Newsroom / refugees

CBF ministers to refugees and immigrants despite order barring travel to the U.S.


January 30, 2017

By Aaron Weaver

DECATUR, Ga. — With a swipe of the presidential pen last week, the United States turned its back on many attempting to escape war and strife. While the president’s executive order halted Syrian refugees as well as visitors and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship will continue its work among refugees and immigrants in the United States and around the world, spreading the hope of Christ to those who need it the most.

CBF Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter said Cooperative Baptists will see and hear those who the world has forsaken and forgotten.

“As Baptist Christians, the love of Christ compels us to stand in solidarity with our global neighbors — the oppressed, the unheard and those on the margins,” Paynter said. “As a Fellowship, our churches and field personnel stand with refugees and immigrants here in the United States and around the world, spreading hope and offering comfort in a world that all too often offers hate and fear over peace and welcome.”

Stephen Reeves, who leads CBF’s advocacy efforts, echoed Paynter call to stand in solidarity with refugees and immigrants.

“We must raise our voice as Christians and loudly proclaim that fear, hate and greed are not Gospel values and are not worthy of our democracy,” Reeves said. “These challenging times demand that we not only raise our voices to elected officials, but also move into close proximity to the immigrants and refugees among us. We must connect and strengthen relationships with organizations in our cities and towns doing this work and partner with and support CBF field personnel who have been serving these vulnerable communities around the world for many years.

“We must act compassionately and seek justice in tandem,” Reeves said.

He emphasized that CBF Advocacy is continuing and heightening its work on behalf of immigrants and refugees through engagement with partner organizations such as Bread for the World, Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, Evangelical Immigration Table and the Bible, Badges and Business coalition. CBF Advocacy is also working to support a bipartisan solution to extend legal protections and work permits to young undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.

“We are hopeful that the bipartisan BRIDGE Act, reintroduced in both the House of Representatives and Senate, may be a positive vehicle to extend the protections of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to good, law abiding students raised in the U.S.,” Reeves said.

CBF Advocacy is also working with partner organizations to provide resources and promote best practices for those churches wishing to consider providing sanctuary to those under threat of deportation, Reeves added.

Rubén Ortiz, who serves as co-leader of the CBF Latino Network and senior pastor of La Primera Iglesia Bautista Hispana de Deltona, Florida, has been representing the Fellowship as part of the Latino working group of Bread for the World, which has been advocating for the BRIDGE Act as a member of the diverse Faith Voices for Immigration coalition.

“Our prayers are with our leaders and pastors of immigrant families worrying that they could be targeted, detained or deported,” Ortiz said. “We are living in a time of commitment and action. The people of Jesus cannot be silent. As faith leaders, we are more united than ever and we decry derogatory language that has been used about refugees. We firmly believe that inflammatory rhetoric has no place in our response to this humanitarian crisis. We affirm that refugees are an asset to this country.”

Gospel call to ‘Welcoming the other’

 CBF Global Missions Coordinator Steven Porter said that within a few hours of the Jan. 27 presidential executive order, he received messages from CBF field personnel expressing their concerns for international friends who now face deportation back to countries they recently fled for their lives.

In the face of uncertainty and feelings of consternation, Christians must remember their scriptural calling to do the work of “welcoming the other,” Porter said.

“In Scripture, the Triune God calls the church to welcome others as Christ welcomed us through hospitality to strangers (Mt 25:31-46), love for enemies (Mt 5:43-48) and active peacemaking (Mt 18:15-20),” Porter said. “Such work is constitutive of the church’s witness and represents a cruciform calling that trumps partisan politics with ‘the politics of Jesus.’”

Field personnel request prayer for refugees, immigrants

 CBF field personnel Kim and Marc Wyatt urged prayer for refugees, their families and field personnel serving around the world.

“Please join us in prayer for refugees on the move globally as they face challenges above and beyond our everyday struggles and face oppression in light of fear,” the Wyatts said. “Pray also for CBF field personnel serving among refugees, sharing the love of Christ in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.”

In October 2015, the Raleigh, N.C.-based Wyatts opened a three-bedroom residence for new refugees called Welcome House in partnership with the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants and with the support of CBF of North Carolina. Since then, Welcome House has been a home to 146 refugees from war-torn countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Burundi, Congo and Ethiopia among others — including two of the first Syrian families to be resettled in the Research Triangle.

The Wyatts were scheduled to host a Syrian family of four at Welcome House this week, but will be unable to do so now.

“We were scheduled to host a Syrian family this coming week,” Marc Wyatt said. “The beds are made. The floors are swept. The bathrooms and kitchen are cleaned and stocked. But the family who was coming to start their lives on in a safe place they could call home have been told ‘you are not welcome’ here.”

The Wyatts said they have received countless calls, e-mails and texts since Friday’s executive order, unsure of what to do and afraid of what lies ahead.

“Refugees are afraid,” Marc said. “Volunteers and advocates are upset and want to know what to do.”

The Wyatts recounted a conversation they had with their friend, Abdul, a Somali refugee whose family was resettled in Raleigh just a year ago and who proudly flies a large American flag on his front porch. Abdul is now afraid of being deported and is scared for his children and how the executive order will affect people from his homeland, many of whom have waited for 10 years or more to leave refugee camps, the Wyatts said.

“We are asking our CBF family to pray and make an appropriate Christian response,” Marc said. “Pray for the leaders of our country to make humane and just decisions that affect the vulnerable. Pray for those who serve among refugee and immigrant organizations and agencies. Pray for the refugees already here and take appropriate action in response. Mobilize and volunteer with refugee and immigrant agencies and organizations and move our concern into a genuine embrace of our new neighbors. It is time for us to reflect the image of God that is within us.”

CBF field personnel Greg and Sue Smith requested prayers for immigrants throughout the country. The Smiths lead LUCHA Ministries, a nonprofit faith-based organization serving with and among Latinos in Fredericksburg, Va., which focuses on upholding the rights of immigrants and their families as well as addressing the spiritual and social needs of the immigrant community.

“Please pray for the immigrant community across our nation. Pray God’s grace will embrace immigrants and their families experiencing fear and anxiety sown by recent administration executive orders. Pray as well for all CBF field personnel who work with immigrants, refugees, Muslims and other vulnerable and fearful communities in our land, for wisdom and compassion to stand in solidarity with our international friends and neighbors.”

To support the work of the Wyatts and Smiths, along with CBF field personnel meeting other needs worldwide, donate to the Offering for Global Missions here.

Syrian Refugee Crisis

For the past five years, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship has been engaged in a multi-faceted and sustained response to the Syrian Refugee Crisis — regarded as “the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era” — and continues its efforts to serve Syrian refugees through field personnel and ministry partners in five countries.

In June 2016, CBF sent funding to Belgium-based field personnel Janée Angel to facilitate the safe passage of 90 Syrian Christians seeking asylum in Belgium through her partnership with Gave Veste, a local nongovernmental organization helping churches and Christian groups to welcome and meet the needs of refugees. Since 2013, CBF has contributed more than $110,000 toward Syrian refugee relief.


CBF is a Christian Network that helps people put their faith to practice through ministry eff­orts, global missions and a broad community of support.The Fellowship’s mission is to serve Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission.

16 thoughts on “CBF ministers to refugees and immigrants despite order barring travel to the U.S.

  1. I do not agree with your comments. You are not looking at the FACTS. Trump’s halt is temporary until we can have a better system to know who is coming into the US. He has not turned his back. He is having the Defense Dept. set up safe zones over there.
    Please read ” The Syrian Refugee Crisis and Its Impact on the Security of the US Refugee Admissions Program” and Center for Immigration Studies article
    “The High Cost of Resettling Middle Eastern Refugees.” Both of these non partisan reports agree that we can best serve their needs and keep Americans safe by looking after them over there. We can look after 12 Refugees over there for what is costs us to look after 1 in America. Look at the detail facts of how we vet refugees and you will see that the the list of names comes from the UN and the UN selects from those in the refugee camps. The UN has no Church records, no birth certificates, no neighbor’s to interview, no job or business records, no minister records. All of these are destroyed and the pass ports that they may have have been taken from public offices in Syria when the cities have been overrun with terrorists. We have NO records to document they are telling the truth!
    Very few Christians are in these refugee camps because the Muslims in the camps will kill them.
    Before you start putting a moral and guilt trip on your members, find out the facts and don’t just act on emotions or liberal news agencies. Look at the total videos of what Trump is saying and not just the cut and pieced together ones in the news. Look at information coming from non bias sources that are factual and not emotionally written.
    I am withdrawing all funds I give to CBF.

    • An immigration official on the news yesterday said over 90% of the refugees, even from Syria, have all their documentation papers. Many have family members in the USA already. Your comments about church records & minister records shows where your heart is–& isn’t.

  2. I have read the The Syrian Refugee Crisis and its Impact on the Security of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, November 2015. The following is the opening quote of the report: A wise man once said “The supreme function of statesmanship is to provide against preventable evils.”
    I totally, absolutely agree with Mary Margaret Quiggle.

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  4. I don’t know if I am more embarrassed or disappointed in some of the comments left here. Having worked with refugees in Greece several times in 2016 / 2017 I was pleasantly surprised at the kindness, welcoming and sharing nature of the Syrian, Kurdish, Afghan & Iraqi refugees I met.
    If we have questions, it is better to get ‘into it’ than expect someone else to supply relevant, clear data.. I rely less and less on government-supplied information and biased media reports as I grow older. If I want answers to questions I can usually find it in the Word and on the ground where the action is.
    There are too many mentions of aliens among us as well as care for widows and orphans in the Bible for us to ‘let someone else take care of the problem’. Best to try to discern what Jesus would do in this circumstance and act accordingly.

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  7. I am reminded of comments by my favorite poet, Robert Frost: “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall … Before I build a wallI would ask to know what I was waling in or walling out.”

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  9. I am a “recovering Southern Baptist” trying to survive in Johnston County, NC! I’m working with the leadership of the only storefront mosque in the county in purchasing a vacant Pentecostal church which will become the first Islamic Community Center of Johnston County. There is a large cross on the front of the church and the Muslim leadership, out of respect, does not wish to destroy this symbol of our faith. I have led them in planning a private ceremony involving Christian clergy from our county and leaders of the Muslim faith of our county which has grown dramatically over the past several years. Sadly, finding Christian clergy in this county has proven nearly impossible. They are either fearful of their racist, Islamophobic congregants or they, themselves, agree with them. While a member of a Baptist Church affiliated with the CBF here in Johnston County, I heard more anti-Muslim comments than I care to mention. Many in this “fellowship of believers” are Trump supporters. The pastor is a Duke Divinity graduate and I want to believe knows better but is silent. Many of these same Johnston County pastors dare quote Bonhoeffer in their sermons!

  10. The silence of many of my Christian friends and “Christian” churches has been deafening. I am very discouraged by how many people have given in to the fear of those who may different.

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