This post is the fourteenth in a series on God’s Story, the Foundation for FH’s Work in Relief and Development. Follow the series, starting with the first post.
“I hear it a lot from my family members. They say, ‘Why are you helping (Syrian refugees)?’” – Mariam*, Lebanese church member
When Syrian refugees began crossing the border into Lebanon almost ten years ago, they needed shelter, food, warm blankets, and other help. After that, many Lebanese citizens were not quick to come to their aid. Decades of violence between the countries have caused deep social rifts, and negative attitudes are very common.
Mariam, a Lebanese mother of two and a worship leader in her church, had a different perspective.
“When Syrians first started coming here asking for help, I thought, maybe the Lord wants us to start forgiving them,” she said. “These are people that have caused us trouble in the past. But a person that has the heart of God doesn’t differentiate between the hearts of people.”
Today, Mariam and other church members dedicate themselves to assisting 100 families who had come as refugees, settling into their local area. Beyond meeting physical needs, they persevere in getting to know the Syrians on a personal level, supporting them emotionally and spiritually.
What it Takes to Persevere
Mariam is one of thousands of Food for the Hungry (FH) staff and partners around the world who serve daily in Christian relief and development. The conditions of each setting are different, but hardship is common to all of them. Certainly, serving the poor and vulnerable is exhausting–not only physically, but mentally, emotionally, and sometimes spiritually.
We must persevere.
That’s why FH staff members are committed to walking with God. Above all, we believe that the quality of our service is related to the quality of our relationship with Him. Here, we share four ways in which our staff are walking with God even when situations can be tough, which we encourage for anyone who wants to serve Him.
1. Persevere by Engaging with Scripture
“All Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” – 2 Timothy 3:16
We commit ourselves to read, meditate, and apply biblical teaching in our lives and work on a daily basis. As we have seen in this series, the biblical narrative in its full content provides us the background and direction for our work in relief and development. In other words, Scripture is the toolkit for our work.
Moreover, the Bible gives us daily direction in our personal lives and as a group. Without Scripture as a consistent anchor, it’s easy to fall into the traps of discouragement and apathy, or to become prideful.
When we invite God to speak to us through His Word, He brings new strength for each day.
Church members like Mariam spend time with refugees, meeting physical and emotional needs.
2. Persevere by Praying and Contemplating
“Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” – Ephesians 6:18
Throughout the Bible, God’s people are called to pray at all times, regularly, genuinely, and in faith. Moreover, prayer is a conversation with God in which we cultivate deepening intimacy with Him.
God answers prayer and is with us as we pray. FH staff members constantly face challenges that are insurmountable in human terms. For instance, a road can be washed out with no other way to access the community. A child can fall ill in a remote village, far away from any medical care. Corrupt government leaders keep a clean water project from making progress.
No matter what problems we face, God is ready and waiting to listen and make a way forward. We have seen Him work in powerful ways when we call on Him.
Through prayer and contemplation, we are also strengthened internally, in order to perform the Kingdom work that God has for us. We have a faithful Friend who never leaves us alone.
3. Persevere by Participating in the Church
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” – Hebrews 10:24-25
FH staff are active members of a local church, if there is one where they live. All believers around the world are part of the Body of Christ. Therefore, participation at a local church helps believers to partake of this Body. God doesn’t only reveal Himself to each of us individually but He also does collectively. Therefore, our spiritual strength depends on our individual and collective commitment to be with God.
As part of her local church, Mariam finds the strength to serve Syrian refugees. That is to say, she is encouraged to persevere by the faith of her brothers and sisters, and together they have discovered their mission to serve the most vulnerable in their community.
Churches in Lebanon welcome Syrian refugees by providing an open door to meet their needs.
4. Persevere by Following Jesus
“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” – John 15:4
Jesus is alive! Above all, He invites us to follow Him in our lives and through our work in relief and development. This is our first and foremost value of our Heartbeat, and following Jesus informs everything else. It’s how we find hope in hard places. And this means that He provides us with guidance and wisdom in our jobs, in challenging circumstances and our everyday lives.
We are Jesus’ disciples. Consequently, we learn how to persevere in a godly life by looking and listening to Jesus’ teachings, life and guidance.
Many workers say that they feel closest to Jesus when serving among vulnerable people. We know that the poor are very close to the heart of God, and Jesus loved to spend time with them when He was on earth. By seeking to closely follow Jesus each day, we invite Him to make us more like Him.
Refugees in Lebanon experience God’s love through members of the local church.
The Bottom Line
As FH staff work around the world in dangerous conditions, we have learned these simple lessons to persevere. By remaining in Christ, talking to God through prayer, engaging with the Word, and participating in church, we find the strength to persevere in our ministry.
We also find ourselves growing in Him. In Mariam’s words, “I look at myself and think, the Lord has changed so much in me! I have started developing a very strong relationship with refugees and I find myself wanting to stay with them for a very long time… The Lord has given me a desire to serve.”
*For security purposes, Mariam’s name has been changed.
Follow the God’s Story series:
The Story That Matters Most
How Clean Water Reveals the Kingdom of God
Transformation Is Better Than Development
“How” Is More Important Than “What”
History is About Reconciliation
God’s Character Matters
You Look Like Your Father
Peace and the Natural World
The Fall Changed Everything
Jesus at the Center
A Plan for Your Life
Learn to Serve Like Jesus
The Church is the Fullness of Christ