I should probably wait till after Thursday to write this blog; it might be more substantive by then. But I'm a little excited about this.
Over the last couple years, but especially last year going through training with International Teams I found myself more and more drawn to the plight of refugees.
So even before coming over I thought there might be some opportunity for ministry among refugees here. Doug and I began talking about it almost immediately since it goes hand in hand with a broader ITeams initiative (to share the gospel with Central Asian Muslims). On the heals of that initiative came some mid-year changes in International Teams' overall strategy- one being to "transform" 50 communities around the world by 2020. By "transform" we mean to make sure that in these 50 communities there are no "invisible" people groups...that everyone has access to food, freedom, and forgiveness (in keeping with our mission to bring people together to help the oppressed). We want Uzhgorod or some area of Transcarpathia to be one of those 50 communities.
It seems like we've talked about it all year. We KNOW there are displaced people in our community but we haven't been able to connect with them. No one we asked knew exactly how to go about it.
Finally, a few weeks ago Doug met an international relief agency worker in Kiev who had the UN contacts to get us rolling. And today I spoke with a representative of the agency here in Uzhgorod that works with the UN working with refugees and he's going to meet with me this Thursday.
We've already been "recommended" by our friend so I think we will be able to step into some sort of official role helping these refugees. Our plan is to put together a coalition of churches, beginning with our own, to simply discover the needs of these people and then meet those needs. If they need food, we'll feed them. If they're being trafficked, we'll rescue them. If they don't know Jesus, we'll introduce them. That's the plan.