steps to take to get your congregation involved
Begin praying for refugees in our community. Currently the major groups settling in the Twin Cities are the Karen (Burma), Bhutanese, Iraqis, and Somalis. You can learn about these populations at www.joshuaproject.net or www.operationworld.org/.
Listen to what God says through Scriptures about refugees and immigrants. He commands us to love the alien – just as He does (Leviticus 19:33-34) – and makes it clear that He wants us to emulate His special concern for the foreign-born (who, along with orphans and widows, are recognized as particularly vulnerable). The New Testament repeats this call to welcome strangers with Jesus’ words, “…to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25: 35-40). Also, listening to stories of today’s refugees (through media or face-to-face) will give you insight into the trials and resilience of these people.
Helping our communities learn about refugee and immigration issues is critical. We can educate others through opportunities with adult education classes or forums. We can even give refugees and immigrants occasions to talk about their experiences of coming to the Twin Cities.
The Bible tells us that we are to “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves” (Proverbs 31:8), which includes those who, because they are not citizens and cannot vote, are often unheard in our political system. We can be a voice for the refugee, victim of trafficking, asylee, and immigrant.
We are commanded to love our new refugee neighbors, which means striving to meet their needs. Jesus helped define our neighbors for us in the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). Refugees have a great number of needs as they arrive in the U.S. – the Church in the Twin Cities has a great opportunity to serve.
Resources – Refugees must establish their households in the Twin Cities after arriving with virtually no belongings and limited resources. Churches, small groups, or individuals bless new arrivals when they provide them with basic household goods, furniture, and other necessities.
- Give financially; you can subsidize rent for a refugee family or provide educational materials
- Gather basic household items for an arriving refugee family
- Help move furniture and/or set up an apartment for a new family
- Coordinate a resource drive
Relationships – In the process of making their homes in Minnesota, newly arrived refugees need people who will assist them and help them understand the culture. This is essential for the successful resettlement and integration of refugees. Imagine how much you would value having someone assist you with paying your bills or helping your children with their homework, if you were forced to rebuild your life in another country having a drastically different culture! There are opportunities for small groups, entire churches, and individuals.
“The opposite of cruelty is not simply freedom from the cruel relationship; it is hospitality.” – Philip Hallie
Refugee Life Ministries – Small groups of 10+ people mentor a refugee family for one year by assisting them throughout the resettlement process and helping them adapt to life in the United States. This church-based program provides training and ongoing support to the small groups as they assist refugees.
Fill a specific role in the life of a refugee – See current volunteer opportunities
While many refugees arrive in the United States with a vibrant Christian faith that can help to revitalize our churches, others have never heard the Good News of the Gospel. Because of the displacement of people groups from across the world, we are presented with a mission at our doorstep – a mission that was ordained by God (Acts 17:26). How refugees respond to the transformational message of the Gospel, though, will be affected by the reception they receive from followers of Jesus.