Refugee Ministry of the OPC

 
Through vivid news reports and video clips, we are all witnessing the refugee crisis that is currently facing the world. How pitiful to behold great masses of people, young and old, fleeing their home countries in search of a safe place to live. Dramatic photos of capsized boats that contained too many occupants, or a young child’s body washed up on shore, tear at our heart strings. Conditions in refugee camps are often deplorable. 
 
The crisis is indeed overwhelming. How should we as Christians view it? Matthew in his gospel records that our Lord, in carrying out his ministry of proclaiming the kingdom of God and healing every disease, when he saw the crowds “… had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” We may not be able to understand the ultimate reasons for the catastrophe that is unfolding before our eyes, but ought we not view this, in part, as an opportunity set before us by divine providence to do what we can to minister to these refugees, especially fellow believers who are being persecuted for their faith?
 
 

Do you have a few minutes
to take a brief survey regarding
refugee ministry?

Let us know what, if any experience you’ve had with refugee ministry and if you’d like to explore further possibly beginning a ministry like that at your church.
 

Refugee Ministry Survey

Find out more about the OPC’s involvement
in this important ministry:

The Refugee Crisis: The OPC Perspective

Rev. Lendall Smith, President, OPC Committee on Diaconal Ministries (December 2015)

Through vivid news reports and video clips, we are all witnessing the refugee crisis that is currently facing the world. Multiple reasons, such as political oppression, ideological persecution, and open warfare lie behind this present day tragedy. How pitiful to behold great masses of people, young and old, fleeing their home countries in search of a safe place to live. Dramatic photos of capsized boats that contained too many occupants, or a young child’s body washed up on shore, tear at our heart strings. Conditions in refugee camps are often deplorable. One reporter confessed that her visit to a refugee camp dramatically changed her life. It has been estimated that the number of displaced persons and/or refugees could be as many as sixty million. Many governments are struggling with the predicament of absorbing large numbers of refugees into their countries.

The crisis is indeed overwhelming. How should we as Christians view it? Matthew in his gospel records that our Lord, in carrying out his ministry of proclaiming the kingdom of God and healing every disease, when he saw the crowds “… had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” We may not be able to understand the ultimate reasons for the catastrophe that is unfolding before our eyes, but ought we not view this, in part, as an opportunity set before us by divine providence to do what we can to minister to these refugees, especially fellow believers who are being persecuted for their faith?

The OPC defines a major disaster as a calamity that arises suddenly and unexpectedly, resulting from an identifiable natural or man-made event such as an earthquake, volcano, flood, hurricane (or typhoon), famine caused by drought, or war, which directly injures the persons and property of tens of thousands of people in a defined geographic area. The OPC’s Committee on Diaconal Ministries (CDM) is responsible for assisting the denomination in coordinating disaster response, as well as addressing diaconal needs in the church or the world that are beyond the province and/or capacity of local diaconates or presbytery diaconal committees. As such, the CDM is currently exploring how best to provide appropriate help in the current situation, believing that the Lord would have us show compassion to these poor and needy people.

One of our principles of diaconal ministry is that material assistance should not be just a humanitarian effort but be accompanied by an active ministry of the Word of God. One way for us to do this could be to come alongside a sister denomination that is already engaged in such a ministry to refugees and help strengthen their hands so that they are able to do more. The Committee on Ecumenicity and Interchurch Relations (CEIR), and the International Conference of Reformed Churches (ICRC), through which our fraternal relations with other denominations are developed, are also able to provide accountability that the relief work in which we seek to become involved is accomplishing our intended purpose. Additional ways to serve could include sending out from our church evangelists who speak the language of some of the refugees, sending out deacons to help with material needs, or assisting congregations that wish to sponsor one or more refugee families.

As we are confronted with the reality of the present refugee crisis, we should see it as an opportunity to minister to those who have been torn from the safety and security of their normal lives and dispersed to various countries around the world. We may not be able to do much, but we ought to do what we can to minister to these exiles, that they may find their true refuge and safety in the mercy of the living God.

If you wish to make a gift towards refugee relief, click here for details. Thank you.

This article originally appeared as a Feature Article at OPC.org.


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Refugee Relief

by David Nakhla, OPC Disaster Response Coordinator (November 2015)

At its recent meeting, the OPC’s Committee on Diaconal Ministries (CDM) received the following recommendation from its Disaster Response Subcommittee:  “That the CDM receive gifts designated for refugee relief.” 

The CDM concurred with this recommendation based on the following:

  • The need is great! The world is facing a record number of internally displaced people and/or refugees today; some suggest that number could be upwards of 60 million people!
  • The OPC community has expressed an interest in contributing toward such a purpose.
  • This situation does not look like it will be resolved any time soon.
  • Several of our sister denominations have found ways to minister, both as a service to fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and as a witness to our fellow man.

How might the funds be used?

  • Directly ministering to those in refugee and IDP (internally displaced person) camps
  • Transporting refugees
  • Re-settling refugees

The CDM is in the process of exploring the refugee ministries of several of our sister denominations in order to identify places where the use of diaconal funds will be accompanied by the ministry of the Word. The CDM has reserve funds from which to draw for this purpose, but should you or your church also wish to participate, you can do so as follows.

Gifts for Refugee Relief:

Checks may be made out to “Orthodox Presbyterian Church” and noted for “Refugee Relief.”

Send to:
OPC Administrative Offices
607 N. Easton Road, Bldg. E
Willow Grove, PA  19090

Any gifts remaining by November 2018 may be re-designated by the CDM, most likely to General Disaster Response work.

Please pray for the CDM for wisdom as it seeks to faithfully carry out this labor on behalf of the church.


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The Refugee Crisis: A Man-Made Disaster

by David Nakhla, OPC Disaster Response Coordinator (September 2015)

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: 
to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
James 1:27 (ESV)

I recently heard someone recall a quote of Stalin’s – that “a single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic” – in reference to the body of a young Syrian refugee boy that had washed up on the beach and captivated the attention and ire of the world as the current refugee crisis builds. This crisis isn’t new, but it has escalated rapidly and cost many lives.

To date, there is a record number of refugees and/or internally displaced people in the world. That number is pushing 60 million or 1/122 people. In many places, this is being driven by the overt slaughter of civilians, many of them singled out for being Christians or belonging to other minority groups. Even as it has been said that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church,” the refugee crisis is creating opportunities for a gospel witness in places and with people that previously seemed impossible to reach.

Many hearts have been stirred to action. We have heard from some of you, asking, “How can we help? What can we do?” The Committee on Diaconal Ministries is asking these same questions. We have learned of other churches and Christian organizations that are on the front lines striving to show forth the compassion of Christ to those orphans and widows in their distress. We also anticipate that it may not be long before these orphans and widows come to our own cities and neighborhoods.

Please pray for the Committee on Diaconal Ministries as it considers how the OPC might become involved in this ministry. And continue to be in prayer for many who are suffering – most importantly, our brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering for Christ’s sake.


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Refugee Ministry Subcommittee
After years of the Lord’s blessing on the ministry in Clarkston, Georgia, the Committee on Diaconal Ministries appointed a new Refugee Ministry Subcommittee dedicated to furthering this ministry in the local church throughout the United States. The subcommittee members include:
  • Rev. Chris Cashen, pastor, Trinity Reformed Church in Lanham, Maryland 
  • Mr. Mike DiPeppino, elder, Westminster OPC, Westminster, CA
  • Rev. Richard Dickinson, Retired Chaplain, Pilgrim OPC, Bangor, ME