MANY PEOPLE IN OUR WORLD are refugees. That means that it became so dangerous to live in their home—because of war, famine, disease, political situations, or poverty—that they made the difficult decision to leave and move to a safer place. Many people in the Bible were also refugees, including Jesus. God told His people to take care of refugees and the people who were strangers or newcomers to their country. Let’s learn more about refugees in Bible times, and in our world today, so that we can pray for them and show them God’s love.
Pray for Refugees in the News
Search this week’s news for stories about refugees. Read the stories with your family. Stick a news story about refugees onto a large sheet of paper. All around their story, write sentence prayers for their needs.
Jesus Was a Refugee
When Jesus was a baby, His family became refugees. Mary, Joseph, and Jesus had to escape to Egypt very quickly because Jesus’ life was in danger. Read the story in Matthew 2:13-23.
• Imagine that you are Joseph and Mary and you have a small baby. You have only a few minutes to pack what you need for your journey to make your home in a foreign country. What would you choose to take with you?
• Set a timer for 10 minutes. Run around your house and look for some things that Mary, Joseph, and Jesus might have needed. Bring them back to your family. Look at what you have all chosen. Can you carry everything? Is anything missing? What else might you need? What could you leave behind? What are some things that you can’t take with you but would be very difficult for you to leave behind?
• Use this activity to help you think more about the refugees in your area and what they might need.
In God's Hands
God cares about all His children everywhere. He is especially concerned about those in danger and those who are sad, struggling, alone, or frightened.
• Draw around your hand and imagine it is the hand of God.
• Draw some refugees in the palm of the hand. As you place them in God’s hands, know that He is caring for them.
• Pray that they will feel how close God is to them and how much He loves them.
Imagine Life as a Refugee
What do you think it would be like to move to a foreign country for a few years for your own safety? Imagine you are Mary and Joseph arriving in Egypt. Your clothes are different. You don’t speak the language. You don’t have many possessions. You have a young child. You don’t understand the culture. You don't know whom to trust.
• How would you learn all the things you need to learn?
• What would help you settle quickly and adapt?
• How would you learn the language?
• What would be the kindest things the local people could do for you?
• How would you let your neighbors know that you are trustworthy and kind?
• What have you learned about Jesus’ family, and about refugees, by thinking about His story?
Many great artists painted pictures of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus escaping from Bethlehem to Egypt. Search online for some famous paintings of “the flight into Egypt.” Look at some of these pictures. How realistic do you think they are? What is the family taking with them? What can you learn from each picture?
• Draw your own picture of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus traveling to Egypt. Or write a journal entry from Mary or Joseph that they might have made during the journey.
• Search for some photos on the internet of refugees traveling today. How are these different from the old paintings? Look at one of the photos of refugees and imagine the stories the people could tell you. Write their story or write a poem that describes their feelings and their hopes.
Pray for Softened Hearts
• Take a piece of Play-Doh, salt dough, or clay. Form it into the shape of a heart and feel how soft it is. God wants us to have soft and kind hearts—hearts of flesh, not cruel hearts that are hard like stone (Ezekiel 36:26).
• Think about some of the people the refugees will meet on their journey. Some will be kind and welcoming. Some might treat them badly. Some are officials with specific responsibilities to carry out. Some will be uncertain, and they won’t know what to do or say to help the refugees.
• Hold your soft heart. Pray for the different people who will meet the refugees on their journey. Pray that these people will have soft hearts and be especially kind and welcoming.
• Now take your soft heart and press objects into it to make a pattern or design that reminds you of the experience of refugees in some way. Let it dry out, paint it or decorate it, and use it to remind you to pray for refugees around the world.
Different Refugees, Different Needs
Think about the different groups of people who travel as refugees. What are their challenges and needs as they move around in all kinds of weather, often with very little shelter or few supplies?
- Young children
- School-age children
- Young adults
- Older people
- People who are ill or disabled
Choose one of these groups. List their needs, and think about how they might be feeling as they make their way to a safer place. Then pray for them. Or find a picture of a specific refugee and write a prayer for their needs.
Many people in the Bible were refugees in different ways: Noah’s family; Jacob running away from his angry brother; Joseph when he was sold into slavery; Joseph’s family when they moved to Egypt; the Israelites when they fled Egypt; Naomi and her family when they moved to Moab because of the famine in Bethlehem; Ruth, who left Moab to move back to Bethlehem with Naomi; and Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. Which other Bible characters can you think of who had to travel to a different country or run away because they were in danger?
Choose one of these stories. Read it with your family or friends, act it out, or create a scene from the story with things you have in your home. Thn choose some of the following questions to discuss:
- What were some of the possible dangers in the place they left?
- What were some of the dangers they might have faced on their journey?
- What were some of the dangers they might have faced in the place to which they traveled?
- Were there any people who were kind to them and helped them settle in their new country?
- If you were a refugee in this Bible story, what would you like someone to do for you?
Make an object with your craft materials, or things you can find, to show the struggles faced by refugees as they meet the dangers of where they are living, the dangers of a difficult journey, and the potential dangers in the place where they are going. Show someone what you made and encourage them to care about refugees too.
All Kinds of Feelings
Jacob had to run away from home because he lied to his father and tricked his brother. Esau was so angry that he wanted to kill Jacob. So his mother sent Jacob on the long and lonely journey to her brother. Read the story in Genesis 27 and 28.
- Imagine how Jacob felt when he knew his brother wanted to kill him. Draw or create something to express his fear.
- Imagine how he felt as he said goodbye to his family, not knowing if or when he would see them again. Draw or create something to express his sadness and uncertainty. Imagine how he felt when he woke from his amazing dream! Draw or create something to express his hopefulness and joy.
- Read a story of a refugee. Think about their emotions:
- when they were living in danger;
- when they had to leave everything behind, even the people they love;
- when they experienced the kindness of God and others on their long, risky, and challenging journey to safety.
God Cares for Our Feelings
Imagine that you are a refugee running away from a dangerous place and making a long journey to safety. What are some of the feelings you might be experiencing? Hope, fear, sadness, frustration, confusion, stress, exhaustion, peace, worry, etc.?
• Write each feeling on a different card.
• What Bible verses help you when you have that feeling?Write the verses on the cards too. Place the cards facedown on a table. Turn one over and pray for all the refugees who are experiencing that emotion right now.
• How might God, and those who care for the refugees, help them with their difficult feelings?
Helping Refugees Near You
Plan something practical you can do as a family, or with your local church, to care for the refugees in your area. What would you like someone to do for you if you were a refugee?
• Maybe there are children who would love to have some of your nice old toys or some good clothes you have outgrown.
• Maybe there is a young person in your school who is a refugee and needs a good friend.
• Find out if there is an organization caring for refugees near you and ask what they need most.