“I was a stranger and you welcomed me… Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”
I have been working with refugees and migrants for about 5 years now. In the grand scheme of things, that may not sound like much but that’s almost 1/4th of my life. I am excited for the sudden swelling of support for refugees and migrants.
Travelling to a foreign land can be exciting yes, but also terrifying. Even more so when you are forced to flee your home for fear of your life and resettle in a land you may or may not know anything about. God has given me a heart for the international population here in America and I’ve made it my mission to love these strangers in this foreign land. I invite you to do so with me.
Put down your protest signs and open your arms. Open your homes.
Standing for hours demonstrating how much you dislike something is one thing. You have every right to [peacefully] do this. Spending those same hours mentoring and volunteering to take refugees shopping for basic needs, furniture, and food is another.
Say the protests work. The order is reversed. Refugees come in. Then what? Are those hundreds of thousands of people protesting going to redirect their efforts to resettling the refugees they fought so hard to allow in? Guess what people: THERE ARE REFUGEES HERE RIGHT NOW IN NEED OF HELP. You don’t have to wait for a reversal of the order. You can help right now!! Here’s how:
Become a conversation partner and teach English. You don’t need to be a qualified teacher to help someone with their English. If you can read this and have patience, you are qualified to help people work on their English. Talk with them. Listen to them. Give them a chance to practice their English and make mistakes in an encouraging environment. This does wonders for the language confidence level. Just because they may not be able to communicate right away does not mean they aren’t smart! One of my dear friends, and one of the bravest people I know, came to college in the United States for her second masters degree after teaching finance for years in Korea. You would never know that unless you took the time to string together the sentences of her beautiful broken English. Most of those coming over have been to college and have steady jobs. Those degrees don’t always transfer here and they have to start all over.
Be a friend and a mentor.
Along with taking refugees shopping and helping out with basic needs, volunteer to be a mentor. Once the basic needs are covered, people need a friend. They need someone to show them the ropes: American survival skills.
As someone who has had the pleasure of visiting other countries, I can tell you just how helpless it feels when you can’t even take care of your own basic needs! We fail to properly appreciate living in familiar territory, at least I did. For instance: how to get from Point A to Point B. When fleeing a country, a car isn’t necessarily a top priority of things to bring with you. Money isn’t typically in abundance to afford a new car so one is forced to rely on public transportation. Navigating the [non-existent] public transportation system here in the US is already challenging for me as an American and English is my native language. Just imagine navigating through cities you barely know in a 2nd 3rd or even 4th language. Offer rides to the grocery store. Things as simple as mailing a letter and grocery shopping become daunting tasks.
Show them how to: get insurance, set up a phone plan, get a driver’s license, etc. Help them figure out where to take their kids when they get sick, etc. Explain the difference between what Americans say vs. what they really mean. Ex.: “We should hang out sometime” is more a way of saying we could be friends and doesn’t mean get out your calendar and fix a date right then and there.
Had I not had someone showing me how to navigate the roads and rules of the land, I’d probably still be on a train to nowhere, figuratively and literally.
How do we find refugees already here?
I’m glad you asked.
Here is a link to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) page. Clicking on your state will bring you to a page with all the main volunteer agency affiliates near you.
Don’t see one within feasible driving distance from your town? Don’t despair. Partner with an organization in your community. Do a little research to find out who heads up resettlement in your community and get in touch: call, email or march over to them. World Relief, an organization dedicated to resettling refugees, is constantly looking for volunteers.
Other ways to help:
Don’t have time to give? Give old clothes or donate money. Go through your closet and donate clothes you don’t wear anymore. Research organizations to make sure your money is actually going to help the refugees.
Still can’t find refugees but want to help the international community and immigrants? Go to a local school or the international department of the local college. Most universities have an English mentor/ conversation partner program for the international students and they won’t turn you away. If they don’t have one, start one. My first college didn’t have one so I found some willing volunteers at a local church and we sat down with the International Student Coordinator to discuss ways the community can get involved with the international students.
Lastly, love them.
Love them like Christ loves you. Love them like you would love Christ. Love and treat them like you would want your loved ones treated if the situations were reversed. These people are sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, and children. Maybe not yours, but somebody’s.
Pray for them. Ask God to provide for their needs. Pray for their safety fleeing their home country and travelling. Pray for their spiritual condition. What an amazing opportunity to share the gospel with people who may have never heard it before. What an amazing opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
Matthew 25: 35-40 says: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”