A pastor from Apopka is making the trip of a lifetime, traveling to Lebanon to meet with Syrian refugees.

  • Pastor Bernie Anderson serves at Forest Lake Seventh Day Adventist Church
  • In December, Anderson and congregation sent care packages to refugee camps
  • Anderson just returned from participating in advocacy summit in Washington D.C.

Pastor Bernie Anderson leaves Sunday. He’s traveling with World Vision, a global Christian humanitarian organization, to the Middle East. There, he will visit with the very people — Syrian refugees — now being barred from coming to the U.S.

“My message, especially right now in the current climate, is that we haven’t left you alone, we are here, you’re not invisible to us. We hear your pain," said Anderson.

For the last four-and-a-half years, Anderson has served as pastor at Forest Lake Seventh Day Adventist Church in Apopka. When he learned that roughly half of the displaced refugees in Syria are children, however, he said he was taken aback.

“That really struck a chord with our congregation, because we care a lot about children," he said.

In December, Anderson and others at the Forest Lake Seventh Day Adventist Church took action. They packed 500 book bags with coloring books, crayons — as well as basic hygiene items — and sent them to refugee camps.

Now, Anderson is going there himself, meeting with refugees in camps over the course of five days.

“We’re going to find a way to serve people and to lift people up and to love them," he said. “I pray that I get to see a young kid opening that backpack, maybe for the first time.”

Anderson said that the trip is not politically motivated. Rather, the mission revolves around compassion and love.

"I think love pays attention to suffering," he said, thinking of the message he'll bring to refugees. “We’re going to do everything within our power to keep you at the forefront of our hearts and minds, but also the American people. We’re not going to let your story go unheard.”

Anderson just got back from another trip to an advocacy summit in Washington D.C., where he learned along with other pastors from around the country how to talk to lawmakers respectfully, but truthfully, about the crisis.

“If in fact the rhetoric of ‘America First’ is going to be the reality, then there might be the temptation to pull back from foreign aid," he explained. “The big word is 'security.' We’re also trying to figure out how can we also serve and help those who are hurting.”

Photo courtesy of Bernie Anderson