July 16, 2015
As Charlotte sat next to her, they hardly spoke a word to one another. There on the streets of Frankfurt, an American sat with an Iraqi woman while her young children played with a ball together. Despite the language barrier, a powerful ministry opportunity unfolded.
“Neither of us could speak the other’s language but we interacted anyway,” Charlotte remembers. “Just being beside her meant a lot to her. At one point she put her arm around me and gave me a big hug.”
In June, a small team with e3 Partners embarked on a first-of-its-kind expedition to Frankfurt, a city of 5.5 million people that serves as continental Europe’s largest financial center. It has been ranked the world’s tenth most global city and the eighth largest financial district. It is also a primary hub for refugees fleeing violence in the Middle East and Northern Africa.
“Frankfurt is the crossroads of Europe and the Middle East,” remarked one e3 staffer. “Walking the streets daily, I see more people from other parts of the world than I do Germans.”
A GROWING HUMAN RIGHTS CRISIS
By the end of the year, Germany expects over 450,000 people to apply for asylum. European countries struggle to keep up with the influx of immigrants desperately fleeing the deteriorating conditions of their homelands.
Last month, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced that more refugees occupy our world today than any other moment in human history. Equally disturbing is the fact that half of them are children. Between the crisis in Syria, the growing threat of Boko Haram in Nigeria, the conflict in Ukraine, and general violence across the globe, entire communities have been displaced.
As neighboring countries in Northern Africa and the Middle East reach capacity to house these refugees, the people are flooding into Europe. According to the United Nations, over 135,000 people have arrived in 2015 alone. Currently, 40,000 immigrants are being moved out of Greece and Italy into neighboring countries, just to make room for 20,000 more who are on their way. The Financial Times recently called it “one of the most serious challenges now facing the bloc.”
In Greece alone, refugees are pouring in at a rate of 1,000 per day. Since they can’t afford plane tickets and don’t have time to apply for passports or visas, they are amassing along the coasts of Northern Africa, boarding overcrowded rowboats, and taking their chances crossing the Mediterranean Sea.
In the past six months, over 2,000 people have died attempting to cross. While European countries send their naval fleets out to rescue them, they’re unable to keep up. Those who survive the journey face an uncertain future, often trying to rebuild their lives while dependent on foreign aid.
A ONCE-IN-A-GENERATION OPEN DOOR
In the midst of this tragic situation, God is doing something remarkable. A number of the refugees arriving in Europe are members of unreached or unengaged people groups who have been previously inaccessible to Christian workers. For the first time in decades, if not centuries, we’re in a position to reach them.
“The 10/40 window has moved to Europe,” remarked Carol Davis.
Andrew, one of the team leaders commented, “Many of the people we met the last day had only been in the country for 48 hours. They were from Eritrea, Somalia, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, and Albania to name a few.”
Throughout the June expedition, the team interacted with refugees in their homes and on city streets. They provided free lunches, set up pick-up games, and listened as people tearfully shared their stories. In many cases, the team was able to serve individuals who have been left feeling marginalized and forgotten. As conversations unfold, they introduced them to their loving Creator who sent his Son restore their hearts.
As e3 Partners advances its work in Europe, the ministry is made possible by eager German pastors and believers who are launching churches in pubs, coffee houses, and other community centers across the city. One pastor in particular is currently shepherding 19 churches, all comprising of young people who are new to the faith.
It’s a serious human rights crisis that God is using to draw the nations to himself. A powerful story of restoration is taking place in Europe that’s changing the eternal trajectory of cultures across the globe.
450,000 Refugees Expected to Seek Asylum in Germany This Year (Newsweek)
UNHCR: Refugee numbers reach highest ever recorded (CNN)
An average of 1,000 refugees now arriving on Greek islands every day (UNHCR)
Want to join others serving unreached refugees in Germany? Click here to learn more.