Jesus responded to the needs of marginalized people during his ministry and he opened the Kingdom of God to the world by being the Way, Light, Bread of Life, and Living Water. Past Mennonites responded to God’s call to work with people in need as they shared the Gospel message with neighbors near and far. This year, VMMissions is celebrating the sewn seed that bore fruit during the past 100 years and is launching forward in response to the Spirit’s leading for our next century. One example of new seeds being planted is through E3Collectives. Teams are ministering in Jordan and Greece to the needs of Syrian refugees during multi-week trips from late spring to early fall. Is God nudging you to participate in one of the teams? A listing of 2019 E3Collective teams are listed below.
This past summer (2018), Lynne Eggert gained perspective on the refugee crisis through spending two weeks in Amman, Jordan, with a VMMissions E3 Collective team. Her testimonial:
I went to Jordan seeking more clarity regarding the nature of the refugee crisis in that part of the world. To be truthful, I hoped for a personal epiphany about how I could be more meaningfully involved either in Harrisonburg or elsewhere. I brought with me my fairly narrow window of experience as a nurse practitioner in a Free Clinic that serves many refugees resettling into our community.
I quickly realized that the parameters of the refugee crisis cannot be forced into a neat flow chart or algorithm since there are so many different but intersecting groups affected. Our team of seven went to serve alongside Marka Church in the urban sprawl of Amman, a city of four million persons. Marka Church was planted by Jordanian Christians to support and serve the influx into their city of Iraqi and Syrian refugees which some sources claim to be as high as a million persons. To address the barriers Iraqi refugees encounter for work as well as education for their children, Marka Church has a variety of cottage industries and skill training workshops and has opened a small school for refugee children. Another large part of their ministry is discipling folks through home visits, group Bible study, and corporate worship.
We had the privilege of accompanying various Jordanian Christian workers as they visited both Christian and Muslim Iraqi refugees in their homes. I was humbled by the way so many we visited were buoyed by seeing evidence that we, as representatives of the Western church, know they exist and are wanting to show support as brothers and sisters in Christ. We were present to hear their stories, to grieve with them and to offer words of hope and comfort from scripture. We prayed with and for them. One of the more profound things I experienced was hearing a number of Iraqi Christians relate how they felt their faith was truly growing only now, in the midst of the social and economic purgatory in which they found themselves. These are Christians who had already resisted pressure to deny Christ, stood firm in the face of persecution, and fled their homes and jobs!
What is the heart of the challenge for these folks? Prior to this trip, both in my private devotional time as well as in our preparatory team meetings, I felt God challenging me to reflect on the notion of identity. With what do we cloak ourselves to form our identities? Are our roles as parents, siblings, our professions, our ethnic or ethno-religious heritage what define us? For the people with whom I sat, many if not all of these identifiers had been stripped away; their identities, to much of the world, have become distilled down into a single, stark word: refugee. In Jordan, we met displaced men and women suffering with the loss of many of their worldly identifiers, yet as they have become connected with Marka Church, they have been folded into a cycle of discipleship and support that are helping them strengthen their ultimate identity in Christ. I was convicted as I watched so many Jordanian Christians, despite being directly and profoundly affected by the influx of refugees, boldly and seemingly tirelessly walking beside their Iraqi and Syrian brothers and sisters. I was moved by this witness of sacrificial kingdom-building work of the Jordanian Christians day after day.
And almost like a lightning bolt, I was struck with the enormity of what redemptive work God might have afoot in Jordan: Within the very ones the world sees as the least stripped of possessions, family, identity- a radically pure understanding of who they are in Christ is being nurtured. As I sat in home after home, hearing their stories and testimonies, I kept hearing the beatitudes in my head. I wondered if this sad diaspora is what God will be using to usher in the kingdom to countries and groups that currently possess the world’s notion of power. I felt an increased urgency to pray for God’s redemptive plan to be effected: that these brothers and sisters of ours may be allowed to relocate to the US, Canada, Germany, and Australia so they might proclaim “the kingdom come” in their new homes. Clearly, only a fairly small percentage of Iraqi refugees are Christian, but I believe all displaced persons share the common experience of needing to figure out what markers of identity will reside with them through the upheaval in their lives. I have felt convicted as a member of the global church that I need to seize opportunities to engage and encourage my displaced brothers and sisters in their search for true identity, and at the same time to continue to challenge my own notions of identity.
Caption: Lynne Eggert served on an E3 Collective to Jordan in July 2018. Photo credit: Martin Rhodes
- May 16-26: Bundibugyo, Uganda: Mutual learning and leadership development
- June 7-21: Amman, Jordan: Refugee ministry with the Marka Church, including encouragement, visitation, and ministry to women
- July 5-21: Amman Jordan: Teachers and soccer players needed to assist with soccer camp for children and youth
- July: Trinidad: Community outreach and Vacation Bible School with the Mennonite churches of Trinidad
- August 2-16: Amman, Jordan: Medical clinic with refugees in Amman
- August 24-Sept. 14: Lesvos, Greece: Serving refugees in the Moria camp
- (Tentative) Summer: Bangkok, Thailand: Refugee ministry with a local NGO