There are an estimated 214 million international migrants worldwide. That’s one of every 33 people.
Some move because they want to experience a new place. Others are looking for educational and economic opportunity. But about 43 million people around the world today move because they have to.
On World Refugee Day, the church remembered and prayed for refugees and internally displaced people — from places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Congo, Eritrea, Colombia, Myanmar, and Vietnam — who have left their homes because of persecution, war, or disaster.
Visit ncm.org/immigration to learn more about how Nazarene Compassionate Ministries is involved in the lives of people on the move and how to get involved. See NCM Magazine to hear stories of congregations around the world who are following God’s command to welcome the stranger.
Searching for peace: Stephen Riek’s story
When I became a Christian in 1981 in southern Sudan (now South Sudan), I thought it was the only place in the world. But the war in Sudan that began around the same time taught me something different. The war took everything from us, including my mom. After she died, I travelled by foot — at just 16 years old — to an Ethiopian refugee camp. Little did I know then, I would live in refugee camps in Ethiopia for the next 15 years of my life.
In the camp, there was never enough food, shelter, medication, or security. The same people who were bombing over our heads during the day could come into the camp at night and take what they wanted from us. If you refused, they would kill you. We had to make our own shelters and find our own firewood for cooking. We waited for monthly UN food rations — mostly wheat — that we tried to make last the whole month.
In the mid-1990s, I met Nazarene missionaries who were looking for people to help them start a church in the refugee camp. I was a pastor so I helped the Church of the Nazarene plant six congregations over the next several years. Though life was not easy in the camp, it was made a bit easier because the Church of the Nazarene helped my three children through child sponsorship.
In March 2007, God brought my family and me to live in Melbourne, Australia. Through God’s help, I have planted a Nazarene congregation, Morwell Sudanese Church of the Nazarene, as well as three preaching points. What I have learned in my long journey is that even if there are challenges, God will help us to overcome them. I still carry the scars, physical and mental, from the days of war. They will never go away. But my wife and I thank God we have our lives, and we are now raising our family in a peaceful land. God cares for me, and I think God has spared my family and me for a purpose.
Learn more about Stephen Riek’s story in this issue of NCM Magazine.
--Nazarene Compassionate Ministries