We’ve examined some of the ways you and your church can get involved in the important, rewarding and challenging work of ministering to the thousands of refugees who continue to be resettled in the United States every year. But what about your kids? Refugee ministry is a great way to give children a vision for global missions.
As more and more refugee families are resettled in America, you and your kids have the wonderful opportunity to interact with and learn from men, women and children whose language, culture and customs may look very different from yours: Congolese, Iraqi, Afghani, Bhutanese, Sudanese, Syrian and on and on. It sounds like a cliché, but in many communities, the world really does lie right outside your front door. What a great opportunity!
My wife and I served for years as the directors of a church-based ESL program in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and we made sure it was a family affair. On a typical Sunday night, while I worked with refugee students and their volunteer English teachers, my wife organized the food. (Our church offered a free weekly meal prior to the English classes – another act of love for immigrant and refugee families.) From before they were old enough to go to school, my two daughters helped prepare and serve food to the families in attendance. They had many opportunities to make friends with refugees from all over the world.
I’m so thankful that my girls had the chance to meet kids like Morlubah, a Liberian boy about their age whose family had somehow survived one of Africa’s bloodiest conflicts. To them, he wasn’t a “needy” child or a charity case. They didn’t yet know the meaning of the word refugee. In their eyes, Morlubah wasn’t black or white or brown. He was just a kid, like them – one whose eyes grew wide at the sight of hot air balloons rising into the air on a September morning, or who squealed with joy while splashing in a mountain stream on a hot summer day.
Even if your church doesn’t yet have a refugee ministry, encourage your children to keep their eyes open. If you live in an area where refugee resettlement is taking place, they are likely to encounter refugee kids sooner rather than later.
Typically, refugee children are placed in the public school system soon after arriving on U.S. soil. This “immersion” helps them learn English and pick up American cultural customs – for better and worse – far more quickly than their parents. Encourage your kids to be kind and to befriend kids from foreign countries who may turn up in their classes.
Keep your own eyes open, too. You might encounter refugee families in the carpool line or at a parent night or open house. Smile. Greet them. Make them feel welcome. It might feel awkward at first, but think about how awkward they must be feeling! A kind word or gesture can make a huge difference.
Whether individually, with your church or as a family, if you feel the burden to minister to refugees, do some research and find out what opportunities are available. God can use you to bring hope to a family that desperately needs your love and friendship as it endeavors to make a new start in a foreign land.
How will you #StandWithRefugees?
The LORD your God is the God of all gods and Lord of all lords, the great, mighty, and awesome God who doesn’t play favorites and doesn’t take bribes. He enacts justice for orphans and widows, and he loves immigrants, giving them food and clothing. That means you must also love immigrants because you were immigrants in Egypt.(Deuteronomy 10:17-19 CEB)