In light of recent events, I am more overwhelmed and burdened by the current refugee crisis than ever before. I’m also thankful for the many who are using their voices to speak on behalf of refugees. The shared frustration is palpable. Considering this, I wanted to compile a list of ways we CAN support refugees, in the hopes that we will collectively put our passion into action.
- PRAY for refugees. I have failed horrendously in this way, and this failure has led to my frequent despair over the issue. Because without God, it really is hopeless. Without God, I have every reason to wring my hands in worry and scream in frustration and mourn in despair (and oh, how much more intensely actual refugees are grieving). But God is real, and He does answer prayer… so with confidence I can approach His throne on behalf of those refugees our country has rejected. God is not restrained by any administration. God has the power to change the hearts of rulers. God can bring peace to war torn places. God can bring comfort and hope to those who have been stranded. WE MUST PRAY!
- EDUCATE yourself. Oftentimes the problem lies simply in not knowing what’s going on! In addition to that, there are so many myths being spread about refugees. Don’t believe everything you hear! Here are some I’ve commonly encountered: “The majority of refugees are military aged men.” Nope. “Unvetted refugees are flooding our nation and we don’t even know where they’re from.” Nope. “Refugees receive more aid than our veterans.” Nope. Take the time to check reputable sources, and graciously correct those who are spreading false information (they may be doing it totally intentionally). It’s important. Here’s one starting point: The UN Refugee Agency- Figures at a Glance
- ADVOCATE for refugees. Do this in grace and truth. I’ll admit, I struggle with the grace part. I’m tempted to react in anger towards those who, at worst, disparage refugees, or at best, are apathetic towards their plight. We must strive to follow the example of Jesus, who unabashedly spoke truth in a spirit of grace, which strengthened His audience to hear and repent. Remember this wisdom from Proverbs, “Sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness”. If we want to persuade people to have compassion for refugees, it will only work if our words are gracious. (At the same time, we’d do well to remember that sometimes grace is expressed by rebuke and correction).
- CONTACT your legislator. Communicate your fervent desire to welcome refugees. We must prick our nation’s conscience on this. The current state of affairs must change. Info to Contact Elected Officials
- GIVE to support agencies working with refugees. It’s frustrating when we want to offer practical support, but just don’t know how to reach refugees. By giving to trusted organizations that are working on their behalf, we can offer desperately needed and practical support. For this particular issue, my favorite organization is World Relief. They work with refugees stateside, as well as those abroad.
- SERVE refugees in your area. You might have refugees living near you! It can be difficult to track them down (for their own protection this is understandable, given the amount of people who don’t want them here). It took quite a bit of searching before I found any useful information regarding how to be involved locally. There’s most likely a plethora of needs you can tend to. For instance, in my area there is a need for volunteers to: pick up refugee families at the airport (although this is on hold now), take refugee families to doctors appointments, teach English as a second language (ESL), tutor refugee children, network to help find potential job placements. Think outside the box too… talk with agencies who are working with them, and consider how you might be able to fill in the gaps.
- BEFRIEND refugees in your area. If you are lucky enough to find them, take the time to get to know them. This is admittedly challenging due to language barriers, but even seeing a familiar face on a frequent basis can be a source of comfort as they learn to navigate a foreign country and culture. As we strive to show love and friendship in practical ways, we must also learn how to receive blessing from them, because true relationships go both ways. For example, after babysitting some children for an ESL class, I was invited to stay and celebrate a birthday party. It would have been hurtful had I declined their hospitality on the basis of not wanting them to share their limited resources with me. It blessed them to have the opportunity to extend kindness to me. We should never rob people of the opportunity to give, since it is far more blessed to give than receive!
- FOSTER unaccompanied refugee children. There are children here who have been forced to flee their homes, are now separated from their parents, and are in a country where they do not know the language, the people, or the culture. Many states don’t offer this opportunity, but the refugee foster program is beginning to expand. You can learn more here: Bethany Refugee Foster Care
I’m sure there’s more. But for now, start by committing to ONE action item on this list, and God-willing the fruit will multiply.