Excerpt from Dora Mahoes’ personal blog “A Story of Stories“. Dora was a Fall 2015 student from Biola University. Editor’s note: This post was originally published in February 2018 and has been lightly edited.
It’s crazy to think that a little over two years ago, I studied abroad in Brisbane, Australia at the Australia Studies Centre (ASC). One of the biggest highlights was a class my fellow ASCers and I took called The View of Australia. In class, we talked about Australia’s general perspective on different issues, and one that really caught my attention was Australia’s response to refugees. My eyes were opened to the reality that many countries (not just Australia), are afraid of welcoming refugees into their communities. Although this fear is understandable due to many terrible events that have occurred around the world, I wondered if it could also be the reason people ignore refugees and the challenges they face?
After returning from Australia, I had many questions which led me to several research projects on the refugee issue. Through my research, I learned about catastrophic events such as 9/11 impacted how refugees are viewed. Refugees are often referred to as “dangerous,” “terrorists,” and “threats.” However, these negative labels and images often prevent people seeing the injustice and difficult circumstances refugees face during their time in camps, detention centers, and even in host countries. I was challenged to see that if left unchecked, fear prevents society from seeing refugees as people. People who had to escape war and conflict and seek to find safety in new communities.
Whilst researching how fear shapes the refugee issue, I am reminded how God responds to foreigners and sojourners in the Bible. Through this, I was reminded how much God loves foreigners and calls believers to exemplify His heart for foreigners by welcoming outsiders into their communities (Lev. 19:33-34; Deut. 10:18-19; Ps. 146:9). A verse which impacted me most was Acts 17:26-27 (NIV):
“From one man [God] made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.”
This verse highlights God’s vision for people in specific times and places with the hope that they will seek and know Him. When I read this verse, I realized believers have a choice to view the refugee issue as a missional opportunity. Although it is scary and overwhelming, God invites us to see how He redeems the horrible circumstances of millions of people to one which gives hope by giving them in new lives in countries like Australia or the United States. Countries where refugees can come into contact with the Gospel – some for the first time. God desires believers to participate with Him in redeeming the refugee crisis by loving and serving refugees who may not have had any meaningful relationships with Christians. Through these interactions, hope is found. A hope which may inspire refugees to seek God, reach out to Him, and find Him.
Acts 17:26-27 challenged me so much that it led me to what I am pursuing today. By the end of the year, I hope to be part of a ministry team based in Phoenix, Arizona. The ministry is called GoTEN and they seek to make disciples among refugees by living in community with them, serving them, and sharing the Gospel.
As I look at where I’m now, I can say my passion for refugees did not come in one moment, but instead it grew from the different choices I made. Who knew my decision to study abroad would lead me to Australia? Which led me to the ASC, which led me to learn about refugees, which led me to do some college papers on refugees, which finally led me to realize this was something I wanted to pursue after graduation. I sure didn’t! Two and a half years later, when I look back at what God has done in my life, I’m realizing He’s forming a pretty cool story, and it’s definitely far from over!