TBMB offers training sessions for churches on how to minister to refugees, other ‘strangers’ among us
By David Dawson
FRANKLIN — Tennessee Baptist Mission Board compassion ministries specialist Beth Moore said she believes the first step churches can take in assisting refugees is to gain a better understanding of who they are.
In the months ahead, Moore is hoping that churches across Tennessee will begin to dive deeper into this topic by taking advantage of training opportunities being offered by the TBMB.
The training sessions will help equip churches with information and programs that will aid their efforts to meet the needs of internationals in their communities.
“There are lots of political opinions on this topic,” said Moore. “But, as believers, we are under the authority of the Lord. And the Bible makes it very clear about how we are to treat ‘the stranger’ in our land. So, our goal is to raise awareness by really focusing on the question, ‘who is a refugee?’ ”
Moore noted several Biblical references that speak directly to this topic, including Deuteronomy 10:19, which states, “Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt,” (NKJV).
Moore said she and other members of the compassion ministries staff — along with TBMB ethnic church planting specialist and ethnic evangelism specialist William Burton — are available to talk with churches that are interested in learning new ways to connect with internationals.
“We want to make sure our churches are aware that we can connect them with ministries that are serving refugees,” said Moore, “and we want to offer them a chance to see what those ministries look like.”
Moore said the TBMB staff does not have a specific numerical goal in mind in terms of how many churches will participate in the training sessions. But she is hopeful that many congregations across the state will see the importance of this ministry.
“We know it won’t be every church in Tennessee,” said Moore. “But we would like for every church to at least be aware that this resource is available. There are some churches in our state who are already doing some incredible things in this field. And we hope we can help other churches move in that direction, too.”
Moore said the training process will start with the basics, and will then potentially move into deeper and more “hands-on” avenues of ministry.
“We believe the first step, really for any church, is to examine the theology of ‘the stranger,’ ” she said. “So, first, we would look into Scripture and find out what it says about that.”
From there, Moore said she and other TBMB leaders can develop strategic plans with the church.
“For those churches that don’t even know where to begin, we can present some simple steps that will get them started,” Moore said. “And we can offer some help in visualizing and strategizing about how this could look.”
Moore noted that one of the training tools that churches can potentially use is a “refugee simulation.” Churches can sign up to host this training event, which can be held on multiple days.
“The point (of the refugee simulation) is to give the participants a better idea of the refugees’ experience — not just in the general sense, but what they face each and every day,” said Moore.
Moore said there is a great deal of misinformation, even among believers, about the church’s role in ministering to refugees.
“Some people don’t realize that refugees go through certain steps and there is a defined process of what they have to do (to be classified as refugees),” she said.
Moore noted that refugees are not illegal immigrants, although she said she believes the Bible makes it clear that compassion should be extended to people in both classifications.
“Even in the case of illegal immigrants, there are specific words in Scripture about how we are to show love and compassion,” she said. “Regardless of any political opinions we might have, the first thing we need to do is really understand what God says about this.
“Loving the nations — that’s our mandate,” she added. “We are not the government, and we don’t make policies. If the Lord, in His sovereignty, brings people to our state, we are commanded, by the Bible, to love them.”
Moore noted that Acts 17:26 states this clearly. The verse says: “God has determined the times and boundaries where people live.”
Moore said she believes the emphasis on ministering to internationals can make an impact across Tennessee. “My hope is that this will really help churches begin to look at the nations among us,” she said. “It’s really about loving the nations that the Lord is bringing to Tennessee.” B&R Churches interested in learning more about ministering to internationals can contact Moore at email@example.com.