What You Can Do About the Refugee Crisis

I rarely watch the news anymore. There’s so much evil and pain in the world and I can’t do a single thing about it. I’m not government, medical, or God—I’m just one little person. Watching the horror on my TV screen is only going to numb me, scare me, and shut me down. It might seem irresponsible to not know exactly what Trump is up to or how the economy is doing, but I just can’t do it anymore. Sure, I catch bits and pieces here and there, catch up on some reading from time-to-time. But if I’m so locked into a screen—shocked at the state of my world—how will I ever change it?

What good does knowing do? Wouldn’t doing something be better?


This is something that I’ve been working through for years. In high school I was convinced that knowing every single event going on was the most important thing. I watched the news at breakfast, poured myself into current events, and freaked out constantly about how the world was turning. My stress never did anything (except maybe shorten my life span). Not a good way to live. In college I was busy, too busy to be fretting about everything going on, so I unplugged. After college, the trend continued, I just kept unplugging. I was less stressed, less concerned, and could live my life. Also not a good way to live.

Then Syria.

After ignoring the media for a while, I finally gave in and clicked on an article about the crisis in Syria, and suddenly I couldn’t think about anything else. What terrible tragedy, what incredible loss, what unstoppable evil. I prayed and prayed. I donated, but I wanted to do more. Like thousands of other Americans, I thought that the children orphaned by this persecution would need families, but adoption isn’t an option. I thought for sure that the United States would welcome all of the refugees with open arms, and then THEN I could certainly help these people. But guess what? The average family spends 17 years in a refugee camp before being relocated or returning to their home country. And only a small small percentage get to come to the US (as in: 1/2 of 1% of the refugees). So, I pray. So, I donate. That’s all I can do for now.


The Wave

1st SYRIAN REFUGEE FAMILY ARRIVES IN LANCASTER COUNTY, BEGINNING OF WAVE COMING HERE. The online article stole my heart! Thrilled to see that my very own county was welcoming refugees—hooray! I scrolled down to the comments to like, love, rejoice over this article. I couldn’t even find the bottom of the page: hundreds of comments full of hate, fear, assumption, and bitterness. I read for what felt like hours. It made me sick. Determined to not be another screaming voice in the comments section, determined to say nothing, and to do something, I got in touch with my church and was delighted to find out that we are working with World Church Services to settle in a refugee family. I joined the team and we waited to be matched with a family.

It turns out that there really was only one or two Syrian refugees in this “wave” coming to Lancaster. But that article caused a wave of controversy, in turn, forcing people to choose a side: Fear or Compassion. You see, Compassion can’t operate within Fear. Fear paralyzes us and creates hatred, we become concerned with protecting our perfect lives, and nothing else. Compassion casts our fear and puts the other man before oneself. Compassion draws near the kingdom of God.

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I’m convinced that our society has made us numb to the compassion that we could give. We watch the news, and we protect our hearts by seeing, nodding our heads, and agreeing: yes, that’s terrible. We watch movies filled with war and violence, we watch people be tortured and ruthlessly murdered without batting an eye—well, it’s not real we tell ourselves. We even bring the violence into our own homes on a weekly basis, caught up in a story line that, I believe, appeals to the darkest parts of our hearts. While we somehow count these things as entertainment, we loose our capacity for compassion season finale by season finale. The news just feels like another show and we forget that this is our world. Those people are just like me. That person could be me.

Do for the One What You Can’t Do for the Many

“Do for the one what you cannot do for the many.” I don’t know who said this, but it’s a quote that pops up in my home frequently. Probably because we all want to change the world, tackle the big problems, and make everything alright. Or, because the mass issues of our days overwhelm and shut us down.

Sure, I can’t directly help the Syrians right now. But there are millions of people that are in the same situation at this very moment. They’ve been waiting for a glimmer of hope for decades, and now here’s their chance, they finally made it to the United States. They have nothing. They know no one.


Church World Services is one of many agencies that places refugees and gets them settled and started in their new life. Volunteer teams are always needed and always welcomed. Volunteers become more than just a donation of money, clothing, food or furniture, they become friends of the family. Volunteers help these families learn to use public transportation, how to apply for jobs, work on their english, understand western culture, and become the friends and family that they don’t have. Volunteers make lasting and meaningful relationships. I would absolutely encourage you to join a volunteer team and help welcome a family to the United States. If you can’t volunteer, donate. Donate clothes, furniture, food, money…if you can’t donate, then spread the word.


Isn’t it funny that God chose to send himself as one little person to save the world? Here I am, convinced that I can’t do anything because I’m not God. Jesus became like me to change the world forever. In short, God causes a spark in each of our hearts; it’s our choice to fan the flames or to smother them. I want to encourage you today to fan the flames of love and compassion for displaced people—this is the kingdom of God–there’s no room for hate and fear.

For more information about Church World Services and how you can get involved, make sure to check out the Church World Services website!

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