The news is daily reporting on the number of displaced individuals due to war, famine and persecution. In a world of evil and selfish desires of men comes not only the abuse of power but of the people under their leadership. The United States has made provisions on a yearly basis to become the new country of safety for refugees.
The Iowa-Missouri Conference has experienced growth among its membership from several African countries, Myanmar (Burma) and Samoa. In order to assist these refugee parents (including non-Adventists and non-Christians) who desire to provide their children with a Seventh-day Adventist education in a safe and nurturing environment, our conference has begun a pilot program to provide tuition scholarships over a three-year period. Multiple members in the conference donated the money for this initiative.
This program has three main goals. The first is to provide financial assistance to make Adventist education affordable for displaced families who have little or no extra money beyond the basic living expenses.
A second goal is to provide a safe and nurturing school setting for refugee children who are the most vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. According to agencies that assist in the relocation of refugees, these youngest members of the family are prey for sexual predators, human traffickers, school bullies and gangs.
A third and final goal is that given the world wide connectedness through cell phones, families who are not Adventist or even Christian whose children attend our schools and come to a saving relationship with Christ will share their experiences with relatives back in their home country or those who have immigrated to other parts of the world. These families have access to folks we might never be able to reach. We can start an evangelistic explosion one student at a time.
Currently we have 24 students in three schools—Cedar Rapids, Columbia and Des Moines—benefitting from this pilot program. Other schools hope to join the program and are working to overcome obstacles such as lack of transportation.
The success or failure of this program is yet to be determined. Right now, however, for the 24 refugee students and their families, the opportunity to attend a Seventh-day Adventist school is truly a blessing.
Author Joseph R. Allison, EdD, is superintendent of education for the Iowa-Missouri Conference.