Photo by Interserve

Take a pause.

What is your greatest source of comfort? What was the most painful experience you’ve been through?

Search your heart and find the answers to those questions. Ready?

My greatest source of pain in life was having to retake my ‘A’ levels with new subjects while I was in army doing 24/7 duties. My greatest source of comfort would be my bed, food, family and friends.

How about refugees?

What is a typical refugee’s greatest source of comfort and pain?

Restoration and reconciliation

My name is Joey and I work in mission agency Interserve. We focus on sending out workers to help refugees find restoration and reconciliation.

One such worker, a friend of mine, is currently helping refugees in UNHCR (The UN Refugee Agency). I follow her on Instagram and she shared this story:

“What do you do when you walk around with the UNCHR tag, and people stop you with their stories of pain and suffering, thinking that anyone with a UNCHR identification tag can magically help them?

“But it’s not possible. I wished to dear God I had millions of cash and unlimited power to disburse help to every needy soul who came my way at the clinic today – that Iraqi father whose daughter was shot in the chest and wanted me to come and see her,  that lady with kidney failure asking me to take her back to my country for treatment.

Giving intentionally communicates a message that we want to invest in (refugees’) future, to restore what was lost and broken, to boost their dignity. 

“The world is unfair. If you have the ability to work, do something for others. If you have money in your wallet, use it well for something good. And if you have people left to love, love them well.”

If you have people left to love, love them well.

“Today, during our home visit a young Syrian mother my age (22) told me her brother would be 16 this year. But she had tears in her eyes because she was talking about a family member who was no longer alive.”

This is real.

Having family members die to man-made conflicts is real.

Having lost or be separated from family members through dangerous circumstances is real.

I’ve heard a story where a wife and husband were separated in their flight for safety in the night, while bombs were being dropped on them and bullets whizzed past them. They lost each other in the process. 

Of course they did not bring their phones along with them. A phone isn’t the first thing you think about when you know a bomb can hit your roof any moment.

They did not manage to reunite till many years later through Facebook, because one of them was stuck in a refugee camp with no Internet access to the outside world. Refugees await an average of 17 years for the outcome of their resettlement application.

God hears

Every refugee has a painful story. God listens to each of them. They are not just a registered number, they are people whom He dearly loves, whom He died for.

I once saw a documentary where a Syrian baby was pulled out of collapsed rubble, bleeding, wailing. Stuck underneath a collapsed building, trapped in darkness for two days without food and water.

Then God whispered to me: “How does this not break My heart?”

Life isn’t meant to be comfortable. It is meant to be meaningful. And meaning comes from giving.

Break my heart for what breaks Yours, Lord.

We often numb our hearts to dull the pain from hearing heart-wrenching stories because we feel powerless to respond.

But we can help. In a thousand ways, we can.

We can give our money. We can invest in eternity. Invest in transforming communities, giving others a future and hope.

Can I encourage you to pray for your giving? Every act of giving can be translated to hope. It can become the children’s textbook, a school bag, or three hot meals for 100 children. 

Can I also encourage you to give intentionally by journeying and empowering them? Give in a way that does not lead to dependency. If all they see through your giving is a rich sponsor, they will not see value in their self-worth. They would not see Jesus’s love for them.

Meaning from giving

UNCHR reports that “we are now witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record”.

“An unprecedented 65.6 million people around the world have been forced from home. Among them are nearly 22.5 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18.

“There are also 10 million stateless people who have been denied a nationality and access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement.”

We are living in a world where nearly 20 people are forcibly displaced every minute as a result of conflict or persecution.

Giving intentionally communicates a message that we want to invest in their future, to restore what was lost and broken, to boost their dignity. Our act of giving must help generate value in and through their lives.

And if you can, please go and serve in missions. Carve out a window in your life to go.

Go and offer your skillset. Serve through your profession. Such humanitarian works are not limited to schoolteachers or doctors. Every legitimate profession can contribute vastly.

We need businessmen to incubate small businesses in their local economy. We need all sorts of therapists to help people heal from their trauma. We need architects to help them rebuild their homes and schools. We need accountants to impart sound financial principles in their financial stewardship. We need disciples of Jesus to journey with them.

You also don’t have to go very far. We have refugees in Malaysia and Indonesia, the nearest being Johor state.

Go long-term. Your words carry little weight if you leave tomorrow, when you only flew in last week. A journey takes time. Jesus did not take a mission trip on us. Jesus took a lifetime to tell us he feels our pain and suffering.

Life isn’t meant to be comfortable. It is meant to be meaningful. And meaning comes from giving.

If you have people left to love, love them well.

There are many refugees in this world for us to love.

Let us love them well.

If you feel led to find out more about sponsorship or volunteer opportunities with Interserve, please email [email protected].

About the author

by Joey Lam

Joey is learning to be an effective communicator and mobiliser in Interserve. He loves collecting, processing and exchanging puzzle pieces with others in God's Kingdom. His heartbeat is to equip younger ones to fully live out the Gospel wherever God has placed them.