Ministry In Unlikely Places: Serving The Refugee Population

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We all have pictures in our mind of what Young Life camp looks like, right?  However, there are a few camps happening this summer that look a little different from what we typically picture in our minds.   Let’s take a look at two camps to see what I mean:  one you know and one you don’t know.

Let’s start with the one camp you probably don’t know: Nyarugusu. You don’t know it because it’s not a Young Life camp; it’s a refugee camp. Located in western Tanzania, between 139,000 and 400,000 refugees from DR Congo and Burundi live here in tents.  Some have been here for over 20 years and some have just arrived. Over half of these residents are under 18 years old.  They have fled warlords, rebel groups, tribal wars, genocides and food shortages.

One of these residents is a Young Life leader Pascal (name changed). He decided to follow Jesus at a Young Life camp in Congo and became a Young Life leader before he and his family were forced to flee insecurity caused by rebel groups. Pascal is recruiting leaders and working with our team in Tanzania to begin Young Life in Nyarugusu. We hope to bring kids from this camp to a very different kind of camp soon.

Now let's look at the camp you know: Timber Wolf Lake. Fast forward to July 3rd of this year. Picture 46 kids rolling off a bus at the welcome. Some are in headscarves, most laughing and speaking to each other in Arabic, a Burmese dialect or in Kiswahili. They are from Syria, Myanmar, Congo and half a dozen other places. All of them are from Southport High School in Indianapolis. Their leaders, Joe and Rachel Snyder, direct the area on the south side of Indianapolis where tens of thousands of these refugees have been placed. Many of them are part of the club at Southport High School. On July 3, 2018, they will experience a new type of camp...and Jesus' love for them.

  • Across the world there are currently 22.5 million refugees and over 65 million people displaced internally in their own countries. More than half of these people are kids.
  • Over 56% refugees live in sprawling tent camps in Africa and the Middle East.
  • Over 3 million refugees live in the US.

There are hundreds of thousands of kids, most of whom have experienced trauma people in Western Europe or the US cannot imagine.  Most of these kids do not know, or may not have even heard of Jesus, and are being gathered in unprecedented numbers into our countries and neighborhoods. What an opportunity we have as a mission that cares for kids who are lost and looking for a place to belong!  

In YL Africa/ME we are committed to figuring out how to reach these kids. And people like Joe and Rachel are showing us all how to do it in our own cities. Ministry to widows, orphans, strangers and captives—this is real gospel ministry.  God has positioned Young Life perfectly to be His hand in the lives of these kids and God is literally dropping these kids from the worst and hardest places on the planet into our backyards. Wow! Join the leaders in Africa, the Middle East, the Snyders and others as we figure out how to love and reach these kids and their families.

Written By:  Steve Larmey

steve@ylafrica.com

 

**If you, or someone you know, is working with refugees in a YL context please email (kimberlygraceyl@gmail.com ) The YL Global Innovation and Training office so we can help them connect to others who are reaching these students in these unlikely places.