World Relief: Welcoming Refugees in Jesus’ Name

“Resettlement is not just about a place to live, but a place to belong.”

For more than 60 years, World Relief has been sharing the love of Christ with refugees: families fleeing from war-torn Europe during World War II; Vietnamese refugees in the 1970s; the Lost Boys of Sudan in the 1990s; victims of unrest in Africa and the Middle East today.

This week, we take a close look at the refugee ministries of World Relief, a well-respected agency founded by the National Association of Evangelicals.

The United States has a long history of resettling refugees from around the world. The United States in fact has received 3 million refugees since 1975 who have been resettled to all parts of the United States. The United States has a strong tradition of welcoming the persecuted, from its founding when people were fleeing religious persecution in Europe to now where we’ve resettled refugees from over 40 nations in partnership with local communities.

The State Department partners with nine resettlement agencies to resettle refugees. One of the agencies, World Relief, was started in 1945 as the War Relief Commission when evangelicals wanted to help refugees fleeing war-torn Europe.

In 1975, World Relief was known throughout the world for its international relief and development efforts: Its U.S. mission had yet to be realized. For 20 years, Grady and Evelyn Mangham had served in Vietnam with World Relief and the Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA) denomination as missionaries during the war. They returned to the United States when Vietnamese families began seeking refuge in North America. Grady approached the State Department to see if the C&MA could assist with resettlement. When the answer was “no,” Grady went back to work with the overseas ministry arm of the C&MA.

By the fall of 1978, when the world was witnessing the mass exit of Vietnamese people, Grady considered again the possibility of assisting with resettlement. This time, the State Department called him and asked if the C&MA could assist with the arrivals since the denomination had been a major church agency working in Vietnam. It became clear that the arrivals would require more than what one group could offer: They would need the coordinated efforts of several churches and denominations. In 1979, Grady contacted the National Association of Evangelicals, which directed him back to World Relief. With the Manghams’ one loan from the C&MA, World Relief’s commitment to refugee resettlement was born, with offices opening in Atlanta, Garden Grove and Seattle that same year.

Grady returned to the State Department, eager to develop a strategy for World Relief. Instead, they sent him to learn from a Lutheran agency already doing resettlement ministry. The agency welcomed World Relief to the line of work and walked Grady through every step of the resettlement process, from understanding biographies to processing forms and recruiting sponsors. He took the information to World Relief’s small resettlement office and set up a similar system based on his observations.

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Ed Stetzer
Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books.

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