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Are you the reason your students aren’t engaging the crisis?

I was quite the hypocrite in college. In my four years at Baylor University, I could have counted on one hand the number of times I read the newspaper about events happening in my city, our nation, or the nations of the earth.

I was an International Studies major that had absolutely no idea what was happening outside of my social bubble and class schedule. Despite my disconnect with the newspaper headlines, I have been drawn to the greater story God is writing with every tribe, tongue, nation, and people since late high school.

I was bitten by the “nations bug” the summer after high school graduation when I went on my first international mission trip to Niger, Africa. Coming to Baylor as a freshman, I was blessed to connect with a church that had a passion for Jesus.

Within the college ministry, I was motivated and mobilized to travel to various nations every summer. I shared Jesus with people in Haiti, Uganda, India, South Africa, Mexico, and Indonesia. With every new continent, country, and culture, I fell more in love with God’s heart for the nations and his desire to draw men and women of all tribes and tongues to himself. Of all the trips, each pale in comparison to the 11-day adventure in Eastern Europe along the migrant trail of the refugees pouring out of Syria.

Along the eight-country route, from the coast of Turkey to the northern borders of Germany, the situation is beyond description. The only comparison I can think of is the biblical exodus of the Israelites from Egypt.

An estimated 710,000 refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Ethiopia, Eritrea and others have fled their homes because of civil war, violence, and extreme poverty. They’re crossing into Europe in hopes of reaching their “promised land” of Germany, Sweden or other European nations.

Needs along the route abound as winter sets in and there are not enough volunteers or aid to provide for the physical well-being of these desperate, weary, and hurting families. Bottlenecks have formed at various border-crossings, processing centers, and refugee camps that do not have the capacity or capabilities to provide transportation, accommodations, or care.

The Middle East has been considered closed and largely unreached with the Gospel, but as massive populations empty into an easily accessible continent the Church should get excited to introduce Jesus in the midst of this crisis. Young, zealous, faith-filled, and free of the many responsibilities that tie down families, college students are the perfect candidates to engage this crisis. It only takes one encounter with the Spirit of God to push our students towards this goal, but they need to be equipped and mobilized by the local church to engage the crisis now. They need help getting their boots on the ground, holding a blanket in their hand, and offering new life to all who are seeking.

Students are ready—but will the leaders lead?

We realized that most of our students are much like me in college—unaware and un-engaged in what is really happening on the other side of the globe. We needed to inform them with a kingdom perspective, not just what they find on the news channels. They needed to hear that they can join Jesus in writing history today across the continent of Europe.

We knew that if they understood more of the situation that they would jump at the chance to be a part.  So at our college service, I spoke about our 11-day assessment trip in an effort to inform and invite our students to engage the Syrian refugee crisis. I read from Matthew 9:36-38 where Jesus saw the crowds and had compassion on them, for they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. He told his disciples to pray for more laborers to be sent out into the harvest. Through different stories and photos, I shared this same message: crowds who are harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd along the migrant route of Eastern Europe, and a great God who invites us to both pray for and to be the laborers He sends.

By the end of the message, the students were wrecked. Some were crying while others were on their knees with hands lifted, believing God will intervene in the Middle East and Eastern Europe. Several ran to me as soon as I walked off the stage to tell me that they had to go help…as soon as possible!

These students are ready to go now—but they need you to lead them.

I’m challenging every college leader in America to get your people praying for this crisis and to consider abandoning whatever mission trip plans you have in the next 12 months. If you don’t have a mission trip planned, Eastern Europe can be your destination. History will judge us as to how we handled this crisis and this window is a small yet vital one. The time is now.

Let’s pave the way in intercession and find a time to go, no matter what it takes. The students are ready—but will the leaders lead?