By Katie Ellington, News Editor
In his chapel message Wednesday morning, Pastor Ghassan Thomas caught the attention of students and staff alike with true stories of persecution, terrorism, conviction and God’s grace.
“I was crying and I saw a lot of other people crying,” said sophomore Nilem Vasquez.
Thomas, an Iraqi-born missionary, became a Christian in 1991. After planting multiple churches and surviving constant threats and persecution, Thomas and his family eventually left their home and spent two years as refugees in Turkey, where they began sharing the gospel with other refugees.
While stories like Thomas’ tended to shock listeners, he told them in a very straightforward manner. For Thomas, being in danger and discomfort because of his faith is not unusual. It’s everyday life.
“They let me go because they thought I was crazy,” said Thomas, telling chapel-goers about the time two men had held a gun to his head. “Praise God!”
“He was genuine,” said junior Leslie Meade. “It was his actual content that moved people…he didn’t have to shout or exaggerate.”
In a Q-and-A session Wednesday afternoon, Thomas addressed these issues and how Christians can reach out to Muslim refugees, whether in the United States or overseas.
“Just love in a practical way,” he said. Thomas emphasized that refugees need resources, but they also need people who will talk with them, be friendly and help them adjust to a new place. For refugees who are in the United States for the first time, learning English and getting used to a vastly different culture are two of the most crucial needs.
Todd Martin, who serves as a missionary to international students at UK, also said that the best way to show the love of Christ to a person from a different culture is simply being a good friend.
“Jesus says ‘go and make disciples,” Martin said. “It’s going to take many conversions. Those things are impossible without a relationship that develops over time.”
Martin says that this often involves pushing aside cultural stereotypes and fears as well as making time in our schedules.
“Sometimes you have to be inconvenienced for the sake of the gospel,” he said. “You have a master who gave you a mission. Build your life around the mission. Don’t try to fit the mission into one piece of your life.”
Students who are interested in ministering to refugees in the United States can do so through organizations like Kentucky Refugee Ministries or Friendship International Lexington. For more information, contact Jeannie Banter or Kaylyn Moran.