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Restoration and the Local Church

I distinctly remember my first experiences in camps for displaced persons. It was late 2007, conflict was raging in the eastern regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo and hundreds of thousands of people had fled their homes in search of safety. Along with colleagues from World Relief, we visited makeshift camps that had sprung up in the weeks prior with several thousand residents.

I was heartbroken at the suffering and angry at the idea that these individuals had fled something far worse when they left their homes in search of safety. I’ll never forget the interactions with people in desperate need of food, adequate housing and medical care for their children.

Moments like these motivate me to work for change. If you are reading this, I suspect you, too, experienced something that has motivated you to put the needs of the marginalized and vulnerable above your own.In the years since, my experiences have taught me that change that truly lasts is rooted in the restorative power of Christ, and local churches are central to his plan to heal brokenness and bring restoration to the world.


At World Relief, we are committed to boldly engaging the world’s greatest crises in partnership with the church. One crisis the world is facing now is the global displacement and refugee crisis.

Today, there are 110 million people forcibly displaced from their homes because of persecution, conflict or violence. That is the largest number in recorded history. Of these, 36.4 million individuals are refugees — meaning they have crossed an international border, leaving their home country in search of protection and safety.

In recent years, we have celebrated many advancements in global development. The percentage of the world’s population living in poverty has been cut in half, and globally, health indicators for children are rapidly improving. Yet, the number of displaced persons is now three times as high as it was fifteen years ago when I visited that camp in DR Congo.

If you watch the news, you should not be surprised. Wars in Syria, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Yemen, Sudan and Israel and Gaza have displaced millions of people. Many years ago, a colleague in DR Congo taught me a proverb his community used to describe the effects of war on his people. “When elephants fight, the grass gets trampled,” he said. All around the world, today, we see innocent children, women and men killed, pushed from their homes and traumatized by conflict.

Yet, in the midst of this suffering, we have reason for hope. Jesus taught his disciples, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Only through Christ is true restoration possible. Through him, there is power to restore relationships with God, reconcile warring nations and to help us heal our inner selves from the effects of trauma. And he chooses to make this hope known through his church.


At World Relief, our most trusted and missional partners are local churches, because we believe they are central to God’s plan to restore the world. Churches are also strategic partners who offer long-term holistic services to people experiencing vulnerability.

No development organization, government agency or other organization is better positioned to support the holistic development of people at all stages of the family life cycle — meeting physical, social and spiritual needs. Unlike NGOs, local churches have no exit plan — they are in communities for the long haul, and have the potential to lead sustained, long-term change.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “God’s purpose in all of this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 3:10). This passage always inspires me! Not only does the work of the church reveal God’s wisdom here on earth, it reveals his wisdom in heavenly realms.

In the midst of the global displacement crises, we see the church acting as Christ around the world.

In South Sudan, in the Bentiu internally displaced persons camp, which is home to over 120,000 people, we have seen an entire network of churches band together and share resources in order to help the most vulnerable residents of the camp with food, supplies and other essentials. They reveal that in the midst of displacement, God sees those in need.

Throughout the United States, we see “Good Neighbor Teams,” groups of five to ten church volunteers, help welcome refugee families to this country and walk with them as they adjust to life in a new country and build community. They reveal that once again it is possible to live in a safe place with loving neighbors.

And several years after I visited those camps in DR Congo, I visited the very communities many of them fled from and were returning to once again. Church leaders in those communities had worked to break down tribal and denominational divisions and were united in purpose to help promote peace in the community. In so doing, they were revealing that Christ is truly the Prince of Peace.

We are living through a critical moment in history. In the midst of an unprecedented displacement crisis, the church’s unwavering presence can bring hope and create the foundation for renewal. Thank you for being part of this transformational movement, where interim solutions are set aside for deep, lasting change built on the transforming power of restoration.

At World Relief, we envision thriving, welcoming communities where families flourish, and people experience restorative relationships with God, their neighbors, themselves and all of creation.

Will you give a gift today so, together, we can continue the life-changing work that is possible through the local church in responding to the world’s greatest crises?

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