This church has held non-stop services for a month to save a refugee family from deportation.

Bethel Church in the Netherlands has held non-stop, round-the-clock services since October 28.

For more than a month, Bethel Church in The Hague has held church services all day and all night. Hour after hour, pastors take turns leading worship, bringing in choirs and bands, and never allowing a break in the continual services.

According to Dutch law, authorities are not allowed to enter a place of worship while services are being held. The ministry of Bethel Church is utilizing that law in the hopes of buying time for an Armenian refugee family facing deportation.


The family, who were granted political asylum after fleeing to the Netherlands nine years ago, had their case overturned.

Sasun​ and Anoushce Tamrazyan fled Armenia nine years ago with their three children, Hayarpi, Warduhi and Seyran. Sasun said he faced death threats in his home country for his political activism. According to the CBC, the family had previously been granted asylum, but that decision was recently overturned on appeal by the government. That means the family who has lived in the Netherlands for nine years faces deportation.

Bethel Church stepped in, offering sanctuary to the Tamrazyans. The family has been living in the church for more than a month while the continuous services have been held. The hope is to convince the government to allow the family to stay under a provision in Dutch law known as a "children's pardon," which allows families with children who have lived in the Netherland for more than five years to stay.

While most applications are denied, the law is in place to protect children's well being. Martine Goeman, a legal adviser at Defense for Children in the Netherlands, told CNN, "There is a lot of scientific research done which shows that after 5 years, a child cannot be deported without significant damage to their development."

More than 400 pastors from around the country have pitched in to keep the services going.

Bethel Church pastor Derk Stegemen told CBC Radio that the plan to hold the services was hatched in secret. He also said the Tamrazyans have graciously told church officials that they don't need to go to so much trouble for them.

But Stegmen told the family that they weren't doing it just for them. "For us," he told CBC, "we are doing it to show to ourselves and to our community, to our government, that civilization and love in life and civilization, it's not by expelling people, expelling children. So we are trying to prove that it can be different."

The services have grown into a full-blown movement, with hundreds of pastors from around the country coming to Bethel to help with the 24/7 church services. They bring with them worshippers, singers, musicians, and a dedication to humanity.

"For us, it's a big job," Stegeman told CBC, "but it's also a fruitful experience and there's a lot of joy and a lot of people are meeting one another. But for the family, it's really heavy, all the uncertainly about the future."

The act is as much a spiritual statement as a political one.

The ministry involved in the services have made it clear that providing sanctuary for the Tamrazyans is about living the teachings of their faith.

Theo Hettema, chairman of the General Council of Protestant Ministers in the Netherlands, told CNN, "We want to love God and our neighbor. And we thought that this was a clear opportunity to put the love for our neighbor into reality." He said the services will continue to be held for "as long as it's necessary."

Hayarpi, the Tamrazyan's 21-year-old daughter, has publicly expressed gratitude to all of the church volunteers via Twitter. On November 29, she published a poem in English that sums up the hope inherent in this act of goodwill toward her family. It begins:

In these difficult times

Of darkness and grief

I lift up my head

And feel Your love in my heart.

In these difficult times

Of desperation, of anger

I lift up my hands

And praise You in my heart

In these difficult times

While I seem to be paralysed

I feel Your peace in my soul

And open my eyes to see Your grace

Who knows if the church's actions will make an impact and if this refugee family will be granted asylum. But when man-made borders and laws result in human suffering, it's at refreshing to see humanity step up to try to remedy it.

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