Episode 4 of the When Heaven and Earth Collide podcast features Pastor Bryant Wright of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Georgia talking about helping refugees experience the love of Christ. Wright and Johnson Ferry were thrust into the middle of controversy last December when they agreed to follow through on their commitment to sponsor a Syrian refugee family, even though Georgia Governor Nathan Deal made moves to keep Syrian refugees out of Georgia after the Paris and San Bernadino attacks. Johnson Ferry has continued this ministry and Wright and others from the church have been to the Middle East many times to work with and assist refugees in the camps. Wright has said, “It’s a humanitarian disaster. It just makes sense to me to reach out with love and concern to them rather than withdrawing in fear.”
In this conversation, we talk about why a local church would engage in refugee ministry, the obstacles and challenges to this ministry, how the implications and call of the gospel is to motivate Christians to love sacrificially, and how fear is not to be the determining factor. Wright talks about how the preaching of the Word can and should shape a church to join in God’s mission and how we should not give in to fear.
“We are not naive about the dangers – we know they are there. But, that doesn’t change our calling to reach out to others with the love of Christ.”
Pastor Wright provides a good example for evangelical pastors seeking to lead their church to engage in ministry to refugees and immigrants wherever they are.
In the intro to the podcast, I talk about the Olympic Refugee Team that is made up of 10 refugees from around the world to represent and highlight the ongoing world refugee crisis. The story of Yusra Mardini, an 18 year old refugee from Syria, who is a swimmer, is incredible. She swam for 3.5 hours in the Mediterranean helping pull her boat full of 20 refugees after the engines failed to make it to the island of Lesbos. If she had not kept the boat moving, it could have capsized. She is competing as a swimmer for the Refugee Team to help spread the message that one should keep hoping and working for a better future. What an inspiration.
For a further discussion on the global refugee crisis and the Biblical basis for refugee and immigrant ministry, you might also want to check out an interview that I did last week with Carmen Laberge for her nationally syndicated Reconnect radio show. We had a great conversation about why and how Christians should welcome and minister to refugees and immigrants and why their burdens should be our burdens. This might be one of the clearest explanations of the biblical basis for this ministry that I have recorded.
Carmen’s team put together a great post with information, stats, and quotes from the interview. Check it out and think through how you and your church can engage with refugee ministry where you are.
But first, make sure that you listen to the podcast interview with Bryant Wright below!