“About 60% of our missionaries currently serve in closed countries, where they can’t get a missionary visa,” IMB President Paul Chitwood recently shared. “We anticipate that will continue to grow. So that’s a huge issue…Access is very difficult.” But in God’s sovereignty, the growing worldwide refugee crisis is presenting what Chitwood described as “a problem and an opportunity.”
Political crises, natural disasters, and wars in countries like Venuzuela, Ukraine, Aghanistan, Syria, and Congo have driven the global refugee population in the world to over 100 million.
“There are more displaced people in the world today than any time in human history,” Chitwood said. This is a humanitarian tragedy but also an opportunity to reach people who may have been closed off from the Gospel in their native countries.
Send Relief, the compassion ministry collaboration between the SBC’s International Mission Board and the North American Mission Board, focuses refugee ministry in the U. S. through their Clarkston Ministry Center, just outside of Atlanta. They also currently provide long-term strategic response projects around the world in places like Afghanistan, Syria, and Venezuela, as well as the U.S. border with Mexico.
As the displaced, often women and children, flee turmoil in their homelands, sometimes walking hundreds of miles, many end up at Send Relief centers run by IMB personnel and supported by volunteer teams from U.S. churches.
“We serve displaced Venezuelans breakfast and lunch every day through two humanitarian houses,” said Liz, IMB leader in Cucuta, Colombia. “And we share the gospel with them, because each house serves as a church plant.”
This global displacement provides access to people who may have never heard the gospel before; it also leads to spiritual openness. “A lot of times they’re more willing to hear the gospel truth, to hear a message of hope when they’re at that broken and disruptive and painful point in their life,” Chitwood said.
The generosity of local church members places people and supplies right were refugees need them. Since the Send Relief partnership with IMB began, Southern Baptists have given almost $16 million dollars to global refugee and relief work.