- Associated Press - Monday, January 4, 2016

CENTREVILLE, Miss. (AP) - While politicians, pundits and pollsters debate the plight of Syrian and other refugees, a group of Christian college students is quietly making plans to go to Europe and provide humanitarian aid.

Tori Lynn?Stone, 21, of Centreville, is one of six Trevecca Nazarene University students who decided to put her compassion into action in a global crisis. Stone plans to leave in June and spend a year in Croatia and Serbia helping refugees fleeing from Syria and other Middle Eastern hotspots.

“I come from a Christian perspective. That does make it a little bit different,”?Stone said. “As a Christian I think that it’s OK to be fearful, but I also think that God calls us to do things in spite of our fear out of love and compassion.”

Though she understands Americans’ fear of terrorists, Stone admits to being saddened by some of the anti-refugee rhetoric she’s heard.

“I think so many un-Christlike things have been said about it and just demeaning things to people. It could be said in a nicer way than things I’ve seen,” she said. “I truly believe we are called to live beyond our fear.”

Stone grew up in Centreville, went to Gloster Nazarene Church and is now a senior at Trevecca in?Nashville, Tenn., where she is on track for ordination in the Nazarene Church.

In 2014 she took a 21?2-week study-abroad trip to Romania and Bulgaria. Last summer she went on a 21?2-week mission trip to?Croatia, where she worked with Nazarene missionaries among the Roma, a marginalized group also known as gypsies.

“When I was over there this summer I can honestly say that I already felt God kind of calling me back to Eastern Europe,” she said. “I didn’t know what that looked like and I fought it a lot, mostly because I didn’t want it to be an impulsive thing.”

She talked to a trusted professor about it.

“I told her I felt like I was called to, but I was so scared and I didn’t want to,” Stone said. “I loved to travel but I always said I would never live out of the country. That wasn’t in the plan.”

Unknown to her at the time, five other students had consulted the same professor with similar feelings during the same week.

“We had no idea that each other had gone,” Stone said.

Meanwhile, the professor had been talking to missionaries in Europe who said they needed a team to come work with refugees.

The students prayed about the situation for six weeks. Stone had never fasted but she skipped lunch two days a week during that period and spent the time in prayer.

At the end, “I said, ‘Yes.’ I didn’t really know what I was telling God yes to,” she said.

The students met with the professor and came up with tentative plans. Stone and another woman will work with missionaries along border areas in Croatia and Serbia, possibly staying at refugee camps.

“A lot of it’s going to be the simple stuff, showing them that they’re cared for, giving them necessities like toothpaste and hats, because it’s cold,” she said.

The decision to go shocked Stone’s mother, Pam Stone of Centreville.

“Her first answer was just, ‘No, no,’ ” Tori said. “That’s all she could say, which is understandable. but she told me that night it was going to take some time for her to get used to it.”

Pam admits that “I flipped.”

“This is not where I want my child to be,” she said. “But her words to me were, ‘Mama, if you knew what God has done in my life and you knew the past six weeks, you would know this is where God wants me to be.’

“I cried for a while and prayed about it and decided if this is where God wants her to be, I’m behind her 100 percent. I can’t say I’m happy about it.”

Pam has never been overseas but said she will start saving money so she can visit her daughter.

The Rev. Stephen Deese wasn’t surprised by Tori’s decision.?Deese, who now leads a church in Indiana, was pastor at Gloster Church of the Nazarene from 2009 to 2013.

“We know that she got a call to ministry while we were there, and we knew that God had some good things for her,” Deese said. “We knew God was going to use her in some form or capacity, so we’re excited.”

He said the Church of the Nazarene has been involved in helping refugees in?Europe.

“They’re people just like we are, and they’re being displaced because of the turmoil going on in their country and nation,” Deese said. “Just because culture says and the news is saying these are dangerous people, they still need to be shown the love of Christ. and that’s what’s driving Tori.”


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