Missionary kids and international students share what they’ve learned from ministering to refugees
by Zach Krauss and Alex Hentschel
Many refugees have been torn from their homes, had their lives devastated by war, or made an arduous journey to a new place with only their lives intact.
This is why Americans find it difficult to truly understand the plight of a refugee.
However, there are students at Cedarville who are learning advocacy and have had the opportunity to work with refugees both in the United States and abroad. In addition, Cedarville’s international students and missionary kids (MK’s) can sometimes empathize with refugees due to experiencing their own level of cross-cultural disconnect.
Brian Campbell, junior music education major at Cedarville, is both a missionary kid and a refugee. His family lived in Cote D’Ivoire during his early life and had to be evacuated twice due to civil unrest before continuing missionary work in Senegal, another west African country. He said that his unique experience helps him better understand the journey of a refugee.
“It really is hard[er] than most Americans can truly understand,” Campbell said. “We don’t often understand how desperate things are. In Senegal, they have these large fishing boats, and sometimes things get so desperate that groups of Senegalese try to take the boats all the way from Senegal to France.”
Freshman Christina Macris is a missionary kid from Uganda. Her family runs a clinic that helps those in need in the community, including refugees. She said that the influx of refugees coming from South Sudan has given her a new perspective on the crisis.
“Seeing the needs that people have made it really come alive. The word ‘refugee’ isn’t just a term that we hear: each of them are people just like us,” she said.
Over the past summer, Macris had the opportunity to spend a day ministering to refugees in Lebanon. She was able to spend a lot of time showing love to refugee children and hearing the stories of other refugees.
Macris specifically mentioned spending time with a woman named Lydia who demonstrated kindness to both Macris and her friend.
“She took care of us and called my friend and I her daughters,” Macris said. “She’s such a beautiful person to have experienced so much hardship and still being such a kind person. That made it very real for me.”
“We can minister to these people — sometimes without even leaving our country — as the refugees come in,” she said. “It’s a great way to show Christ’s love.”
Campbell said, at times, the best way to show gospel love to refugees is to build relationships.
“I think it’s important to make sure you’re a friend to someone before anything else,” he said. “There’s a sense of grief that they’re likely going through, and having a friend is something that can help them to open up to you and get to know them as a person rather than quickly jump into explaining the gospel right away.”
Priscilla Songate is a sophomore nursing student who has been able to minister to refugees in the U.S. Songate’s family has been working with Burmese refugees in Texas for about two years.
“Through my ministry, I met some of the smartest kids,” Songate said. “Some of these people come to America and are so qualified, but because of their situation they have to resort to doing odd jobs. At their core, they are our equals.”
Being from a different country doesn’t necessarily mean that the MK’s or international students know what refugees are going through, but some have said that it has helped them to understand how difficult it is to build a life somewhere completely new.
Some members of Cedarville’s faculty and staff have experience with facilitating cross-cultural transition of international students and missionary kids, which refugees face during resettlement. These faculty and staff members can speak to the difficulties of moving from one culture to another, having coordinated it many times.
Matthew Bennett, professor of theology and mission at Cedarville, said that the experience of cross-cultural disconnect is shared between an international student and a refugee, which allows for increased understanding.
“Of course the cause might be different, but I think that [missionary kids and international students] have an exceptional opportunity to speak to a level of common ground and a common sense of being wanderers in some ways,” Bennett said. “There’s an affinity that is gained in a situation like that.”
Brenda Reid, coordinator of International Student Services at Cedarville, has overseen many international students’ transition to Cedarville. She believes understanding that refugees are often transitioning into a completely new way of life is critical to ministering to them effectively.
“Their whole identity is changing and it is often misunderstood or not really valued,” Reid said. “If we really want to understand them we have to constantly think about what our lives would be like if we truly started over with nothing at all.”
Reid also believes we should have a biblical perspective on the refugee crisis.
“Looking at the bigger story, Jesus himself was a refugee when his family fled Israel and went to Egypt to ensure his safety from Herod, who wanted to find and kill him. I think that adds more depth and dimension to why we should try and understand, empathize, and support the refugee cause.”
Zach Krauss is a junior pharmacy/music double major from central Texas and campus reporter for Cedars. He loves music, theatre, biology, community, and meeting new people.
Alexandria Hentschel is a sophomore International Studies and Spanish double major and the Off-Campus news editor for Cedars. She enjoys old books, strong coffee,