As I surveyed my table at our church’s Mother’s Day tea, I noticed a striking display of God’s kindness and grace. Three of my Burmese sisters enthusiastically joined the singing of old hymns while Muslim friends from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan ate chocolate-covered strawberries as words of life were shared.
These women are among half a million refugees who have resettled across America over the past ten years (“Source”). Some of our refugee neighbors are family in Christ who have endured persecution. Others do not know God, and the hardship they’ve endured — unspeakable as it is — pales in comparison to their eternal future if they remain separated from Christ.
“The influx of refugees provides an astounding opportunity to reach the nations — especially for women.”
This influx of refugees provides an astounding opportunity to reach the nations — especially for women. Many refugee women are homemakers and stay-at-home moms. While husbands work and children attend school, their isolation compounds their struggles. They grieve the deaths of loved ones, mourn homes left in ash heaps, and endure flashbacks of horror. As they suffer the loss of old relationships, they long for new ones.
When Christian women befriend refugee women, they build bridges across cultural barriers where “the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few” (Luke 10:2). Sisters, God has opened the door for us to reach the nations in our neighborhoods. Consider three ways we can join God in his mission: Seek your neighbors. Show God’s kindness. Speak the gospel.
Seek Your Neighbors
Our Father loves with a pursuing and steadfast love. As his children, we are called to be imitators of him (Ephesians 5:1). Through seeking refugees, we demonstrate the love of the Savior who “came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).
When we find refugee neighbors dwelling nearby, we can welcome them into our lives and invite ourselves into theirs. Many refugee women come from cultures that value hospitality and community in a way that makes our individualistic society squirm. They are typically receptive to those who reach out their hands in friendship. When I began visiting one Syrian woman to help her learn English while our children played together, it took only a couple months before she called me her sister and my family her family.
Of course, outreach to refugees is not all roses without thorns. There are language barriers to overcome and cultural differences to navigate — we will likely cause offense or find ourselves inconvenienced because of miscommunications. But God, who loved us even when we were his enemies (Romans 5:8), can enable us to love our refugee neighbors — even when it’s difficult.
Show God’s Kindness
God’s compassion encompasses our eternal souls and our earthly circumstances. He cares when his image bearers suffer at the hands of evil. He walks alongside the widow, the orphan, and the stranger (Psalm 68:5). When we devote ourselves to good works among the suffering, we testify to the kindness of God.
I regularly visit a Kurdish woman whose family members suffer from post-traumatic stress, physical disability, and autism — all of which have made adapting here exceptionally burdensome. She needs help often. The help she needs is rarely convenient, but it enables me to show her something true about God. When she inevitably apologizes after I’ve driven her to the hospital, attended her son’s special-education Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting, or helped her make phone calls, I always remind her, “God sees you, and he cares for you.”
“God used war and terrorism to bring unreached people to our doorsteps.”
Sisters, whether we work outside the home or not, we can serve refugee women in many ways. We can bring them along grocery shopping and help them redeem the WIC checks that they don’t know how to read. We can keep them company during lonely evenings while their husbands work night shifts. We can deliver meals when they’re sick, soothe crying babies while they have appointments, and practice English over tea.
We don’t do these things just to be nice neighbors. We do them so that when they see our good works, they would turn and give glory to our Father (Matthew 5:16). Good works are always intended to point to our good God.
Speak the Gospel
God desires that all would be saved. Just as he orchestrated Paul’s imprisonment to spread the gospel among the imperial guard (Philippians 1:12–13) and persecution to scatter proclaimers of the good news (Acts 8:1–8), he has used war and terrorism to bring unreached people to our doorsteps. I know women from countries where less than two percent of the population knows Christ, and where missionaries have suffered and died to share the gospel. And now, our sovereign God has brought them just a short drive away from those who have very good news to share.
Of course, language barriers make our sharing difficult. Though our neighbors’ conversational English might be fluent, words like sin, salvation, and Savior often aren’t familiar. We need wisdom from the Holy Spirit to simplify the language of the gospel while remaining faithful to its message. This is why building friendship is vital: as we keep a vision for the long haul, we sow seeds wherever possible as we endeavor to proclaim the excellencies of Christ.
The Savior Our Neighbors Need
My Kurdish friends attended church with us a couple times. Neither the worship songs nor the preaching made sense. Yet it was not useless. They have repeatedly told me, “We are Muslim, but we like you Christians very much. You and your church are so good to us.” Christian welcome is tilling the soil so that words can eventually take root.
“Sisters, God has opened the door for us to reach the nations in our neighborhoods.”
And God’s word will take root. It may not do so for every person or according to our timeline, but God will ensure that his word will not return to him void (Isaiah 55:10–11). The gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes; we have only to unleash it (Romans 1:16).
We may not be able to end wars or stop persecution, but we can care for those who have suffered from these evils. We may not be able to raise the ceiling that allows refugees into our country, but we can welcome those already here into our homes. Christians may have different political perspectives about the refugee crisis, but we all share the same Savior — the same one our refugee neighbors desperately need to meet.
Credit: Amy DiMarcangelo