From Kosovo to Germany and Back: A Refugee Connection
Jeff Singfiel: (adapted from the Singfiel’s September 21, 2016 newsletter) Our Alliance regional director couple recently visited us in Kosovo for a couple of days. Shelly has invested a great deal of time in a refugee camp where many Kosovars are housed in Germany. One of the families in the camp was returned home to . . . wait for it . . . Gjilan [where our team is located]. During their visit, they and our team headed down to visit this family and their four young daughters. It was amazing to watch these young girls run and jump into Shelly’s arms. When they were in Germany the two older girls heard the gospel and attended church.
One of the first things one of the girls told Shelly with great sadness was, “Jesus isn’t in Kosovo.”
“Oh yes, he is! My friends know Him!” Shelly responded, referring to our team.
Pray that we can successfully connect this family to the Ringjallja church in Gjilan. We want these girls to be confident that Jesus is present in Kosovo.
Jen: Why you were compelled to be involved in this ministry in Germany?
Shelly: As Jerry and I traveled throughout our region during 2014 and 2015 we began hearing from our international workers that many people from the countries where they served were leaving and going to Germany. This was all prior to the big wave of refugees that arrived in Germany during the summer of 2015. The Lord stirred in my heart the desire to find refugees in Germany in hope that they would be from another area in our region. At that time, I knew that many were coming from Kosovo. The very first day I volunteered at a refugee camp near us, I met three families from Kosovo.
Jen: What was going through your mind when you discovered that some families in the refugee camp were from Gjilan?
Shelly: I was thrilled because I knew that I could get resources in their heart language to share Jesus with them. And I knew that if they were sent back to Kosovo, I would be able to connect them to our international workers and churches there! When I communicated with the refugees that I had been to Kosovo and had even been to Gjilan, where one family was from, they were encouraged.
Jen: How were you able to stay connected this family?
Shelly: We have kept in touch despite the distance because of an online app (smiles). We also have each other’s phone numbers. Shortly before Jerry and I left for our year in the United States, this family returned to Kosovo. We were able to sit with them in their room at the refugee center and pray for them. They let us pray for them, which is huge! And it was even during their religion’s holy month , although they were not practicing; this family is quite nominal in their faith.
Jen: Did you travel to Kosovo with the specific purpose to reconnect with them?
Shelly: Our trip to Kosovo in September 2016 was part of our work. We regularly visit our teams and sites throughout the Europe and Middle East Region. Because I knew we were going to be there, I asked the family if we could meet. I really wanted to connect them to our workers there. I had given the father of the family some of our workers’ phone numbers, but he didn’t make the contact on his own. So this was the perfect opportunity to get everyone together in person. I was thankful that our international workers were willing to meet the family and help connect them with other believers in Gjilan.
Jen: Tell me more.
Shelly: In Germany, I had invested huge amounts of time in refugee families, and this family became very dear to me. I couldn’t wait to see them and get little girl hugs from them again! I really missed them. It felt so surreal, such a gift to be with them again. Many families at the camp came and went, and I lost connection with most of them. This just felt like such an answer to prayer that the dream planted in my heart—way back in 2014 and 2015—finally had become a reality. Because of the language barrier, the connection between the family and the church is now in the hands of our workers on the ground. The girls speak German, and that’s how I’m able to communicate so well with them. That’s how they have understood the gospel. The mother’s German is OK, but it’s a struggle to communicate with her. That’s why I’m thrilled she has Albanian speakers in her life.
Jen: Will you continue to keep in touch with them?
Shelly: Yes. In some ways I’ve released them to the international workers and church in Kosovo, but the relationship I have with them will continue.
On the day we all got together in Kosovo, I was wearing a bracelet that a friend had made for me that has a cross on it. The girls kept asking me about it and saying that they also wanted a “Jesus bracelet.” My friend just made three bracelets for the three older girls and is mailing them to me. I hope this will be another chance for them to connect—and another chance to open doors to talk about Jesus.
Jen: Perhaps you could comment about how God is moving people groups in this world for His purposes so that all peoples have the opportunity to learn of Him.
Shelly: This is a time like no other—the refugee crisis has opened doors like crazy! On our last trip to the region, we heard over and over again, phrases like: “We’ve never seen anything like this before! Muslims are questioning their faith, something that is forbidden in their religion.” “We are thankful for the war because of the people coming to Christ .”
The opportunities I have had to share with refugees have been amazing. [The refugee situation] also is causing the atheists of post-Christian Europe to wake up and question faith. It’s stirring the hearts of everyone in the Europe and Middle East Region. God is using what man intended for evil to bring about good and to build His Kingdom.
When we became regional leaders almost six years ago, we shared a presentation called “The Celebration of One.” We talked about how the Europe and Middle East Region was hard soil and that we rejoiced when we heard of one person coming to Christ. The faithfulness of our Alliance international workers and their placement where they are is now helping to usher in a spiritual harvest in most areas where we have Alliance work in Europe and the Middle East.