Assemblies of God World Missions, Convoy of Hope, and partnering missionaries and national churches across Europe are working together to address the largest influx of refugees the continent has experienced since World War II. In just the past eight months, some 350,000 people have crossed Europe's borders as they flee violence and poverty in North Africa and the Middle East.
"God has strategically prepared us to respond to this huge crisis," says Randy Hurst, AGWM communications director, who also serves on the board of directors of Convoy of Hope. "AGWM missionaries, national churches, and Convoy of Hope workers in Europe are already engaged in serving refugees -- and have been long before this latest influx."
Of the 350,000 refugees accounted for this year, more than 230,000 have arrived in Greece, and nearly 115,000 in Italy.
"The refugee situation in Greece is critical," says Gil Rodriguez, AGWM area director for Southern Europe. "The government has no funding to assist with the masses that have come recently. In Italy, the refugee camps are full on the island of Sicily. Living conditions are deplorable; basic hygiene, food and water supplies are desperately needed. With the approach of winter, blankets and warm clothing will become a great necessity."
Other AG missionaries and churches are assisting refugees who have crossed additional borders heading north and west.
Vienna Christian Center, an international AG congregation in Austria's capital, is committed to serving the thousands of foreign visitors now crowding a major camp in the town of Traiskirchen, just a 25-minute drive from the church.
"We have been shaken and moved with compassion," says AGWM missionary Melinda Henderson, who serves with husband Larry as VCC lead pastor. "We are asking God to give us the big picture of what we need to do here."
The Traiskirchen camp was built for 1,800 people and currently is overrun with 5,000 refugees. The big picture, whether at this camp or across Europe, is overwhelming.
"We are committed to equipping VCC as they continue to serve these thousands of people in need practically on their church doorstep," says AGWM Europe Regional Director Paul Trementozzi.
While some refugees are able to take advantage of Europe's trains, others remain on foot. AG missionaries and churches are working together to help alleviate this need.
Trementozzi says the national AG church in Macedonia is providing a wonderful ministry.
"When local drivers began charging refugees 50 euros a person to get them to the border, our believers began offering free transportation," Trementozzi says. "They are renting buses, filling them with refugees, and providing water and other essentials during a two-hour drive. And, all along, they get to share the gospel."
Working out of Bucharest, Romania, AG missionary Raegan Glugosh is coordinating the AGWM refugee emphasis.
"This is going to be a long-term need across Europe, because the resettlement process is so lengthy," Glugosh says.
As multitudes continue to press into Europe from multiple regions, AG personnel remain committed to seeing and meeting critical needs, one person at a time.
"It's when you speak with a refugee, one on one, that the magnitude of human need really becomes clear," says Convoy of Hope's Mike Clark.
For additional reporting and photography, and to give to relief efforts, visit agwm.com.