Over the course of a few days this fall, Kathy Mowry sat in her office and listened as a steady stream of visitors — staff members, students — dropped by her office with an innocuous question: Do you have a minute?
Some came alone; others came as couples or families. Some cried or whispered; others spoke with joyful passion.
They didn’t know about one another, but each of the visitors said the same thing: God is calling me, and I must go.
“I would drive to work crying and drive home crying,” Mowry, professor of intercultural studies at Trevecca Nazarene University, said. “It’s just a beautiful thing God is putting together.”
That “beautiful thing” involves seven recent Trevecca graduates answering God’s call to serve in central Europe. In early November, the final doors opened for a team of six Trevecca alumni and soon-to-be graduates to minister on the front lines of the refugee crisis in Europe. They will begin their work in Serbia, but will move throughout central Europe as the refugees move. They will serve the refugees for a year or more.
Isaac Petty, who will graduate in December, will be a part of a separate emphasis helping with church development in Poland.
For weeks, Jacob and Dorothee Arnold Morris watched the news of the growing refugee crisis in Europe. The images of the refugees streaming into central Europe had broken their hearts, but the couple can pinpoint one moment when the crisis became real: when the body of three-year-old Syrian refugee Aylan Kurdi, washed ashore on a Turkish beach.
Kurdi had been part of a group of 23 refugees trying to reach the Greek island of Kos. Aylan, his brother, mother, and others drowned when their boats capsized in the Aegean Sea last month.
“The picture is of him facedown in the sand with a T-shirt, shorts, and Velcro shoes on — the same kind of shoes that our 3-year-old son would wear,” Jacob said. “I realized that being fortunate enough to be born where I was born and the privilege that I was born into was not any reason for me to just sit back while other people are literally fleeing for their lives.”
Others on the team say there wasn’t a definitive moment, but rather a growing conviction that God was calling them to enter into the suffering of the refugees.
Engaged and planning a wedding for April 2016, Curt Rich and Megan Trees say that God called them to be open to changing the plans they’d made for their married life.
“It’s really just being open to saying yes to whatever He has for us, whether that was the plans we had made or something completely different like this,” Rich said.
Tori Stone, a senior graduating in May 2016, says watching the news of the refugee crisis left her feeling helpless. But it also reminded her of a calling God had planted in her heart after a trip to Croatia last summer.
“At that time I knew that God wanted me to come back to Croatia, but I said I needed time to pray about it,” Stone said. “I told God there was going to be a lot of things He had to do if He really wanted me to. Through this whole thing, I’ve just watched Him work in my life and prepare the things that I said would be problems for me going.”
Christina Corzine, who will also graduate in May 2016, says an internship with World Relief, a nonprofit that works with refugees in Nashville, opened her eyes to the great need of refugees around the world.
“People that I was interacting with on a daily basis were on a long journey in a secondary home country, learning and getting settled,” Corzine said. “Yet, in Europe there are people on an even longer journey trying to find refuge from all the turmoil. . . . It’s going to be an honor to be the church in the midst of all the brokenness.”
Isaac Petty, who has never visited Europe, recognized God’s call to the region early in the semester. Petty will serve in Poland and isn’t part of the team mobilized to minister to the refugees. He will serve for eight months, helping to organize Work & Witness teams as well as summer youth camps.
“I’m excited,” Petty said. “I know it’s going to be so different, but I’m ready to go and holding nothing back.”
The refugee team will begin their work in Central Europe in waves. The Morris family plans to be on the field as early as this winter. The couple will leave behind jobs at Trevecca, as well as the local church they serve, Inglewood Church of the Nazarene. With their two young children, Elias and Miriam, Jacob and Dorothee simply want to join God where He is already at work.
“[We] go to really enter into the suffering of these people and to do so in name of a God who enters into the suffering of the world,” Jacob said. “Just this week, it’s really hit home that what it means to follow God is to . . . enter into suffering and to do so willingly.”
“It is my prayer that our team can remind them that in the midst of turmoil and chaos is love and compassion,” she said.
The remainder of the team will be in Europe by early summer. Rich and Trees plan to arrive in June following their wedding and Rich’s graduation in May 2016. Stone and Corzine will also move in June, following graduation. The team will be on the field for at least a year.
Petty will begin his work in Poland in January 2016. He’ll serve for eight months, returning to the U.S. in August 2016.
For more information on how you can give, visit give.trevecca.edu/europe-missions.