Refugees Seek Their Own "Promised Land"

September 25 2015

I’ve heard it said that the job of a missionary is one of the most unpredictable jobs. The truth is I am blessed with the flexibility to be the hands and feet of Jesus whenever and wherever. Over the past three weeks, I’ve lived in a breaking news story. That’s an honor as well as a responsibility, especially when an international crisis is on your doorstep.

I am a photographer, but in the moment of a destitute refugee camp, a picture cannot fully express the reality of what is happening.

I took this photo September 8 on our initial visit to Röszke, Hungary. This boy looks incredibly desperate and hopeless. It appears that his eyes are prepared to gush tears. What you cannot see is the joy that he experienced moments before. We were dancing while his sister was watching and eating a banana, and his laughter was so contagious that I couldn’t help from laughing. You see, the photographers want to tell a story; they want to tell a story that sells, rather than a story that is real. It’s totally different when you actually enter into the story. I have made it my personal intent to share the stories that are real in the midst of this crisis.

Later that day, I walked up the train tracks and spoke with a man who shared a bit of his story, which began in Iraq and by the time we talked, he and his family had walked for 50 days. While this same story has been told many times along this route, my heart broke as he lifted his shirt to show me a catheter with which he had been walking this whole time. He had cancer, and they were hoping to arrive in Switzerland for a better life.

Saturday, things had changed for us, just as they had for the refugees. The borders closed in Hungary, and the camp we had worked in was now an empty field. The routes to freedom needed to change. We traveled to the border crossing between Croatia and Slovenia with the OMS van full of volunteers and resources. While the stories were different, the hearts were the same: we want freedom, safety, and HOPE.

Not only did we serve soup, fruit, and water, but we kicked a soccer ball, smiled when people asked for selfies, and listened to their stories and their expressions of gratitude to us for being there. I’ll be honest, sometimes I’m prone to judgment, but every time I asked questions or heard a real story from a refugee, my walls were broken down, and I saw that they are just normal people.

Families on a journey, communities in flux, and volunteers in motion. The transient nature of refugee life is not all that different from our spiritual walk. I can’t help but think of the journey of the Israelites, not having a “home,” only the hope for the Promised Land.

By Lauren Pupillo, OMS Hungary Missionary

Tags: refugees, europe, hungary, croatia, missionary flexibility,

2 Generations of Missionaries in Japan … 100 Years Apart

September 18 2015

I wanted to share our family’s connection with OMS Japan.

In 1912, my great grandmother's brother Edward C. Oney was a student at God's Bible College in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1913, Uncle Ed felt God calling him to be a missionary to Japan. In 1914, he joined the Oriental Missionary Society or OMS, (today known as One Mission Society) and in July of that year, he arrived in Tokyo.

Uncle Ed and his team walked from house to house in the cities and throughout the countryside, often as much as 20 miles in a day in what was called the Great Village Campaign. Rev. Oney shared that he had actually worn out new shoe soles in a single day, climbing the steep rocky paths to rural villages and houses.

In 1915, exactly 100 years ago, Rev. Oney returned to the United States to raise more money and recruit volunteers for the bands of workers, but most of the time between 1914 and 1917, he was in Japan engaged in the work of literature distribution.

In 1917, Rev. Oney returned home to enlist in the Medical Corps of the U.S. Army. Although offers of training for the chaplaincy and an officer's commission were made, he steadfastly refused, believing his greatest usefulness could be enjoyed as an enlisted man. One week after reaching England, they crossed the channel and landed in France, where they moved to the front in the midst of the Battle of the Argonne Forest. Rev. Oney was soon a Sergeant First Class with some 250 men under his command.

While Uncle Ed never returned to Japan and instead traveled throughout the United States as an evangelist, eventually retiring as the superintendent of the West Virginia District of the Church of the Nazarene, I'm sure he carried a burden for the people of Japan and prayed for them often.

Fast forward FOUR generations. Uncle Ed's niece, Grace, had a son named Arney, who had a daughter named Vicki, who had a daughter named Tori.

When Tori was a girl at summer camp, she heard missionaries to Japan speak about their mission work. She came home and told her family that she felt God calling her to be a missionary.

Some time later, missionaries to Japan spoke at our church in Pennsylvania. That day, God put a calling to Japan in her heart.

Tori graduated from high school and enrolled in Cedarville University with a major in International Studies and minors in Bible, Asian studies, and teaching English as a second language. She graduated from college in May 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts from the School of Biblical and Theological Studies.

ori then boarded a plane, heading for Tokyo for 10 weeks this past summer, teaching English and working with OMS missionaries in and around Tokyo, following in the footsteps of her great, great Uncle, Rev. Ed Oney, who 100 years ago walked on the same ground, taking the same Gospel message to the same people with the same mission board, OMS, that Uncle Ed served under!

By Vicki Pastrick, friend of OMS

Tags: historical oms, generational missions, japan, great village campaign,

Home for the Desperate (Refugees)

September 15 2015

We drove through cornfields and Hungarian countryside for barely a kilometer before we started seeing the clusters of people walking toward bus stops and train stations. They were recognizable by their dirty, disheveled appearances, their small packs and their weary faces. We passed them and continued on toward the place from which they had eagerly departed. The poorly paved road suddenly was congested with buses and cars, news media vans, and police vehicles. And then we were there … the make-shift campsite where thousands of refugees were waiting to be processed by Hungarian officials and granted asylum.

I stepped out of my vehicle and stood a moment just taking it all in. Everywhere my eyes looked, there were tents, and trash, and people. All sorts of people: men, women-old and young, children, and infants-able-bodied and disabled. Everywhere I looked, there were people. I tried hard to get a sense of my surroundings and wondered where the best place to start was when I was startled by a man’s voice. So deep in thought, I did not see the middle-aged man that had walked up beside me. He spoke broken English, but the urgency in his voice was unmistakable.

“Shoes?” I quickly turned to face him, drawn back from my overwhelming thoughts to the reality in front of me. “I’m sorry?” I mumbled. He saw the confusion in my face and attempted again, “Do you have any shoes for me? I need shoes.” I quickly glanced down at his feet. Soiled feet in torn and flimsy sandals stood before my clean and nicely tied tennis shoes. “I’m sorry...” I managed to reply, “I don’t have any shoes today.” The man nodded and said, “Thank you,” and quickly disappeared back into the crowd of people.

The rest of the team had already begun cleaning and picking up trash as I reached for the box of M&M’s I had brought to pass out to some of the children. They were happy and full of smiles as I started to hand out the small bags of candy. In spite of their pleased faces, I couldn’t stop thinking about the man’s desperate plea for shoes. His was the first request I heard, but unfortunately it wasn’t the last. And a picture was quickly painted for me of the amount of desperation these people were feeling.

Yes, desperate for shoes, or clothes, or food, or blankets ... but also desperate to be able to stop running. Desperate for information or help or safety. Desperate for freedom and desperate for hope.

I realized as I returned home that night and gave our daughter a bath in a nice tub of warm, soapy water, and as I helped our boys finish their homework and pack their lunches for school the next day, that I don’t know the kind of desperate that these people do. I’ve never had to pack up my family because our street was blown apart by bombs or war. I’ve never left all my earthly possessions behind and lived out of a backpack for weeks with small children. I’ve never had to walk 18 hours a day, for more than 50 days straight, across foreign countries because I feared the border would be closed before my family reached freedom. But I am reassured by the One who knows this kind of desperate. Jesus helped desperate people. He healed. He fed. He gave hope. He calls us to show his love and his mercy to the least of these. He calls simply for us to offer what he himself would give. He calls us to be his hands and his feet and his mouth, showing his love to all people, bringing light to the darkness and hope for the desperate.

By Corinne Long, OMS Hungary missionary

Tags: refugees, europe, serbia, middle east, migration, migrants

The Least of These: Ministering to Refugees in Hungary

September 10 2015

I saw her through the open flap of the tent (this photo is of another young mother and her son). A young mom in her 20s, a floral shawl wrapped around her head, exposing only her face. She was dressing her infant son. Barely the size of an American football, the baby wiggled about with jello-like movements as the mother pushed his hands through small coat sleeves. She smiled at him, and I could see her lips moving as she stood alone talking to him.

It had come together so quickly. In less than 24 hours, a community of believers, both Western missionaries and Hungarians, had collaborated as one to put a compassionate outreach together to minister to the needs of the mostly Middle Eastern refugees flooding through the borders of Hungary. We set up a “baby-washing station” for the transients to bathe their infants with warm water, soup, and clean towels. We also provided a hot soup meal for about 450 arriving refugees who, no doubt, were tired and hungry.

Our team stepped out in faith and bought tents, blankets, and sleeping bags. After dropping off the supplies, OMS missionary Viktor Rozsa, a Hungarian volunteer from our church, and I drove to a small town to pick up 500 liters of hot soup. While they were unloading the soup at Budapest’s Keleti train station, I realized I hadn’t seen the ministry tent set up, and I wanted to see what it looked like. That’s when I saw the young mother through the flap.

When I saw her smile as she spoke with her child, it occurred to me what a strange set of events had brought us both here … to this place, at this time. A mother from Syria, doing what she had probably done many times before in her own country, washing her infant son, yet this time, in a plastic tub, heated by a coffee pot, in a tent, in a Budapest train station. Me, a missionary kid and current missionary from the U.S., called to serve in Hungary in leadership development, yet serving soup to hundreds of refugees.

While communication was limited, and tragic circumstances created this situation, I was reminded of Christ’s powerful words, “What we did for the least of these, we did for him.”

––Jonathan Long, OMS Hungary Field Director

If you'd like to make a donation to the Middle East Refugee Fund, #408140, click here.

Tags: hungary, tent city, refugees, middle east, soup kitchen, european crisis,

Unexpected Opportunities

September 1 2015

The tiny “meows” coming from a box next to a pile of garbage is what first caught Marla’s attention as she was walking home from school with the girls a few days ago … the cute, unmistakable cries of tiny kittens. What my girls saw next was a bit shocking: a short, sandy-hair colored stray dog, eating one of the kittens. Yes, the dog was literally eating a kitten. Not playing with it, not barking at it. While all my girls watched (in horror), the stray chomped away on a kitten, fur still in its teeth.

So, when one of the other kittens, so young that its eyes hadn’t even opened yet, walked toward Samara (who has always had an affection for all animals), meowing loudly … it put my wife in an awkward situation. She couldn’t say, “The mommy cat will come back” because they had obviously been abandoned. She couldn’t say “They’ll be alright by themselves,” because the dog was still chewing. And each kitten wasn’t big enough for one meal. So, what do you do? How do you get out of that one? As a parent who has been teaching about love and compassion, how could she just walk away?

So, that is how the box of kittens came to our house. That is how we’ve become the TEMPORARY guardians of five little kittens. And even now as I write, I can hear them downstairs.

Yep, though the girls are absolutely delighted, we certainly didn’t imagine this scene a week ago.

But that is kind of how things go in life and in ministry. Many times, the opportunities that God gives us to show others His love in a concrete way don’t fit comfortably into our schedules. Many times, these opportunities come at inconvenient times. They come at times when we’d rather be doing something else. And a lot of times, we’d rather walk away from such opportunities, hoping others will come along because we know that becoming involved will cost us time, energy, and getting our hands dirty. (And I’m not talking about kittens right now).

Showing God’s love to others means taking phone calls in the middle of the night. It means loading a moving truck on a perfectly sunny Saturday morning. It means taking a meal to someone else when you’re already exhausted. Because that’s when opportunities to show God’s love generally come: when you are not looking for them. What do we do in those situations? When the need of someone else catches our attention? When we know we probably ought to do some

hing, do we secretly hope that someone else will come along soon to do it, hoping they can meet that need? Someone who has more experienced hands and a bigger heart? More time or talent? Or do we let God use you?

And yes, I realize that such words are easy to write. They are even easy to preach from a pulpit. But they are harder to live. Harder, and yet, more rewarding, vastly more rewarding. May God give us ears to hear the quiet calls for help that surround us, and the strength to deny ourselves so that we can fully offer that which we have for His service, so that His light might shine.

For the only Cause that matters,

Micah Routon

Micah, along with his wife Marla and three daughter are OMS missionaries serving in Brazil. They are involved in evangelism, church planting, and the ministry of getting their hands dirty through love and service.

Tags: brazil, servant, compassion, kittens, serve,