It was just a few years ago. News started to pour in that refugees were fleeing war torn and oppressive nations in North Africa and the Middle East in unprecedented numbers.
After my initial shock and incredible sadness for these people escaping for their lives, my next thought was, “Aslan is on the move.”
If you’ve read the famous tale, “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” you know that Aslan is the great lion king who conquers the evil witch and saves his people in the land of Narnia. In the beginning of this story, Narnians start to see changes around them that are bigger than they are, more powerful than they could muster. They perceive that Aslan, their King, is working, and although they are still frightened, they have a sense of wonder and excitement about what is coming.
At least during my lifetime, missionaries have been trying to gain access to many of the countries where refugees are fleeing to share the hope of salvation in Christ. Churches have prayed for these nations to be filled with the glory of God. Donations have been given to mission agencies for more missionaries to these places.
But most of the countries refugees are now fleeing have been completely closed to the gospel or at least extremely difficult to reach for as long as I can remember. Many of them have few if any Christians living there at all. Missionaries can’t even get in to some of them. Christians from those countries are heavily persecuted for their faith and risk their lives to share it.
When I looked on the map and saw where these swaths of people were coming from, it wasn’t hard to perceive that God was moving in the midst of suffering. God was bringing the lost and hurting, some who have never heard about Jesus, right to the doorsteps of those of us who have known Jesus almost our whole lives. Aslan was on the move, and although I was sad that the people had to leave their homes and livelihoods, I was beyond hopeful for how Christians in America and Europe could be salt, light, hope and comfort to these people.
When Jesus left this earth to return to heaven, he gave his followers a charge to go into all the world and make disciples. This is one of the most important charges we have from our King — go everywhere and tell every people, nation, tribe and tongue that Jesus died for them and they can live eternally with him.
Psalm 67 echoes this theme. The opening verses read this way:
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.
This psalm in particular was a great encouragement to me as I moved my life from Alabama to Southeast Asia to be a missionary. When I first started memorizing it, I would pray for God to bless me, to help me and to keep me safe as I took his message of salvation to people who had never heard.
As I kept going over the psalm in my mind, my prayers slowly began to change. I had been emphasizing the first verse — about us being blessed by God. But the rest of the psalm is not about being blessed but about God being praised by all nations.
I began to pray, “Lord please use me so your way may be known on earth, your saving power among this nation you’ve sent me to.” The Lord had used his word to reorder my thoughts. Instead of focusing on my safety, my effectiveness, my blessing, God wanted me to focus on His message, His glory, His directive.
As followers of Christ that is what our lives must be about — God’s glory among all nations. We must long to see every tribe, nation, people and language worshipping before the throne of our King. This is missions. This is why I went to Southeast Asia and why I want to welcome the refugee, the foreigner and the outsider with open arms.
The Executive Order
I cannot pretend to know all there is to know about national security, nor do I understand all the complications that it brings. However, I have been disheartened by the recent Executive Order halting some refugees and immigrants for at least a period of time. My heart is grieved because people from some of the hardest to reach nations are no longer able to come and be neighbors with those of us who can share true hope with them.
The most encouraging thing to me about the Great Commission is that Jesus will be with us always, even to the end of the age. We do not have to attempt to reach all nations by our own power. Jesus, our King, is with us every step of the way.
We have prayed and worked for so long to get the gospel to the lost people of the world. We have hit wall after wall in the countries people are now fleeing. When Jesus said he would be with us, I doubt he meant that he would go with us only if we were moving overseas to take the gospel to people. He probably also meant that he would be with us as we take the gospel to the nations who are seeking refuge in our neighborhoods and towns.
I think that Aslan is on the move in this refugee crisis. Although I can’t change the laws in place right now, I am praying for the day when we can once again welcome those who have been banned and when many of them will sing praises to our King. While I wait, as a servant of my King, I am going to seek out opportunities to minister to the refugees, immigrants and foreigners who are already here and be ready with open arms and a message of hope when more arrive.