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The civil war that broke out in Libya last year had far-reaching consequences, not just for the Libyan people but for many families who had come to rely on relatives employed in that North African country.

Libyan refugee works in the field.

“Thousands of people from around West Africa had been living for years in Libya, working and sending remittances back to support their families,” says a Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC) West Africa staff member.

CRWRC serves in communities across West Africa, helping people find lasting solutions for overcoming poverty, disaster, and injustice. In many of these communities, families already struggling to sustain themselves couldn’t offer jobs or much else to help family members returning from Libya.

CRWRC was able to partner with a church organization last October in a four-month project that provided jobs to Libyan refugees in exchange for rice, beans, and oil to feed their families. The project helped some 650 vulnerable families—approximately 3,900 people in all.

The work included tree planting, street cleaning, building terraces in fields to prevent soil erosion, and training people in new skills so they could continue working, such as bricklaying, gardening, and small business management.

The Bible recounts how, faced with political genocide, Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus fled as refugees to Africa, where they lived until it was safe to return home. This story, says the CRWRC staff member, takes on a new meaning after spending time with those who fled for their lives from Libya, often with little more than the clothes on their backs.

“Even though times and circumstances are different, Jesus understands their plight,” says the staff member. “Even more so, we are reminded that whatever we do for those in need, we are doing it for Christ.”

Before, people in this area didn’t talk about Jesus and had no interest or were afraid to attend church. But some program participants who experienced the love and compassion shown by those who came to their aid, now proudly attend a church. “We pray that these positive changes, both physical and spiritual, continue,” says the CRWRC staff member.

The food-for-work project finished just as CRWRC geared up for another intervention in West Africa. Between five and nine million people are facing food shortages this year because of drought, erratic rains, and insect infestations in Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Chad. CRWRC is responding by providing food assistance, the subsidized sale of grain, and various food-for-work activities. For more information, visit

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