Update - Refugee Crisis in Europe and the Middle East

Update - Refugee Crisis in Europe and the Middle East

[Local church organizations supporting refugees in Hungary. - ACT Alliance]

We continue to pray and lift the thousands of refugees in Europe and the Middle East as the crisis worsen and continue to dominate the headlines. More than 267,000 mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters have now survived treacherous voyages to European shores in what the United Nations has described as the biggest refugee crisis since World War II.

For some of these thousands, their overland journeys take them into Greece, Serbia, and Hungary—countries straining to provide humanitarian support of this scale. As the world calls on European leaders to implement long-term strategies to welcome families from not only Syria, but Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iraq, and Somalia, we are called on to meet their immediate needs.

Aid and advocacy are now sorely needed, and both require great coordination of efforts. In a letter issued earlier this week to the global member churches, the World Council of Churches writes, "In this critical moment, ecumenical cooperation in the response is especially important, in order to enhance the collective impact of our various activities, to encourage others and to give a common witness of compassion, justice and peace. The nature of this crisis calls for both humanitarian support and advocacy with governments."

Just since last week, our partners at ACT Alliance continued to mobilize humanitarian response to the growing crisis, and Week of Compassion expanded existing efforts, channeling additional resources to member organizations in Greece, Serbia, and Hungary. Their needs are staggering. In Greece, as infrastructure is strained and registration waiting periods continue to increase, families sheltering on open beaches await a harsh cold season.

  • Exhausted and overextended aid workers in Serbia rush to collect warm clothes, medicine, food, and diapers to accommodate the heightening influx.
  • Workers in Hungary face a mounting need for hygienic supplies, psychosocial support services, and means of providing state-mandated access to education.
  • With the lack of a legal path into many countries, all are at imminent risk from smugglers and traffickers.

In the days to come, your Week of Compassion will continue to work with partners to provide food, water, warm clothing, and shelter to the thousands of displaced persons for whom the journey is only beginning. Thank you for your support and partnership, and for putting your Compassion into Action for the thousands of lives impacted by the crisis.


South Africa, Refugee Preparedness

Greece, Refugee Assistance
Hungary, Refugee Assistance (2)
Serbia, Refugee Assistance
Egypt, Refugee Assistance


Compassion in Action at Home and Around the World


Compassion In Action at Home and Around the World  

Just in the last couple of weeks, your Week of Compassion has been monitoring and responding to many ongoing disasters in North America and around the world.  The massive fires in the northwest continue to spread and grow in Washington, Oregon, and Northern California, endangering thousands of people and their communities. 

Week of Compassion has provided solidarity grants for emergency supplies for evacuees and continues to work with local congregations to prepare for evacuation and long-term support for those who have lost their homes.  Please continue to pray for the firefighters, evacuees, and impacted communities.

 Photo Courtesy of SALT

Photo Courtesy of SALT

In the midst of fires in the Northwest, there has been flooding in many regions of the Midwest.  Week of Compassion has provided solidarity grants and is working with communities in the affected areas.

Our compassion does not only extend to communities at home, but also to those around the world.  Week of Compassion has been assessing the damage caused by Typhoon Soudelor earlier this month, the most intense tropical typhoon to develop in the Northern Hemisphere thus far in 2015.  This typhoon tore through the Northern Mariana Islands, Taiwan, and eastern China.  Week of Compassion has provided an initial emergency grant through our partners at Global Ministries for immediate food aid and medicine. In addition, we continue to work closely with Global Ministries to monitor the Cotopaxi volcano eruption in Ecuador and to provide emergency support as needed.

Week of Compassion will continue to monitor and respond to many disasters at home and around the world on behalf of you, the church.  We are able to do this because of your continued partnership, generosity, and support.  Thank you for your prayers and for putting your Compassion into Action.


North America
California, Fire Assistance
Colorado, Flood Assistance
Oregon, Fire Assistance
Iowa, Flood Assistance
Texas, Fire Assistance
Kentucky, Storm Damage

East Asia & Pacific
Taiwan, Typhoon Assistance
China, Typhoon Assistance

Latin American Caribbean
Ecuador, Volcano Relief 

Southern Asia
Myanmar, Flood Assistance
Pakistan, Flood Assistance

India, Flood Assistance

Middle East & Europe
Hungary, Refugee Assistance

North America
Texas, Refugee Support
Missouri, Disaster Preparedness

Compassion in Action - Creating Hope after Ebola

 Photo Courtesy of SEED Program International 

Photo Courtesy of SEED Program International 

By Naima Abdullahi and Peter Marks, Seed Programs International - a Week of Compassion partner working to help bring food security, women's empowerment, and Ebola recovery to Liberia.

"I am a mother of 6 living children," begins Angie Singbeh, a recipient of vegetable seeds and training who lives in Montserrado County, Libera. "I gave birth to 8 children. The oldest child is 25 and I lost him to Ebola. I lost my 5th born to malnutrition when she was just a little over the age of 1 year. I lost my first husband in the civil war and later remarried my current husband who was a widow with 4 of his own children. My current husband is physically disabled also as a result of the civil war. Together we are raising 10 children. I am a farmer, and I am the main bread winner for the family."

"I have received vegetable seeds for my small farm from the church. The seeds have fed and clothed my family, I am forever grateful for the help. The church program for women has helped me get training and seeds, without this support my family is helpless. We can now help ourselves. I work in the field and my husband works at the market to sell our vegetables, the okra is very popular at the market, it is our best seller. I thank you all that are helping me and the others that are with me. Thank you and may God bless you."

Angie's story is just one of thousands who have been impacted by vegetable seeds and support delivered with the help of Week of Compassion. Over 60 percent of Liberia's agricultural producers are women; yet, men still tend to receive more and higher quality training, and women's training is often inadequate.

Through the partnership of Seed Programs International and Church Aid Liberia, a lot has changed at the village level -- the bottom-up approach has empowered the women. They are actively involved in aspects of program management such as conducting meetings, collectively selecting training topics and presenting groups needs to Church Aid Liberia staff. We provide a community based solution that gives women access to the knowledge, skills and self-confidence they need to seek out economic opportunity paths out of poverty to self-reliance.

A recent 6 week training included sessions on basic vegetable gardening, harvest and preservation methods, how to develop a business plan, practical marketing, business management, and co-operative business structures. During the training, exchange of experiences among participants is encouraged as an important step towards securing livelihoods and reducing poverty by working together. On completion, of the course the women are able to understand among many other things:
* How to improve their vegetable yield through environmentally friendly methods
* How to start a fresh vegetable sale business
* How profit is calculated in a business
* The factors which determine the right price for their produce

 Courtesy of SEED Program International

Courtesy of SEED Program International

As part of the training, the participants are encouraged to submit proposals for agribusiness projects that they intend to carry out in their communities.

A few hours bus-ride away, this vision of community-level agribusinesses that sustain and nourish the Liberian people is already underway. Week of Compassion and SPI is supporting three such agribusinesses. They are flourishing-each distributing top-quality SPI vegetable seeds to hundreds of farmers and kitchen gardens in Bong, Grand Bassa, and Lofa counties.

These "Ag Enterprise Service Centers" are run by young men and women, who work hard to provide not only vegetable seeds but also tools, fertilizers, and-most importantly-knowledge to small farmers around them. The seeds and supplies are sold at a fair price that even rural Liberians can afford, but which still sustains the enterprises. We greatly admire this type of effort because it is more than charity-it builds self-reliant, locally-sustained economic systems that help people of all ages, genders, and abilities have enough to eat, grow, and thrive.

Seed Programs International is a North Carolina-based 501c3 organization since 1999. Its mission is to provide good quality seeds, expertise, and training materials to humanitarian organizations working around the world to alleviate hunger and poverty. SPI addresses international hunger, poverty and malnutrition in a very specific way: by providing a conduit for good vegetable garden seed for international use in relief, crisis recovery, and the empowerment of women.


Indiana, Flood Assistance(3)
Missouri, Flood Assistance
Uganda, Refugee Assistance
California, Fire Damage (2)
Myanmar, Flood Assistance (2)
Texas, Refugee Assistance
Tanzania, Refugee Assistance

Recap on General Assembly

Thousands of Disciples gathered in Columbus, Ohio last week for General Assembly where many had the opportunity to engage with our implementing partners at the Week of Compassion’s booth. There was a great turn out for our after session, where we heard about clean water programs across the world made possible through our partnerships and from local church pastors about how their congregations were putting compassion into action. Thank you to everyone who stopped by our booth in the exhibit hall. We had a great time meeting and talking with many of you!

At our breakfast on Tuesday morning, Constantine “Dean” Triantafilou, CEO of the International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), shared with us the important work that we are doing with our partners in Syria and the surrounding area.  It is a reminder that the largest humanitarian crises right now needs the Church to respond and be in solidarity with the millions who are internally displaced and in refugee camps.  We are grateful for IOCC important work and continued partnership. Below is Dean’s talk at the breakfast on our current work in Syria and the Middle East.

Dean's talk at the Week of Compassion Breakfast:

Iconography! Greek for writing with images. One of the greatest ministries of the Orthodox Church throughout history is our iconography – the written gospel. When you see a Saint, you see the life of Christ in that Saint.

Good morning brothers and sisters in Christ! It is certainly an early morning to be up and paying morning.

Recently, my brother-in-law, Fr. Elias Villis, a Greek Orthodox priest completed a major iconography project at his Church. They produced a video on the experience and the impact it had on them individually and as a community.

The video is called Pistevo – I Believe! He shares in the video that “when you see the life of God throughout the Church, you see images from His life, whether be the Baptism, the Resurrection, the Crucifixion, the Last Supper.”

He goes on the say “Particularly on the ground level, we are surrounded by Saints of the Church that lived throughout the history of the Church, that suffered either a martyrdom, or preached the gospel, or lived in areas of persecution. See we have all these images surrounding us, and then you have the Church on Earth. That is us. The Church on Earth is us.”

Ladies and Gentleman, the images we see of lost and hungry children in the Middle East. They are us! They are the Church! The images we see of their desperate parents holding those children, They are us! They are the Church! The images we see of the elderly couple staring in disbelief at their home and of their town in ruble, They are us! They are the Church!

During my last visit to the Middle East I sat with a Priest in Beirut, Lebanon for an hour or so. We were in the bottom level of the church in a big room. The lights weren’t on but there was a light from the open door and we were sitting at a white plastic table. We were there to learn more about the work he is doing to support people that are fleeing Syria. Every day he receives more and more people. They are fleeing their homes. They are fleeing for safety. They are leaving everything they have known in their lives for the unknown. He tries to help them find a place to live and basic life necessities.

The biggest challenge he faces is helping those people, young and old, that have existing medical issues and need medicine. The system in Lebanon is maxed out with the overwhelming number of refugees entering the country. Many times the sick need to pay cash for treatment and or lifesaving medicine. The Priest slowly got red. He fought back the tears as he remembered those that passed away and are suffering without treatment. These, my friends, are the images of our Church. They are us!

The crisis in the Middle East is very challenging. The images and stories that we are hearing and seeing are frightening. They invoke feelings in each of us to such an extreme that we sometimes don’t even realize we are even capable of having those feelings.

I joined IOCC in 1993 and was sent to the former Yugoslavia to work on the response to the war in Bosnia and sanctions on Serbia and Montenegro. Even with all that I experienced in that conflict and what I have learned since then, I find myself challenged by what is happening now in the Middle East and frankly speaking around the world. There is so much violence, so much cruelty, it is hard to understand.

I have forced myself to watch some of the horrific videos of the executions that have come out simply to keep me focused on the realities we are facing every day. To keep me focused on the realities our partners face. The realities ad risks our Church partner, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch, Department of External Relations and Development, our staff, the volunteers, and the people are facing every day.

So what story has been dominating the new as of late: Greece. I have a soft spot for the situation in Greece, not just because of my heritage, but on my second night in Belgrade I was tasked to unload three trucks of food from the people of Greece. These were hand packed 40 foot trailers full olive oil, pasta, beans, canned milk, rice and everything you can think of from a Greek kitchen. That’s house it was throughout the war. The people of Greece were giving from their hearts to their neighbors in need.

Now we find ourselves feeding people in Greece and bringing medical supplies to the hospitals. Everyone is talking about the economy and the effects it is having on the people. What is not being talked about is the influx of refugees. Greece is a small country and it is being overwhelmed with refugees from Africa and the Middle East, many of which are from Syria.

We are expanding our efforts to respond appropriately to the people, that are paying thousands of dollars for boarder crossings, packed boat rides across the Mediterranean Sea with hopes of being picked up by the Greek coast guard, and provided shelter in overcrowded, dilapidated reception centers. This is not just a challenge for Greece; it has now, once again over twenty later, reached Serbia as the refugees migrate to Europe and beyond.

With Week of Compassion’s generous support and partnership we are reaching out to those refugees in Serbia that are struggling as they seek a new life in lands unknown. They are us! They are our Church! Thank you!

As I prepared for this morning I found the video of Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins’s sermon at President Obama’s inauguration six years ago. Growing up the son of a Greek Orthodox priest who is blessed with the gift of gab and a beautiful chanting voice and attending a Baptist school in Texas, I am used to dynamic speakers.

However, I was quite impressed by Rev. Dr. Watkins when she so boldly said “tag you’re it” to the President of the United States of America! She shared a story about two wolves. “One wolf is vengefulness, anger, resentment, self-pity and fear… the other world if compassion, faithfulness, hope, truth, and love…”

We live in a challenging world in challenging times. It is our faith that will see us through.

Pistevo - I believe - It is our belief that will defeat the big bad wolves. It is our belief that we will lift up the good news!

Iconography is our theology. Loving and caring for those images – those people that are suffering – those images – those people that are risking their lives to serve others is our faith! They are us! They are our Church!

Pistevo! I believe!


Congo, Refugee Assistance
Columbia, Flood Assistance
Serbia, Refugee Assistance
Syria, Refugee Assistance
Illinois, Storm Damage (2)
Kentucky, Storm Damage
Indiana, Flood Damage
Kansas, Flood Damage

Refugee Crisis in the Dominican Republic and Haiti

Tens of thousands in the Dominican Republic are facing deportation as an extended deadline to apply for legal status quickly approaches. The vast majority of those affected by the Foreign Regularization Plan are undocumented Haitian migrant workers and those born in the Dominican Republic to undocumented workers. Human rights organizations estimate that as high as 200,000 Dominican-born people will now be stateless, including 60,000 children, as a result of the new policy.

There is already a trend of what the Dominican Republic government calls “spontaneous” returns to Haiti, where families who are afraid of being split up are taking advantage of government organized buses to Haiti. With most of these families, only certain members of the families qualified for status in the Dominican Republic through the registration process and others did not. Many of these families are moving in with extended family in Haiti, many of whom already live far below the poverty level.

The deadline for Haitians in the Dominican Republic to register for status was extended by three weeks, but it is not expected to make a major impact, since most of those who could likely legally qualify already registered by the initial deadline.

Week of Compassion is working with our partners to help affected communities in the Dominican Republic by providing registration assistance to those applying for national identity cards. Church World Service (CWS) has organized case managers, transportation from 11 bateyes to the closest registration offices, and additional assistance with associated costs (food, office supplies, and follow-ups).

Additionally, our partner Batey Relief Alliance (BRA) believes that many batey residents will go into hiding once the extended deadline passes. BRA’s health and nutrition programs benefit more than 100,000 people annually, but fear of deportation will keep those who require immediate or ongoing medical and nutritional care from seeking assistance. The threats and effects of massive deportation policies will make the already vulnerable batey population more susceptible to infectious diseases, severe malnutrition and, subsequently, higher mortality rates.

It is unclear at this point what exactly will happen after the extended deadline expires. Our partners on the ground in the Dominican Republic and Haiti are working on this developing situation from several angles: advocacy with both countries and with our own governments, continuing to provide much needed medical and nutritional care within the batey communities, and developing contingency planning in the event of immediate and large-scale deportations.

Week of Compassion will continue to monitor the situation and respond to immediate needs as they arise.


Dominican Republic, Haitian Deportation Crisis
Illinois, Flood Assistance
Missouri, Flood Assistance
Syria, Refugee Children Relief
Uganda, Congolese Refugee Influx

China, Disaster Relief Preparedness
North America, Disaster Recovery

Your Compassion in Action - 2nd Quarterly Report

Through your generous support, we continue to work closely with our partners to equip and inspire sustainable development and recovery through humanitarian aid and disaster relief. From providing solidarity grants to families who have been affected by severe storms and flooding across North America, to offering assistance in the immediate aftermath and through the long-term recovery efforts after the massive earthquake hit Nepal earlier this year, to sending relief assistance to support the continuously growing communities of refugees fleeing their homes in the Middle East, Week of Compassion has been there on behalf of you, the Church.

Central Discipulos de Cristo, Mexico

Below is a list of all the places we have responded since April 2015. Your contributions and partnership help us live out Christ’s call to serve the most vulnerable people in the world. We are so grateful for your support and for continuing to put your Compassion in Action.

We would also like to take a quick moment to thank Rev. Dawn Barnes for her exceptional work with Week of Compassion over the past several years. Yesterday was her last day, and we are sad to see her go, but excited for the next part of her amazing ministry. Dawn and her family have accepted a call to work with the Mennonites in South Africa and will be heading that way soon. We are so very grateful for the passion and commitment Dawn has brought to Week of Compassion. We wish safe travels and many blessing for the Barnes family on the next part of their journey.

Thank you, once again, for your continued partnership and support.

Burundi, Emergency Evacuation
Central African Republic, Humanitarian Assistance
Djibouti, Yemen Refugee Assistance
Liberia, Refugee Assistance
Tanzania, Refugee Assistance
Uganda, Refugee Support

East Asia and the Pacific
Vanuatu, Cyclone Relief
Philippines, Shelter Rebuilding

Latin America and the Caribbean
Haiti, Emergency Assistance
Columbia, Flood Assistance

Middle East and Europe
Jordan, Refugee Assistance

North America
California, Fire Relief
Colorado, Flood Damage 
Colorado, Storm Damage (3)
Iowa, Storm Damage
Kentucky, Flood Relief (3)
Missouri, Storm Damage
North America, Unaccompanied Children Crisis
Oklahoma, Flood Damage (3)
Oklahoma, Storm Damage (5)
South Carolina, Solidarity Grant
Tennessee, Storm Relief (3)
Texas, Flood Damage (11)
Texas, Property Damage
Texas, Storm Damage (12)
Virginia, Refugee Assistance (2)

Southern Asia
Nepal, Earthquake Assistance
Thailand, Refugee Relief

Democratic Republic of Congo, Food Security
Mozambique, Food Security
Tanzania, Medical Development
Zimbabwe, Water Access

Latin America and the Caribbean
Haiti, Long-Term Recovery
Haiti, Medical Assistance
Haiti, Women's Empowerment
Uruguay, Youth Empowerment

Middle East and Europe
Iraq, Women's Empowerment
Palestine, Water Access and Community Development
Serbia, Women's Empowerment

North America
Colorado, Flood Recovery
Indiana, Home Build Sponsorship

Southern Asia
Indonesia, Food Security

Wine to Share: Water for All -- Putting Compassion into Action in Springfield, Missouri

By Reverend Caleb Lines of South Street Christian Church, Springfield, Missouri

Candlelit tables.  Delightful ambiance.  An elegant display of food almost too beautiful to eat.  Delicious wine being poured.  Wonderful conversation with old friends and new ones.  Would you believe that all this happened on a Friday night in a church?  Jesus may have turned water into wine, but four Disciples congregations in Springfield, Missouri decided to perform the modern miracle of turning wine into water at their second annual “Wine to Share: Water for All” event.

Brentwood, Central, National Avenue, and South Street Christian Churches came together on February 6, 2015 to sponsor a wine tasting to raise money for the water projects of Week of Compassion and its partner agencies in Africa.  This fun, yet meaningful, evening featured (mostly) African wines, a beer tasting station, a wine and beer pull, a silent auction, conversation with Week of Compassion staff member Reverend Dawn Barnes, and information about water projects in Africa.

Last year, these Disciples churches decided that they wanted to work together to raise awareness about the good work that Week of Compassion is doing, create a fun night out for church and community members, and raise money for those without clean drinking water or access to water for basic hygiene.  The event was so successful that they decided to make it an annual fundraiser.

This year, in preparation for Wine to Share: Water for All, the youth met together the week before the event for a “Clean Water Lock-In” to learn about what it was like to live without clean drinking water and to make informational displays for the wine tasting.

Those who attended, were excited to get to know people from other churches, raise money for Week of Compassion, and sample some good wine!  At the end of the night, as people raised their glasses to another successful event, conversation turned to how the event could be even better next year.

This Week’s Responses

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance
Texas, Storms (6)
South Carolina, Solidarity Grant
Djibouti, Yemen Refugee Assistance