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Serving God in a Migrant Crisis - Ministry to People on the Move Patrick Johnstone and Dean Merrell (Book Review)

Serving God in a Migrant Crisis - Ministry to People on the Move Patrick Johnstone and Dean Merrell (Book Review)

This is a closely worded and well-written book. It suggests that we take its subject very seriously. It looks carefully at ‘those people’, refugees and migrants, who are currently arriving all across Europe. Recently, this issue has gone away from our papers, probably due to Brexit. However, refugees continue to pour across the Mediterranean and Turkey, and into European countries. This issue has not gone away, and most Brits have some strong views as to what should happen next! 

Patrick Johnstone’s question is for the Church. What are we to do with so many people, often Christians, coming into Europe to find a new life for themselves? This is a huge concern, and one that will continue to haunt us for some years to come. Patrick looks at all of this, and brings some very good material to help all Christians think through their own view of this particular situation. 

This crisis will not go away. Christians should be open to manage it for the purposes of the Church, and for the Kingdom of God, and not through the prism of our own eyes. 

The Authors

Patrick Johnstone is a very good author, and has written the ‘Operation World’ books on world prayer. These books have sold over 2.5 million copies. An extraordinary number! Patrick lives in England where he continues his service with WEC International. 

This book has been written with Dean Merrell, who lives in the States, and who has written over 40 books. 

The Book

The book has 12 chapters and is spread over 126 pages. It’s not a difficult book to read, but it does lead me to wonder whether everything I have heard on the TV news is biased in some way. Even what you hear in churches can sometimes be a problem. Church leaders often do not experience an ‘open view’ when it comes to dealing with refugees and migrants. It’s a very serious matter, and it cannot be underestimated. 

Patrick knows this all too well, and has worked very hard to explain his perspective working from the Scriptures. It’s a difficult subject overall, but one thing strikes me above all else: ‘God loves the refugee’! Several times in the Bible, this position is pointed out. It’s also true that Jesus himself was a refugee in Egypt. Maybe we Western Christians are too caught up in the culture of the first world? 

I particularly like the way that Patrick recognises that many Christians would not particularly want to see refugees and migrants living in their own immediate vicinity. He understands this really well, and then explains from the Bible just how best to work around this problem. He maintains that all Christians must ensure that ‘refugees and migrants’ are looked after well, and hopefully able to integrate into our communities. 

The title was first published by GMI in the USA. There is a publisher’s foreword and then a foreword by Stephan Bauman, President of World Relief. In the preface, Patrick Johnstone states that, ‘we are living through a serious migration crisis …. It’s here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future’.

On page 10, there is a good summary of ‘What is an Immigrant’ and ‘What is a Refugee’. This book informs us that ‘an immigrant is someone who has relocated (for whatever reason) to a new country’ and a refugee is ‘someone who has left their own country to escape war, natural disease or the fear of persecution, and has been registered as such in a receiving country’

There are a staggering number of refugees in the world. ‘Almost 16 million people on the move’. That’s 42,000 people uprooted every day - or one person every two seconds. Remarkably, half of all migrants are children. 

Patrick is able to spell out in three pages the ‘World’s Failed States’: Yemen, Libya, Eritrea, Central African Republic, Guinea-Bissau, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo (Brazzaville). Then also - Syria, Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Mali, South Africa and Saudi Arabia. 

There are three sections to the book: ‘What’s going on’, ‘What to know’ and ‘What to do’. Part three of the book looks at four action levels – (1) Individuals, (2) Local churches, (3) Christian agencies and (4) The Global Body of Christ. 

In the conclusion, Patrick Johnstone says, ‘I firmly believe that for Christians today, the current migrants surge is not a problem, but a potentiality’. He later states that ‘we are all strangers and pilgrims here on earth’

As Christians, we need to consider carefully how we respond to this crisis, and the individuals involved. Does our attitude reflect how we would want God to respond and relate to each one of us in the Church in Europe?

This is a serious piece of writing in this one short ‘Kingdom’ book. It is a book that could change your life! 

Eddie Olliffe

Bookseller and Distributor for the past 35 years. Now Consulting Editor of Together Magazine. I blog on Christian Spirituality, UK Publishing and Bookselling matters.

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Products mentioned in or related to this blog post
Serving God in a Migrant Crisis (Paperback)
Johnstone, Patrick; Merrill, D
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