“We must do something! The compassion of Jesus compels us!” In the previous few weeks our whole region had been swamped by refugees escaping from barbaric religious extremists, and the sheer number of needy people meant that the local authorities weren’t coping with the demands any more. We looked at each other and realised that Jesus was calling us to show His love in practical ways to our ‘new neighbours.’

Some financial gifts had already been promised and we quickly established a system for channelling more funds in order to respond to the unfolding crisis. Four and a half years on, we’ve now given out about AU$350,000-worth of assistance to the refugees, whether through projects we’ve conducted ourselves or through funding some refugee projects of the local churches.

One snowy winter’s day, for example, our team with some local volunteers distributed two large jerry cans of heating fuel to each of 471 refugee families living in a nearby township. We were touched by the many expressions of “Thank-you” that we received. Some said, “This keeps us going!” This vital help reminded them that they were not forgotten, that God was still caring for them.

One summer a church used AU$12,000 to supply a refrigerator, an air-cooler and an electric fan to 40 Christian families who had returned to their ruined houses to rebuild their lives again. The church workers were very excited to aid the returnees. “Through this act of service we could remind them of God’s eternal grace as they seek to rebuild again, having endured such great loss and pain.”

Another time we worked with a local organisation, to see 15 unemployed Christian and Muslim refugees receive three months of vocational training in hairdressing and beautician skills that would allow them to earn an income in the future. Apart from the helpful qualification they received, the mix of students meant that they integrated with each other across this ethnic-religious divide.

At the present time we are working together with another agency in running a community centre in an outlying area of our city, offering language, literacy and vocational training classes to both the refugees and members of the poor host community. Knitting and sewing training has been excitedly taken up, as well as the after-school educational support club for primary-aged children needing catch-up lessons in schooling they missed because of the crisis.

A and M

A and M have been serving in the Middle East for the past 20 years in development and church work. Their team became increasingly involved with refugee work from 2013 onwards.