Archive for November, 2015

This #Thanksgiving season I would like to take a minute to say how grateful I am for my friends, family, a supportive community, and followers of Christ that have prayed & partnered in various ways as we’ve launched refugee ministry in the upstate region of South Carolina. I feel a bit like the Apostle Paul when he expressed his gratitude to the  Philippians:  “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” ~Philippians 1:3-6

It has been a wild 9 months today the least!  But I am deeply grateful for you and for God’s faithfulness as He sits on the throne in His sovereignty & majesty. I was praying Psalm 9 earlier and it reminded me to share all of His wondours deeds with all. 

I would like to do that by first briefly sharing what I wrote to our World Relief supporters just 2 days ago: 

Wow. It has been a crazy 10+ days since the Paris attacks and while there is much to tell you about our office locally here in our upstate of South Carolina, I will put it on hold as I do want to encourage you with various resources to help think through the complex issues of refugees and refugee resettlement here in the US(with a bit of help from my World Relief colleagues whose thoughts I have intertwined with my own).

Like a tsunami, waves of terror from the Paris attacks are crashing upon American shores. Valid questions continue to pour in about the U.S. refugee resettlement screening process despite the fact  that out of 3.2 million refugees welcomed to the US since 1980 none have been convicted of terrorism on US soil. Securing personal safety – in the face of sometimes overwhelming fear – drives these understandable questions.

 Answers are not difficult to come by; but not every answer is actually grounded in the facts. Ideological agendas have seeded an answer-seeking rumor mill that spreads myths-as-fact via social media. As Charles Spurgeon quipped, “A lie can travel halfway around the world, while the truth is still putting on its boots.” While we continue to pray for justice to be done in finding the Paris attackers it is important to note that NOT ONE of the attackers has been identified to be a Syrian refugee. While several of the perpetrators exploited Europe’s immigration crisis to enter the continent undetected ALL the attackers and accomplices named thus far are all European citizens. 

While we do not have any Syrian refugees in South Carolina and never had plans to serve any here in 2016 we continue to pray for that war torn country and those fleeing that look for safety. In fact while we do pray for the Syrian refugee crisis and justice for the Paris attacks, we hope you will also join us in praying for our refugees that now call the Spartanburg & Greenville area home as 84% of those we’ve welcomed this year are Christians. 

Church leaders like Leith Anderson, President of the National Association of Evangelicals,have called for reasonable security combined with Christian compassion, “Of course we want to keep terrorists out of our country, but let’s not punish the victims of ISIS for the sins of ISIS.” “It is completely right to ensure that the United States have a strong process to discern who are truly refugees and who are trying to take advantage of refugees,” says Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, but “we cannot love our neighbors at the same we’re standing aside and watching them be slaughtered.”

Screening out terrorists is imperative and is the responsibility of our country’s national security agencies and you can give a quick read here to the rigorous and detailed 13-step process of health and security screening a refugee goes through normally taking at least 18-24 months AFTER they accepted as an applicant into the U.S. refugee program. There’s much more detailed information on the rigorous security screening process from the Department of Homeland Security that outlines the vetting process a refugee goes through here an  that can also be seen in a short 4-minute video format here. That said…as Christians, what is our unique responsibility as followers of Jesus in all of this? What should we be most concerned about – should it be our safety?

 Let’s take a step back. What if we moved from a security-centered refugee conversation to a Jesus-centered refugee conversation? It might look like exploring the Scriptures surfaced in Relevant Magazine’s article, “What the Bible Says about How to Treat Refugees.” It might also look like Christians in the West learning from Christians in the majority world who face terror and persecution daily as explained in the Christianity Today article, “Terrorists are Now the Persecuted Church’s Greatest Threat.” It might look like Christians asking the question, “What is God up to?” like the Desiring God blog hat sees a sovereign God purposefully bringing the nations (rather than fear) to our shores.

 A Jesus-centered refugee conversation might cause us to remember that we are in fact following a Middle Eastern Refugee Savior whose family fled a genocide to Egypt. We might remember that our biblical identity as “strangers and aliens” here on earth makes us Christians first and Americans second – not the other way around.

Jesus-centered refugee conversation that is driven by God’s Word should cause us to love. This includes embracing Jesus’ difficult command to love our enemies and not only loving our neighbors but as we all must walk on the Jerico Road let us, empowered by love, ask the tough question in our context “who is my neighbor?” As we answer that call to show mercy may His love cast out fear:”There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.”~1 John 4:18-19.

A Jesus-centered refugee conversation might look like learning how to follow a God who “did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all” (Romans 8:32). This same sacrificial God commands us to “welcome the stranger” and “love him [the immigrant] as yourself” (Leviticus 19:34).

Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place. ~ Jeremiah 22:3

And as we move from conversation to action, how might we respond? Welcome a vulnerable refugee family into your community by exploring how to : 

  • Join/start a Good Neighbor Team, 
  • Help with transportation needs (email: Spartanburg@wr.org for info)
  • Donate furniture that will go to furnish a newly arriving refugee’s home or start a furniture donation drive at your church. The list of furniture needed (& info on our local donation center) is here.   
  • Other volunteer opportunities through our South Carolina office are here
  • Collecting a “Welcome Kit” of household(besides furniture) items refugees need  upon their arrival. Collecting these kits can be a great mission project for any size or age of a small group of people. Items needed and info is here.
  • Of course you can also consider a generous gift by donating here.

Let our actions also be informed. Domestic and international experts offered facts to debunk refugee myths circulating the headlines and gave practical insight into how everyday US American Christians can respond to the refugee crisis in local ways that ripple positively throughout the globe on this webinar.

While Congress has proposed a bill, H.R. 4038, the American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act, aimed at helping increase security measures with incoming Syrians and Iraqis; we do oppose it because it only seems to add levels of bureaucracy the process that does not ultimately improve it.

As the tides of terror wash up on your emotional shores, make sure your fears are not being whipped up by rumors or by a loss of focus on Jesus. Following Him as we welcome refugees into our homes and hearts might be the courageous mission He is inviting us to join. Thanks for your commitment to the vulnerable.

“Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun” Psalm 37:5-6

Jason Lee, Director of World Relief Spartanburg

For more information and current answers to frequently ask questions go to our partner website: http://www.wewelcomerefugees.com/faq

For other assistance or more information please email us at: Spartanburg@wr.org or call 864-642-2626.
November 24, 2015 as addressed to volunteers, supporters, pastors, & church partners. 

As I am grateful for much this Thanksgiving may I encourage you with
Psalm 9 that has so encouraged me (eph. 1-4, 7-10):

“I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High. When my enemies turn back, they stumble and perish before your presence. For you have maintained my just cause; you have sat on the throne, giving righteous judgment…….But the Lord sits enthroned forever; he has established his throne for justice, and he judges the world with righteousness; he judges the peoples with uprightness. The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.”  

And let us cling to our God who promises in verse 12: “he does not forget the cry of the afflicted. “

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