for Churches – starting a church refugee ministry

ways for churches to get involved with refugees

Because of God’s heart for the vulnerable (see below), it’s appropriate for churches to develop ministries that target vulnerable populations that live around you. Churches can start ministries targeting vulnerable populations on their own, partnering with other local churches, or partnering with nonprofits like World Relief Minnesota. All it takes is one or more advocates that mobilize the congregation to action.

God’s heart for the vulnerable

God challenges us to share His heart for the vulnerable, including the refugee and immigrant. This message really comes home in Welcoming the Stranger by Matthew Soerens and Jenny Hwang (both World Relief staff). Several excerpts are provided below:

Thinking Biblically About Immigrants (Chapter 5)

When we read the Bible as a sacred narrative of God’s interaction with humanity, we find that immigrants and refugees play many of the most important roles I the story. Throughout Scripture God has used the movement of people to accomplish his greater purposes. Like immigrants and refugees today, the protagonists of the Old Testament lift their homelands and migrated to other lands for a variety of reasons.

Since so many of the characters of the biblical story were migrants of one sort or another, it is not surprising that God gives us a great deal of guidance about interacting with immigrants.

God reminds the Israelites early on of their own history as aliens in a foreign land, commanding them that, given their own experience, they should welcome the immigrant among them. In Leviticus 19:33-34, God commands the Israelites, “When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of you native born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”

At the same time, immigrants are recognized as being particularly vulnerable, and God therefore commands the Israelites to take special concern for them. The term usually translated as alien or sojourner appears repeatedly in conjunction with tow other categories of people of special concern to God: the fatherless and the widow. For example, Deut. 10:18 says that God “defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing.”

Perhaps the simplest reason that we, as Christians, should care for the immigrant is that she or he is our neighbor – both figuratively and, increasingly, for many Americans, literally. When a legal scholar asked Jesus what the most important command of Scripture was, Jesus indicated that there are tow commands that sum up all of the Law and the Prophets: to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind, and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matt. 22:35-40)

Our natural tendency when we read this commandment is to apply the narrowest possible definition of a “neighbor,” seeking to justify ourselves. Of course Jesus proceeded to tell the inquisitive lawyer the parable of the Good Samaritan, where we find that our neighbor might be a person of an entirely different (and maybe even disliked) culture, far away from his homeland, with serious needs (Luke 10:25-37).

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