationally-displaced persons in recent history.
According to a report from the U.N.’s refugee agency, the number of refugees topped 65.3 million at the end of the 2015.
It’s the first time the UNHCR has seen that number breach 60 million. The report was released yesterday on World Refugee Day.
These numbers reveal some staggering new statistics. Each minute, 24 more people are forced to flee their homes due to persecution, war, and violence. 54 percent of these refugees come from Syria, Afghanistan, and Somalia. Half the refugees are children under the age of 18.
If all current refugees made their own country, it would be the 21st largest nation in the world, surpassing the United Kingdom.
This current refugee population is even larger than the number of refugees from post-World War II. While Germany was the crux of the reason for so many refugees after WWII, now Germany is actively involved in providing asylum for thousands of present-day refugees. In 2015, Germany registered 1.1 million migrants seeking refuge.
Claudia Adame with e3 Partners was recently in Germany on a missions trip reaching out to refugees there. She says, “We were working in Germany and so as far as we could tell, the government has really done a good job of meeting [refugees’] physical needs, whether they are in the processing center or in secondary housing.”
When you are displaced, you no longer have the community you grew up in. You don’t have the bakery down the street you’ve been going to for 20 years, the school where you attended elementary a few blocks over, your neighbors next door. It’s all gone.
As e3 Partners works with the growing refugee population, they have seen displaced persons with a deep longing for community.
“One of the things we saw that they really long for is just the sense of community, sense of belonging. That is something only people can bring, not programs,” Adame says.
“One example is a young man I met. We were in a processing center which is where they have a lot of refugees who are given temporary housing. He said he was single, but the people there in that refugee processing center have become his family. So what we saw was different cultures coming together and because of the sense of so longing to belong, they had formed their own community, almost a third culture.”
When e3 Partners carries out refugee ministry, they want to send the message that while refugees are displaced, they are not alone or forgotten.
Adame says, “One of our goals is to be able to engage the refugee families and help them know they matter. One of the way we start conversations is just letting them know we have heard about what’s happening to them and about their journey, and we’ve traveled from the US to come tell them that they matter, that the world cares, and that we love them because God loves them as well.”
For the thousands of children among refugee families, e3 Partners works to bring relief and joy to their lives. “[We] work with children doing play and different activities for them to just be children. They have been moved around from place-to-place, and a lot of them have just suffered trauma and so many changes. Giving them scooters and art and an opportunity to play brings out that joy children need.
“Also, [we work] to be there for the parents. To be able to talk to them and listen to their story, their journey; and find intersections where we can bring hope and let them know again that the world has not forgotten them, that they matter.”
Several countries that refugees are fleeing from reside in the 10/40 window, nations with high concentrations of people groups unreached with the Gospel.
Now, it’s as if the 10/40 window is coming to us in various parts of Europe and America. Because several refugees’ former countries limited conversations about faith in Jesus Christ, refugees are now curious about Christianity.
“It’s as if the world had been closed to them,” Adame says. “When we started asking them if they know about Jesus and what they believed, many of them said that before, they were afraid to even ask about Christianity because literally their lives were in danger. What they found is once they moved away from those dangerous areas where those countries were closed, they had freedom to explore, to search, and to choose.”
Adame shares, “One family we worked with, the young man said they as a family had watched The JESUS Film in their language three different times on the internet. That was something they couldn’t do before. So there is a hunger for spirituality…. We saw several who the Lord had prepared their hearts so when they heard the full message of the Gospel, it was a natural next step that they wanted to follow Christ.”
However, e3 Partners doesn’t just reach out to refugees, share the Gospel, and then pull out. They maintain relationships and encourage new refugee Christians who can then be a witness to others in their own shifting communities.
“We know when somebody comes to Christ, there is an immediate need for discipleship,” says Adame. “So when the refugee community is being moved quite a bit for different reasons, some families may be in a place for a couple of weeks or months. So there’s a dynamic there that has caused us to shift our strategy and be more focused on finding persons of peace.
“A person of peace is basically someone God has already prepared. It’s a person who has a reputation in the community so once they come to Christ, we disciple them and really build into their lives so they can minister to their own families and their own community.”
Adame asks for prayer. “[Pray] that those who are seeking spiritual truth would be able to encounter people who can guide them to who Christ is. We know that He is our healer, He is our source of hope, He is our redeemer, and so the best thing we can give them is the truth about Christ.
“For E3 Partners, [pray] that the Lord would help us be good stewards of this opportunity, and would help us collaborate with other ministries to bring spiritual truth and love. Really the bottom line for us is to share God’s story and demonstrate His love.”
There are several upcoming e3 Partners missions trips you can apply to join, and actively be the hands and feet of Christ.