Former IMB Missionary
You’ve been waiting for years for the opportunity to start your life again. You don’t speak English, and you have no idea how to get started in a new country.
Refugees have an array of hopes and fears as they acclimate to a new culture and new way of life. As followers of Jesus, we need to stand ready to embrace those who arrive in our cities and neighborhoods.
We have a ready opportunity to impact their hearts and lives for the Gospel as they resettle in our midst.
Here are some practical ways to welcome them into your community:
Greet newly arrived refugees. Greet and transport a newly arrived refugee family from the airport to their new home. Meet them with a welcome basket filled with information about their new community, including emergency contact information, maps, invitations to your church worship services, tutoring sessions, and ESL classes, as well as a note telling them how happy you are to have them in your community.
Be a friend. If you’ve ever moved to a new neighborhood, you understand that you don’t truly feel settled until you’ve been welcomed by new friends and neighbors. According to Terry Sharp, diaspora network leader for the International Mission Board (and my husband), most refugees are accustomed to being ignored, and loneliness is one of their greatest challenges. For help getting to know a family and becoming a part of their lives as they adapt to a new country and culture, connect with the local resettlement agency that sponsors new refugees in your community, and learn about their volunteer opportunities.
Visit refugees in their homes. As with any friendship, you must make time for your new friends. Visit them frequently in their homes, and bring along a basket of fruit or a freshly baked cake. Allow time to stay and chat. Ask them questions about their family’s stories and how they came to arrive in your community.
Help refugees adapt to their new communities. Take your refugee friends shopping and explain the different types of stores in your community. Help set up phone service and doctor’s appointments. You can also assist them in registering their children for school and showing them how to use public transportation.
Share your home and life. Open your home and welcome a refugee family into your everyday life. Share important milestones by inviting them to birthday parties. Invite them to participate in routine family activities throughout the year. Teach them how to build a snowman, and serve hot chocolate or make homemade cookies.
Share special holiday traditions. Invite your refugee friends to take part in your special holiday traditions at Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, and any other festivities that may be new to them. Share the American tradition of thankfulness with a traditional turkey dinner.
Perhaps Jesus has placed specific families in your area so that you could be the one to demonstrate the gospel to them. Showing and sharing His love and compassion to refugees in your community can be one of the most strategic and rewarding global missions experiences you will ever have.
— Article adapted from Baptist Press.