Caring for Refugees From the Middle East

September 27, 2016
Darrell L. Bock and Jeff Palmer

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Topic Time Codes

00:52
Jeff Palmer’s ministry with Baptist Global Response
02:54
Political unrest and displacement in the Middle East
09:02
The effects of refugee absorption in Europe
12:45
The ministry of Baptist Global Response
16:02
Challenges facing refugees
20:47
How Baptist Global Response works with local partners
26:42
The complexities of refugee placement work
31:02
Developing a biblical theology on refugees
34:35
The challenge for the Church
38:50
How to get involved with Baptist Global Response

Transcript

Dr. Darrell Bock
Welcome to The Table. We discuss issues of God and culture and our topic today, our people on the move. Diaspora of people, refugees. That topic about which you hear a variety of things, but which at the same time is an important conversation to have for Christians who are able to minister into these situations.

Our guest today is Jeff Palmer. Jeff, tell us what you do and why we are talking to you about this. What is your current ministry?
Jeff Palmer
Right, thanks Doctor Bock. Thanks for having us on today. I work with Baptist Global Response, BGR. I’m executive director. BGR exists to help communities and people around the world to experience a more satisfying and abundant life. We deal with disaster relief and community development relief; relief in development strategy.

So today we might be addressing the earthquake issues in Ecuador and helping our partners there respond to that earthquake and tomorrow we might be addressing chronic hunger needs in sub-Saharan Africa or human trafficking issues over in South Asia. We would do about 350 to 400 projects per year; 65 to 70 different countries. Helping with food, water, shelter, livelihood skills training, literacy; all kinds of things to help people in need whether those needs are from acute issues of earthquake, famine, and disasters, or chronic issues of hunger, poverty, and such.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Oh, wow. So how long have you been doing this?
Jeff Palmer
Well, we’ve been doing it quite a while. BGR, Baptist Global Response, has only been in existence for about eight years now and I was privileged to work with a team of others to kind of get it up off the ground and started running. Before that we served with International Mission Board as Southern Baptist missionaries in Asia primarily for a little bit over 20 years.

My background is agriculture and my wife is healthcare so we used agriculture, healthcare strategies like the things we do with BGR today and worked with tribal and Muslim people groups in the southern Philippines and pretty much all over Asia, Central Asia, and South Asia. So we come back with oh, 25, 30 years of experience in meeting human needs and helping people encounter Christ.
Dr. Darrell Bock
So as we think about people movements of course today, one of the largest people movements is taking place in the Middle East with people who are leaving because of the war-ravaged situation there. Talk a little bit about what the situation is and what it’s like and if you could give a little background for how we got here. What I have in mind in particular are the countries to which people have gone and the conditions under which they live.
Jeff Palmer
All right, well, I mean, it’s a long story and it’s a very complicated one. If you remember about six or seven years ago we started seeing the first signs of Arab Spring in various places of the world; Libya, Egypt, and other countries in the Middle East. You had these kind of popular uprisings against; I guess the best way to say it is strongmen and strong powers within governments. What we’re seeing right now is kind of an offshoot of that especially in the Syria, northern Iraq area where you had a government that had been in power for decades and there was kind of a populist uprising. Then you had that government kind of holding on to controlling and still holding on control today.

In the midst of that with other world powers; I won’t get into those details, kind of getting involved. You had the rise of this radical group that was called ISIL now we call ISIS that has created this massive movement of folks from that part of the world. You have people that move because of economic reasons. That happens – that’s happened from time immemorial. You have people that move because of drought and environmental pressures.

Today in the Syria crisis and Middle East crisis in northern Iraq, we are basically seeing 12 to 14 million people on the move because they are forcibly displaced which is a little bit different situation. There is not enough time to talk about all the various reasons why they are forcibly displaced and when you talk to these folks it doesn’t really matter whether it’s a good guy or bad guy shooting at them; somebody is shooting or bombs are being dropped or threats from there. So now you are seeing out of a country of 20, 22, 24 million people you’re seeing at least half of that population on the move. Many of that is still living inside the country, but many of those are also lea ving outside the country to various areas.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Okay, so I’ve got 12 million people on the move; approximately half the size of the country. Obviously someone’s got to absorb that movement. So where are they going?
Jeff Palmer
Well again, over half of those are inside the country. They are moving inside. They’re going either to safe corridors or they are going to areas that are controlled by one faction or another. So do keep in mind, the majority of those on the move were still within the country. We call those internally displaced people’s or IDP they are still forcibly displaced, but they are internally displaced.

Then you’ve got another – depends upon the numbers, the official numbers and the unofficial numbers; probably another 5 to 6 million people that are outside of the country. They’re generally moving; the majority are in countries that are bordering areas. So they are moving into places like northern Jordan. They’re moving over into Lebanon. They’re moving northward into Turkey. They’re moving into places like Armenia. You had several that would move over into northern Iraq and then it got bad up there and they are moving back. So you have some that have moved about three or four different times back and forth into areas. But they also fleeing into other places like Egypt which is a country that’s absorbing quite a few of the [inaudible].

When they come out of the country would call them refugees. Now there is official refugee status and there is unofficial. And then they’re moving into Europe looking for either long-term security, better life; very different things. They are trying to get away from the crisis that’s caused them to leave and so using countries like Greece that have been absorbing refugees and now absorbing them at a high rate; Croatia, Macedonia, Germany. Just about every major European country and a few of them are actually trickling and making over here even to the United States and Canada.
Dr. Darrell Bock
So we will talk about BGR’s involvement with these groups in the moment, but this migration is really significant in a variety of ways. My understanding is, you can tell me if I’m right about this, that Lebanon now houses almost as many or as many refugees as it does citizens. That the number is pretty close. Is that fair or is that exaggeration?
Jeff Palmer
I think the numbers that we’ve seen lately, it’s about one out of every four people living in Lebanon are actually refugees. Now, from the current crisis, you have to remember, Lebanon absorbed several Palestinians 50 to 60 years ago.
Dr. Darrell Bock
That’s right.
Jeff Palmer
And so when you add that in together that number will go up higher. I don’t know if it’s quite half of the country, but it is a large population.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah, and I was referring to both of those together. That Lebanon has basically been a receptacle over many decades for people who have been displaced in the Middle East.
Jeff Palmer
Well, do remember too, that the folks coming out of Syria, there’s a lot of people which their family tree goes to the same folks in Lebanon and northern Jordan. It’s kind of an area of the world that there is a lot of kinship there. So it’s a natural gravitation to go to those areas.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Okay, so obviously there are countries that are dealing with this in the Middle East and we are so far away, separated by an ocean from Europe, that we tend not to appreciate was going on there. But the absorption of refugees into Europe is also produced significant pressures on the European continent; fair?
Jeff Palmer
Yes, fair. It’s fair to say that it’s created significant pressures on the whole world as a whole. But you will see governments like Germany; now they’re opened up. I think the numbers low so I think they’re up to 100,000, maybe even more. Greece has absorbed; because Greece is actually one of those first entry points into Europe and the European Union.

A lot of folks that are coming through these areas are still mobile. I mean, they are forcibly displaced, they’re going there but they are on the move to somewhere else. Maybe they’ve got family members in a particular country in Europe. Maybe they’ve got family members in the US or Canada or somewhere, but again, they’re trying to get to somewhere better. It could be for safety. It could be for – a lot of it’s for safety, a lot of it’s for economics, a lot of it is perception that the future is not going to get any better. So we want just a place to raise our family in peace and have a place that we can lay down and we know that someone’s not going to come in and take us and our children away.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah, I imagine that the human psychological toll for someone who is in the midst of this is pretty great. I mean, I ask myself, what would it take for me to leave everything that I have behind basically accept what I can carry with me, go to a foreign country where the customs are different, where I don’t even know the language in many cases, and decide okay, I’m going to start over. Granted, many of these people who are moving are forced out because of the level of violence, but that shows you how desperate things are.
Jeff Palmer
Yeah, a lay definition we like to use for refugee is somebody who can’t go home. So imagine today when your work is over, you ain’t got a home to go home to. What do you do? Where do you go? And all you’ve got is what you got with you.

You know, we would meet with and we constant – we have several projects we can talk about later. Places that we’re doing a lot of direct contact with folks within and outside of the country. I remember one group that we met with just the whole community and people were bringing out their – these were families and they weren’t whole families. They were maybe mother with kids. Maybe an old couple with some of the grandkids. You saw families that had 40, 30 gets with them and they didn’t belong to them, but they were just pick them up along the way because when they were walking out people got separated.

We were sitting with this group and every one of them started to bring up these keychains and holding them up and I didn’t realize what was going on and one of our guys told me. He said, they are showing you their house keys. They locked up their houses and they left and they’re holding onto those keys. They don’t think they can go back. They don’t even know if the homes are still there; probably not there, but that’s kind of their last hope that maybe I can go home. In reality, they probably know they can’t go home because they’re moving on, they are finding another place, and it’s been destroyed.

But just seeing inspiration in their eyes and you and I not ever really having to relate to that. We haven’t lost everything like they have.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah, it’s a pretty tragic human story in a lot of ways. So BRG [sic] is there and organizations like that are there. I have a friend who is a missionary in Albania who I’m in contact with periodically. There really is, not only a terrific ministry going on, but really some creative stuff going on too.

The Albanian missionary tells me the story of how they give cell phones to people who are arriving with Bibles in them and that kind of thing and they tell them ahead of time, this has a Bible in it. Do you mind? No, and then they turn around and find them reading – they are reading the Bible because it’s one of the few things they have that they can relate to that’s in their language; that kind of thing. It’s an interesting phenomenon.

So tell us about what BRG [sic] does.
Jeff Palmer
Well, BGR.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Sorry, BGR. Sorry, yeah.
Jeff Palmer
It’s okay, no worries. Yeah I get it [inaudible]. BGR is working with about 17 current projects right now in about eight or nine different countries. We are doing quite a bit with primary needs such as basic food, water, and shelter needs and health and hygiene work as well. So we have work going in almost all of us all those countries and places that I mentioned earlier.

We are working with on ground partners. Sometimes it’s a local church, sometimes it’s a local organization, and I won’t mention who those are of course for security purposes. bBt meeting people at their point of need. Helping them with the basic needs of life. Sometimes it is food packets to help them just make a transition because again, they’re very mobile. A lot of these 12 to 40 million people, they are very mobile. They can’t stay in one place and moving to another. They’re trying to get to somewhere else.

Health and hygiene kits are very big right now. We are working with and we have several folks who are going in conducting medical healthcare clinics; other things like that.

Another big issue is education. Some of these folks have been on the move for four years now. Their kids have not been in school. They are concerned about safety, but they are also concerned about their children and lack of education. So we have several education projects in different areas as well.

We’ve got some transitional ministries. Some projects helping people making transition from one place to another. Getting them set up at least in a temporary situation. So just like most groups, we are doing a number of things. It doesn’t look like there is any real strategy behind it, but the needs are so massive.

For instance, three years ago we thought it would be over and it’s still dragging on. Now we are 5 to 6 years into this crisis. Every winter rolls around; we’ve got these huge needs in terms of winter shelter, clothing, heating, fuel, things like that.

So currently we would be doing almost $1 million worth of projects that are ongoing. So again, it’s probably a drop in the bucket for the needs that are out there, but every organization I know that’s working with these refugees especially in that area of the world, are kind of like us. Just scrambling trying to plug the hole in the dam.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Wow. Well, let’s talk a little bit – kind of make this vivid for people. Someone comes out of a country, out of this kind of situation, and they arrive in one of these locations. What – you say they’re mobile, but what can they expect? What kinds of living conditions are they living in and what is it that they are facing precisely when they arrive?
Jeff Palmer
Many of them, they don’t know anything. They don’t know what they’re facing. They are just coming because it’s better than where they were. So several of these, you’ll see this – you know, you’ve seen this on the news. It’s not been recently on the news, but they will have these middle men that will promise them to get them out and will take them on boats and they’ll drop them on islands kind of out in the Mediterranean that are technically in places like Greece or other – they are tied to that, but they are long way from the mainland.

Let’s say that a family does make it to the mainland. Maybe they go into, maybe into Turkey, maybe they go into Greece, maybe they go into Lebanon. The fortunate ones will have some type of family or business contact. So they are looking for someplace that they’ve got something that they can go to. The majority are just basically kind of at the whims of whatever they find.

BGR like a lot of other ministries are finally those folks that are falling to the crack and trying to help them with basic needs as they arrive in areas. Now, we can’t be everywhere, but we are in about probably 5 to 10 strategic places and helping like a lot of other organizations.

When people here in the United States think about these refugees, most people think oh, well, there’s refugee camps. Do understand that maybe 1 out of 10, maybe 1 out of 10 of these folks leaving that area of the world are in refugee camps. Nine out of ten are just living under bridges. They’re living in abandoned buildings. They are throwing up little tents or whatever they can come – scraps, tarps, whatever, and trying to just find a place to get their kids out of, and their families out of the elements. So it’s a pretty dire situation for the most folks that come out of these areas.
Dr. Darrell Bock
And I take it there are multiple organizations trying to help and organize, but it’s a huge, huge task.
Jeff Palmer
There are. There are multiple organizations. The United Nations Refugee Counsel, various NGOs, nongovernment organizations like Baptist Global Response, church-based groups. There is just tons of folks that are helping out, but it’s still pretty much – Dr. Bock, it’s a drop in the bucket. Now again, it’s one of those drops that, it makes a difference for the folks that that drop gets to it.

So that’s where we get our encouragement as BGR; doing this was his we can. Really trying to help folks, try to model the love of Christ to make Christ known in a real critical part in their lives. These are Christians that are coming out. These are Muslims that are coming out. They’re just – everybody’s been affected. So it’s just one group that’s been affected.
Dr. Darrell Bock
That’s an interesting fact. I hadn’t heard that before. That it’s basically maybe 1 out of 10 and actually has a refugee space to reside in and that most are still out there moving around, fending for themselves, and just catching whatever they can as they go.
Jeff Palmer
And many folks that we have talked with personally and we have ministries among, is they don’t want to go into the camps. They are afraid of the camps. For instance, if you are of a minority group and you go into a country that wants to put you in a camp and that country has been a persecutor of your group historically, you would be a little bit suspicious of that government… [crosstalk] wouldn’t you?
Dr. Darrell Bock
Oh, wow. Yeah.
Jeff Palmer
I’m not going to say which ones.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Right.
Jeff Palmer
For the sake of – anyway, but there are a number of folks that they don’t want to go there. They are afraid for their children, their daughters; in a camp, you know, the security is not very well – they perceive it not being good. So they are kind of living outside and on their own and those are the folks mainly, that Baptist global response and many organizations are trying to reach and trying to help. They’re kind of invisible.
Dr. Darrell Bock
So how does one – how do you find them? How does that work?
Jeff Palmer
Well, we are very fortunate. We have pre-existing, on-ground partners in most of these areas that we’ve worked with. I mean, that area of the world, we’ve done development work years and years and years before any of this crisis hit. So having those in relationships and having those boots on ground, having those eyes out there; it’s been kind of a godsend to be able to work with folks, national believers and others who kind of are the ones that establish those relationships and find those folks.

So we are very fortunate in having great, trusted partners who help us minister and reach into – and then mobilize resources here from the United States for those people; financial resources or goods to those who are in need.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Do these people who help you, do they just kind of trip on to these folks or are there places where they tend to come and collect them and become aware of what the situation is and then encourage them to connect with you? How exactly does that work?
Jeff Palmer
Yeah, both/and. Also, remember that these are folks living up in these areas, the border areas. So you can’t trip onto them. They are tripping over you. They are coming out. I’ve been in several of these border areas in three different countries and you don’t have to walk very far to find a tent city or a group living under a bridge. So it’s pretty obvious who’s folks are and it’s pretty easy to find them.
Dr. Darrell Bock
So what happens to a person who comes into contact with your organization? What happens next for them?
Jeff Palmer
Well, usually a person comes, a family; and you are not talking about one or two. I mean, usually you’re going to be dealing with a community because people actually come out, but they begin to group in communities. So it would be several folks that would come in contact with this.

One of the things we want to do is listen to their story. Give them the dignity to tell the story and the stories are horrible. The stories will just tear your heart out. You’ll hear stories of families separated. I was in a community on the Syrian border about a year ago and every family that we visited, they had lost was – they would say, have you seen my brother? Have you seen my husband? Every one of them they would show you their scars. Children that were traumatized who wouldn’t quit crying because their eardrums had ruptured from the bombs, riddled with shrapnel. Everybody had shrapnel scars and they were just living in this kind of tent community out in an area that nobody wanted to be on and every need you can imagine; food, water, clothing, winter coming on. Every need you could imagine was there.

So what do we do? We listened to their stories. We listened to their needs. Interesting; people without food were asking first of all, can you find my husband, can you find my brother? And you just cry. Your heart breaks because we don’t know where they are either. But then we keep on listening and we help them with the basics; get them some better tarps or tents, something to insulate their home. Help them with communications. It might be getting them some phone cards. Helping them definitely with food and the basics of water and doing this all in the name of Christ in a way that shows the love of Christ so that we can also speak truth and hope into their lives.
Dr. Darrell Bock
So as you said, some of these people are moving so you have them for a time and release them or do you actually begin to help them figure out where they can possibly go more permanently?
Jeff Palmer
Well, that’s a good question Dr. Bock. A few of them, they’re moving on. We don’t control where they go. I mean, you might show up tomorrow and you’ve been working with a family and they are just gone and nobody knows where they are; the whole family group. You know, it’s not usually just one or two people. They move in groups. Part of it is for safety, part of it is the extended family is a lot larger than the concept of an extended family here in the West.

So we would be helping them, those that would stay in an area, maybe to assimilate. We might do some job skills training. We do a few those type projects. We might do some help with them getting back in to set up a small micro business. There is enterprise everywhere you go even in a makeshift refugee camp, there’s going to be enterprise going on. People are going to start buying and selling. They’re going to start to open up small stores and things like that. That would be the smaller number of folks that we will work with, because very few of them are going to stabilize in the area at one time.

For long period of time you would find – excuse me for just a second. I apologize for that.
Dr. Darrell Bock
No problem.
Jeff Palmer
You would find that some of those folks that are relocated in these areas, they think they’re going home. I mean, they still have the hope. Two or three years ago, just about everybody we would come with on these border areas, they would say, we’re going home tomorrow. We are going home tomorrow. They’ve been out for two years. Today, now three or four years later, we are starting to see that they are beginning to resign themselves; no, we’re not going home so we’ve got to find a way to be able to survive. Money has run out. Resources have run out. The good nature of those that are letting us stay here –

And so we’re starting to work more and more with some strategies, some longer-term strategies, for folks who are now beginning to see that they can go home.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Interesting. That actually was my next question is; okay, so you’ve got them, you’ve received them, you’ve kind of given them the basic food and clothing that they might need; that kind of thing; some shelter. And they realize they’re not going home, but they don’t have any place to go necessarily. So how does that work? Are organizations beginning to work on the placement side of the problem or are they just so busy caring for the people still coming out that that’s not still happening?
Jeff Palmer
That’s a good question. That’s a hard question. I would say that most of us are so busy it’s hard to deal with the other. The other side is that placement side really has a lot more to do with governments and it has to do with intergovernment agencies and so there are a lot of us that would cooperate with, but once it starts into that arena, then that becomes more of a political issue.

Like I said, we are talking about so many refugees that are coming out. The official number is lower because a certain way that you qualify to become United Nations refugee and there’s so many quotas and there’s country – it’s a very complicated question that you are asking.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah, because everybody – if you’re dealing with absorption of people who are moving, the countries to which – they can’t all go to the same place.
Jeff Palmer
Right.
Dr. Darrell Bock
So then you gotta figure out, all right, then who – where are they going to go and how many is each country going to take and all that kind of stuff. That’s the upheaval side that we are seeing now in Europe is the effect of that.
Jeff Palmer
Right.
Dr. Darrell Bock
That’s the wave that comes with this wave of people is; all right, now he’s going to – where are these people going to go and who’s going to be willing to take care of them and that kind of thing. That raises a whole another set of issues kind of on the other side and that is, the attitude, the social attitude of countries that are faced with the question are perhaps being asked, can you help?
Jeff Palmer
Right, that’s a good question. Let me give a great example on that one and I’ll use my home country that’s near and dear to my heart, the United States. You know the wide range of emotions here in the United States; let’s talk about Syrian refugees. We are looking at maybe the first wave really coming in here to the US just this year. It’s been a long process for them to go. Anytime a refugee, a true refugee, refugee status person comes the US, there is a long process and they go through. Of course, if you look at the news, they are coming in by the millions.

What we understand is that this year, if things go well, the US will probably take in 60 to 70,000 global refugees. About 10,000 of those are slated to be Syrian, from the Syrian crisis. Could be Syrian, northern Iraq, could be Kurdish; you know, different people groups. So we are looking at just this year maybe 10,000 coming to the United States and maybe for the next couple of years about that same number. So there’s 10,000 out of 14 million and you can see our country and our culture just completely torn up over that. Just a small, not even a drop in the bucket; a percent of a percent of a percent that actually would be coming here.

So now multiply that by 100 or thousand times if your government like in a country like Germany or the Netherlands that are seeing hundreds of thousands coming in. It’s an extremely complicated question. It’s a very emotional one that you’ve got – it so polarized. Over here those that don’t want; over here that want to.

So I don’t know how to answer your question. I just know that it’s a very emotional answer for most anybody who would give an answer.
Dr. Darrell Bock
And the discussion on this has actually been very disruptive for European politics. That we’ve seen a rise of what’s been described as far right, but basically nationalist kinds of approaches to these questions that don’t want to absorb these people, but everybody is faced with the question, what do you do with them? It’s a human need problem of massive scale and you mentioned the people who are coming out that they’re mixtures. That there are Christians, that there are Muslims, you’ve mentioned the Kurds as a part of this. So one of the things that’s important in the conversation is to realize that this isn’t a monochrome migration if I can say it that way.
Jeff Palmer
Absolutely.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Where everybody’s coming from the same place and some of the people who are looking to be displaced are being displaced because of who they are.
Jeff Palmer
That’s – absolutely. I would say that’s I can’t – I’m not a very smart man. I can’t really say what government should do or don’t do, but I can say that as a follower of Jesus Christ, and when we look at the Bible, there is a special place in God’s heart for the widows, for the orphans, and for the strangers; for those who are displaced and for those who can’t take care of themselves.

What a wonderful, wonderful testimony if the church, if the church in Europe, the church in the United States, the church where ever, would stand up and say, what a Cairos moment to reach to those who are hurting and homeless and hopeless and stand up and say, the church is going to do something about this. This might be a defining moment for us as followers of Jesus Christ. It could be a bad defining moment if the church stands up and says, we are afraid of these people and we don’t want anything to do with them. I hate to think of Jesus said that about sinners and said that about people who were different than him.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah.
Jeff Palmer
But he was the one that was open in arms and welcoming. I’m not saying it’s gonna be easy. I’m not going to say that it’s going to be fraught with problems and [inaudible]. but I am saying that what a wonderful time for the church to step up and be the people of God and open our arms to these strangers and care for those who can’t care for themselves. And what a wonderful way to minister and to make Christ known in both our word and in the deeds that we do.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah, absolutely. I’m going to read through a series of text here because I think that some people don’t realize how deeply embedded this theme is in Scripture.
Jeff Palmer
Absolutely.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Exodus 23:9. I’m just going to go through a series of them, one after another just kind of like bullet points. Do not oppress an alien. You yourselves know how it feels to be aliens because you were aliens in Egypt.

Or Leviticus 19:34. You shall love the alien as yourself for you were aliens in Egypt.

Or Exodus 22:21. Do not mistreat or oppress an alien for you were an alien in Egypt.

Deuteronomy 10:19 says the same kind of thing using the refrain, for you were aliens of the land of Egypt.

Numbers 15:15. The community is to have the same rules for you and for the alien living among you. This is a lasting ordinance for generations to come. It’s not just in the Torah, it’s also in the Proverbs and the Prophets.

Proverbs 31:9. Defend the rights of the poor and the needy.

Micah 6:8, very famous passage. He has told you, o man. what is good and what the Lord really wants from you. He wants you to promote justice, to be faithful, to live obediently before your God.

Zechariah 7, 9, and 10. The Lord who rules over all says exercise true judgment. Show brotherhood and compassion to each other. You must not oppress the widow, the orphan, the alien, the poor, nor should anyone secretly plot evil against his fellow human being.

I mean, those passages are pretty clear and there is a whole raft of them. We could – I mean, I could continue to go on. Here’s another one; Deuteronomy 27:19. Cursed be anyone who withholds the justice due to the immigrant, the fatherless, the widow, that all the people shall say amen. I get that.
Jeff Palmer
Amen.
Dr. Darrell Bock
I guess I get to end with a benediction there at the end. But those are an important series of passages showing a real core ethic that is invoked and called for by the people of God when we face these kinds of situations.
Jeff Palmer
Absolutely.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Which means that we have to sit down and wrestle with the difficulties that they raise for us, but the one position that one shouldn’t take is one of indifference or don’t bother me with this.
Jeff Palmer
Well, and you and I as followers of Jesus Christ, our whole purpose is making Christ known to a world in need; to a lost and a dying world. And here’s the thing is, for years we have prayed for these areas of the world. We pray for them. We have prayed for God to open up the doors and all of a sudden, now they are coming out and they’re coming to us. Again, like I said, what a cairos moment for us to make Christ known in the deeds and caring for those who are needy; giving food and giving a cup of cold water and sharing the truth of who is the living water, who is the bread of life.

I’m just saying that I hope we don’t wake up 20, 30 years from now as a church, if you and I are still around; I hope we don’t wake up and say, this was a moment that God brought about to make his glory known among the nations and we failed to take the opportunity to do that.

I think of the story in John, chapter 9, when Jesus is walking out of the temple complex and the Pharisees are trying to stone him to death. He walks out of the temple and they’ve been through this traumatic experience and the first thing he sees is this man born blind. The disciples says, well, who was it that sinned? This man or himself that sinned? You know, that he was born blind. And Jesus said, you missed the whole point. This man was born blind so that the glory of God, the work of God, might be made known in in his life.

I think that all of this is happening, and thank you for bringing up this topic and having this podcast about this because this is that moment. This is a chance for the glory of God to be made known in such a mighty way among these refugees and to the rest of the world that said, we care. There’s a lot of religions and a lot of governments in the world that basically don’t care about human life. The church of Jesus Christ standing up and saying, we care because every person is valuable to God and every person ought to have a chance to know him and have a relationship with him. This is our time to do that. Now I’m preaching.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah. Well, this is an important topic and you tend to hear it only in terms of the political dimensions of it and the human dimension of it very much gets lost. It’s the human dimension into which the church is very well-equipped to step in and do something about it. In fact, as is often the case, if it weren’t for many caring organizations, many of which are Christian motivated, this problem would be far, far worse than what it is.
Jeff Palmer
Well, that’s true. I understand at least in part. I understand the political situation. I understand the fear. I’ve been in many of these areas of the world and fear is a real thing. There’s a lot of things that generate that fear. There is fear of; these people are going to come and they’re going to take over and they’re going to – but I also understand the fear of people going into eternity and not knowing, or not having a chance to know, who Jesus Christ is. To me that should be the greater fear for the church.
Dr. Darrell Bock
That’s terrific. Well, one last set of questions here.
Jeff Palmer
Okay.
Dr. Darrell Bock
So we’ve talked about this kind of from the standpoint of the person coming out. From the organizations that are trying to help them. The issues of placement which obviously a very, very difficult. We’ve talked about the biblical dimensions of this. Let’s ask some practical questions.

Okay, I’m sitting here in Dallas, Texas, talking to you and the question is, all right, so how do I get involved or what ways can I be supportive? What ways can the church be supportive in these kinds of efforts? Obviously, to some degree, that’s already happening because you’re a member of an organization that a denomination is behind and put its weight behind. But individually, what does this look like? What advice do you have for us?
Jeff Palmer
I would say that one of the best places that an individual follower of Christ can start would be prayer. You know, praying and asking God to open up their hearts to what he’s doing. I think about the story of Abaca who is complaining to God all the time about, you know, why is this injustice, why’d this happen? Just step back and say, because God said you know, I’m going to do things that you will never believe; utterly amazing that are going to be done among the nations. And stepping back and saying, God, what are you doing in this time?

You know, all of this is going on, this turmoil in the world, because in the midst of this, you and I know, God has not stepped down from his throne. He is not surprised by ISIS. Is not surprised by corrupt governments or good governments because he is God. He is all knowing. So God is doing something in this time.

So pray. Then pray for those who are in need and pray for those who are suffering, these 12 to 14 million people. These are not Muslims, these are not cultural Christians, these are not – these are people with families, with children, that they want to see grow up and get an education and go to school to get married and have grandkids for them. So pray. I would say to pray and pray for God to show them what he is doing. Pray for them and for the people that are in need. I would invite the people to go to our website. I’m not trying to be self-promoting here, but go to BGR.org and take a look at some daily prayer request that we will have up there for how they can pray and be involved in this.

Then I would say let God speak to you. It might be going and getting involved and meeting needs of refugees. They could be refugees in your backyard. It doesn’t have to be Syrian refugees. They could be the nations who have come to your town and you get involved in their lives. It could be getting on a plane and going to one of these project areas and serving through an organization like Baptists Global Response or the hundreds of others that are out there.

Then I would also pray about what would God be leading you to maybe do in terms of giving; to help support those ministries to provide food, to provide water, to provide shelter and there’s a lot of ways, a lot of channels to help; through your local church, through whatever your convention denomination is a maybe through the favorite charity of your choice. There’s a lot of good ways to help.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Let me ask you what will sound like a strange question, but it’s popped in my head and that’s dangerous because once it’s there it just kind of lingers. It goes something like this; what do you think people are hearing about this topic that is really static; it shouldn’t be what they’re hearing? And what is it that they are not hearing that they need to hear? So on both sides of the spectrum.
Jeff Palmer
That’s a good question. I’m not sure I’ve got a great answer off the top of my head. I would say the static part is the inertia of it. It’s been going on for five years and people get tired. They get tired, they get overloaded, and because we don’t hear it; the news it run cycles and all kinds of things. So if it’s out of sight, out of mind, we just don’t think about it. The thing that is _____ _____ [bad audio] is that this need is continuing to grow and these people – the thing I want them to remember is, this is not 12 to 14 million people. These are mothers, these are fathers, these are children who don’t have any choice in the matter and again, talking to them, they could care less whether it’s ISIS shooting at them or a friendly government or if it’s someone from outside. It’s somebody shooting at them. It’s these bombs going off in the market.

Hearing story after story of you know, daddy went to go get food and he didn’t come home. So we fled because we don’t know what happened to him. So these are real people with real needs and real suffering and these are folks that are created in the image of God that deserve us at least, at the very least, praying for them. But really doing something to help them in their need and making Christ known in their lives.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Well, that’s a terrific piece of advice and I really appreciate you taking the time to walk us through this and to have us think about it and kind of an initial way. It’s a discussion we’ve long wanted to have on The Table Podcast because I think hearing the human dimensions of the story and the problem is something that you don’t often get to hear. What you often hear are the fights about this or the government struggles or the policy issues that are tied to it, but these are very real people is what you are telling us who are in desperate straits and often times it’s the organizations that come out of the church that are best equipped to help them most fully to deal with this.
Jeff Palmer
Yeah.
Dr. Darrell Bock
So I really do appreciate you taking the time to be with us and helping us think through this.
Jeff Palmer
Thank you Dr. I appreciate the privilege and opportunity being with you.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Well, and we are going to do more on this. This is a topic that is not going away. As you said, it’s growing and getting bigger so we will be paying more attention to it and the various aspects of it because it is a very complicated topic. It raises all kinds of interesting issues that we have to reflect on. Again, thanks for being a part of this and joining us today and we thank you for joining us on the table and we really do hope that this topic has stimulated you to love and good deeds. To thinking about how it is that we can serve our fellow man in deep, deep need in the midst of what is probably one of the greatest crises that our world is facing in terms of human need in the current time. We hope you will join us again soon on The Table.

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