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SEEKING REFUGE

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n February 2017, I visited Greece, Croatia, and Serbia to see and share about the Church of the Nazarene’s work in response to the refugee crisis. With each person I met who is living as a refugee, there was a common theme of being stuck. People are waiting for an asylum interview, waiting to reunite with family, waiting to cross a border—waiting for what’s next but unable to go back. Through a ministry of presence, the Nazarene response teams in Greece, Serbia, and Croatia are living out the love of Christ among people seeking refuge. A year ago, the church’s work was primarily in long-term and transit camps. Today, some of that work remains in Greece, but the camps in Croatia and Serbia are gone. In Croatia, ministry now takes place through relationship-building in apartment buildings and hotels that have become centers for refugees and asylum seekers. In Serbia, a ministry of presence takes place in abandoned buildings where those living as refugees are stuck with few options. These are the stories of two young men who are connected with the church’s ministry in Belgrade, Serbia:

RUNNING FROM WAR: JAVID’S STORY

AT THE BARRACKS OF BELGRADE

A MINISTRY OF PRESENCE OFFERS LIGHT IN THE DARK Words by Jasmine Hiland 18 | www.ncm.org

Photos by Stephens Hiland

“Come in, come in!” Javid* said. “Sit down, sit down.” He ushered in the group I was with, and we sat on red mats and gray blankets on the ground. The room was dim but warmed by a makeshift stove . As we drank tea, Javid talked about how his mom frequently calls to tell him about a new girl she’s found for him to marry. When asked if he was interested in getting married, he replied, “In my culture, people usually get married between 17 and 25. I will wait till I’m settled at 25.” The idea of being settled feels uncertain, though. At 17, Javid had to flee from his home in Afghanistan and is now living as a refugee in an abandoned building near the train station in Belgrade, Serbia. He shares space with more than a thousand others, mostly other young men from Afghanistan and Pakistan, in a series of crumbling warehouses. Back home, when members of an extremist militant group approached Javid with just one option—join or die—the teenager ran. His journey with others across mountains and through forests led him to Belgrade. “I hate war,” he said. “I want no part of it.”

NCM Magazine/Summer 2017  
NCM Magazine/Summer 2017  

Compassion as a lifestyle