Tag Archives: refugees

It was thrilling to see our refugee family!

A friend of our ministry had her first experience welcoming a refugee family at the airport. It’s cool to feel her excitement! Another #NearFrontiersTREK. Read on!

refugee welcome
[Photo credit: Foxnews.com]

“Yesterday I had one of the most meaningful and moving evenings ever. Some friends and I are part of a “Welcome Team”  at our church that has begun to welcome people who have lost everything and are coming to LA to start their lives over. “Our” first family arrived last night. They are Kurdish refugees from northern Syria. We had to wait about three hours after the plane landed as they went through customs. Some of our group members had made a sign with their names on it in English and Arabic. When the family came up the ramp from the customs area, bewildered and exhausted, they saw the sign. They were confused and stunned. We had brought some flowers for the mom and little toiletry bags for all of them, and gifts for the kids (five of them, ages 15 to 5).

“It was incredible. They were so thankful to be greeted warmly. Some in our group speak Arabic, and the mother kept telling them, “I was so afraid, I was so afraid of what we would find when the plane landed.”

“They do not have an easy life ahead of them. They are receiving limited assistance from a non-profit organization for 90 days. They will receive government assistance for a limited time as well. Our goal is to help them attain independence as quickly as possible – help them find jobs, enroll their kids in school, figure out public transportation, get library cards, things like that. We also hope to become friends by sharing meals, going to parks together, and exploring their new home in Los Angeles with them.

“It is so hard to describe the beautiful connections and the hope that were created right there in the airport. I cannot imagine the losses they have experienced, nor the overwhelming task of starting over in a completely foreign country. They were in a refugee camp for three years, I think, as they went through the screening process to enter the US. One of the teen boys had shaved a star into his hair — for the USA, like the American flag, he explained.

“I understand that not all of my friends think that the US should welcome refugees. I also understand that there are many Americans who need help too. But I am so grateful that I got to be part of such a profound act of love and grace. Tweet This We got to live out the words on the Statue of Liberty, and it was amazing.


There may be organizations in your area who assist with refugee resettlement.  Check out: 
www.WorldRelief.org,
www.rescue.org,
www.usccb.org,
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Community garden for refugees connects with the soil

Recently I visited Clarkston, a suburb of Atlanta GA, where many refugee people have begun to call home (away from home). Many will stay a couple of years and then relocate to another American city where they can find jobs or more of their own cultural community.  Several Christian ministries have a presence in Clarkston. One is the “Friends of Refugees” which seeks to help refugees get on their feet culturally and economically.

community garden

Friends of Refugees have purchased a plot within Clarkston on which they hope to construct a meeting and training center for refugees. It is currently a community garden in which families can have their own plot of ground to plant vegetables.

commun carden 2

As you can see, the refugee family must take ownership of their plot, even to the extent of finding their own fencing. Imagine if you were from an agrarian background how meaningful it could be to get your hands into soil again!

friends of refugees

Brian Bollinger (left) leads Friends of Refugees. Matt Seadore (North Ave Presbyterian Church) was my guide to Clarkston ministries. Thanks guys for showing me yet another #NearFrontiersTREK.

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Former refugees give back

We don’t often hear about refugees who make significant contributions to their homelands, but it happens….often.

Our friend Dr. Gregg Detwiler, of Emanuel Gospel Center in Boston is working with others to host meetings entitled 2016 Peacemakers Lecture Series “From There To Here & Back.”

Refugees return home to blessGregg writes, “In fact, right now we are hosting four former Boston-area refugees who have since returned to their home countries to serve the Kingdom and their people. Each of them has a compelling story. One of them came to Boston from her war-torn nation of Sierra Leone as a Muslim woman, came to faith in Christ and was nurtured in her faith in Boston, worked at John Hancock for several years, and felt called to return to her Muslim village to start a school and the first Christian church.”

Ruth Jappah-SamakaiAnother of those four interviewees is…

Ruth Jappah-Samukai – A member of the New York State Bar Association, the Liberian Bar Association, Ruth earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science at Cuttington University, Liberia, Bachelor of Law Degree from the University of Liberia and Masters in International Law from Howard University. Ruth was granted political asylum in the United States of America. She served as Executive Director of the Universal Human Rights International (UHRI) in Boston, Massachusetts. After the Liberian civil war ended, Ruth voluntarily returned to Liberia, where she served as a Commissioner for Liberia Telecommunications Authority. She is currently a Commissioner at the Governance Commission, Republic of Liberia.

FRIEND, THE WORK GOD IS DOING THROUGH THE DIASPORA IS THRILLING!

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Invite Muslims to pray to Jesus for answers

Here is a recent encounter by one of our U.S. workers:

 womanLast Wednesday, I just happened to meet Aisha*, my Muslim friend, in the parking lot of the apartments when I was out walking with our grandson.  I invited her to join me on my walk, but she responded that she was very hungry and needed to eat something.  I said, “You could come over and eat at our house. I have some chicken macaroni soup that I could warm up for you.” She immediately said yes that she would like that and we walked together to our apartment.  Over the soup, we discussed her feelings of depression because someone had argued his atheistic views with her and shaken her already feeble faith.  She has been a Muslim all her life, but is now against all religions.  She does, however still believe in God.

After eating she asked me if we could take our walk.  During our walk she turned to me and said, “I remember one time seven or eight years ago, I was walking and looking down when a woman approached me.  She said, “If you want your prayers answered ask Jesus and He will answer your prayers.”  Aisha responded to her, “Why should I pray to Jesus when I can pray to Muhammad?”  She responded with a smile, “All the prophets are good, but if you want your prayers answered ask Jesus.”’  Aisha looked at me and said, “I still remember her face.  She wasn’t like a normal human.  No matter what I said she smiled and spoke gently to me.  I think she might not have been human.”  I told Aisha, “God does send His angels and she could have been an angel, but remember this.  God was reaching out to you even eight years ago and there are probably other times He has tried.”  (She had told me that God had never reached out to her in her fifteen years of searching for Him).

Later she said, “Can you see how sad I am?  I need hope.”  I shared how Jesus wants to fill her with His hope, joy and peace and that all she needs to do is to call out to Him.  She said, “Yes, I think I need to do that.”  We had a good talk and she told me she wanted to join me at church on Sunday.

Aisha came to the church service.  She had me promise to secrecy.   As Aisha and I walked into the church, she said, “I tried to go to church in my country, but I could not.”  “Was that because you were a Muslim?” I asked.  She said that it was.  Since her home country is an Islamic State everyone that is born there is automatically a Muslim. Of course, that does not include those born to Christians.  However, if you are born into a Muslim family, you have no choice.  You are Muslim.  Aisha is on a journey and longs for a relationship with God.

Tweet This  Invite Muslims to pray to Jesus if they want answers. #NearFrontiersTREK

*name has been changed
(Photo credit: dailystar.co.uk)

 

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Thanksgiving feast beyond the food

In my ongoing effort to bring you to places where followers of Jesus are engaging the nations here in America, I offer you another escapade to the mission frontier. This one adds another level of gratitude to our Thanksgiving holiday.

Picture this scene. Two young families, each with two children, sitting around a dinner table in an Thanksgiving mealAmerican home, having enjoyed a full turkey dinner. The hostess had explained each dish as a part of American tradition. Both families are refugees, one from Iran the other from Afghanistan. Sitting around the table are six American Christians.

Now the group enjoys tea and dessert. The host announces that we are going to have a brief story about the origins of the Thanksgiving holiday. A friend has prepared an account of the coming of the pilgrims, the help of native Americans in growing crops, the spread of disease, the harvest and sense of gratitude.  He tells of the declaration by Congress of a day for thanking God. The story is appreciated by all.

Then the friend passes around verses from the Bible printed nicely on paper slips and invites each person around the table to read the verse and, if desired, to share something they are thankful for. The refugees are working on their English, so there is some assistance given on more difficult words (like “ceasing,” and “petition”).  Since holy scripture is respected, all seem to take the words of the Bible with seriousness.

Surrounding this event ring the laughter of kids and cries of babies. Side conversations develop, brief stories told, geographical and sports questions answered. But as I sit in that place, the wonder of the evening is alight in my heart.  Tweet This  I am joyful that God is bringing the nations to us, not in dribbles but in droves. The words of the prophet seem true again:

“Look among the nations and watch — be utterly astounded! For I will work a work in your days which you would not believe, though it were told you. (Habakkuk 1:5)

 

 

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Standing room only to learn about refugee resettlement

refugee mtgNews of the #Parisattacks and Syria refugee crisis has raised awareness of the plight of refugees today, as well as concerns about the safety of citizens everywhere.

 

 

Tweet This  Generally immigrants look ahead to establishing a new life, while refugees look back wishing they could return home.

I was invited by a neighbor to attend a seminar on welcoming refugees. It was not a religious event, even though it was presented by a Christian organization called World Relief.

To be honest, I thought there might be 50 people in attendance. I was pleasantly surprised to show up to a full parking lot and approximately 250-300 people inside. It was an informative evening with a lot of interest and interaction. I believe many indicated their interest in:

  • opening their home for a refugee family for 4 to 14 days when they first arrive and need rest and some basic orientation
  • coming alongside a refugee as a “Cultural Companion” for 6 months to help them learn how things work
  • serving as an English language helper in a classroom setting.

The “near frontiers” are embracing most Americans it seems. I have never witnessed so much conversation about immigrants and refugees.

Here is some information about World Relief, and here is We Welcome Refugees website they recommended we use.

#NearFrontiersTREK

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My visit to a mission prayer cell

prayer living roomOn a rainy evening recently I joined a potluck and prayer meeting held in a home in an American city. I arrived on time and thought the date must have been changed because I was the only guest. But over the next 30 minutes some singles and couples arrived. Food gradually appeared and was set on the dining table.

The host prayed for the meal and invited us to get dinner. Some of the food was of an ethnic variety. Some was simple, like crackers and cheese. We sat around the living room and chatted while eating.

Then the host read a psalm, and invited each person to share an update or prayer request. Since there were by now over 20 people in the circle, the sharing took some time. We paused after every three or four people to pray for the needs that were shared.

Tweet This  Mission prayer cells like this are held in cities around the U.S. That’s encouraging! #NearFrontiersTREK

The unique thing about this group is that they all had a common burden for a particular unreached people group living in their area. Some of them worked or volunteered with a resettlement agency. Others worked with different agencies or churches.  A few had decades of experience with this people group overseas; others were very new to this ministry.

prayer meeting inviteI was amazed and encouraged by how many people from this people group they knew by name. Several had met the same people. One young wife had pharmacy training and asked us to pray for a day of free immunizations coming up. Two single women were trained in midwifery and had a house where they served women in this community.

Some wild dreams for ministry were shared. One was the vision of raising enough money for a church or agency to purchase an entire apartment complex to provide affordable housing for refugees who, despite working, are being priced out of the market. Another idea was to supply camel milk because it is a traditional (but unavailable) part of the diet of this group.

Do you know of a group like this in your city?

Tweet This  You could start such a mission prayer cell with your friends. Become a #John4activist. http://www.nearfrontiers.org/?p=297

 

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Neighborly pumpkin-carving

I have been looking for another opportunity to reconnect with my neighbors from Somalia. Remember this is the family I got to have in my home for hamburgers, which had to be halal meat. Catch up on that story here.

With Halloween coming up, I had the idea of inviting my neighbors over for a cup of hot cider. That evening turned out to be rainy, so the shelter of my open garage was inviting to some who came and talked for awhile. But I had a different thought for my Muslim friends, who I assumed would not get into the traditional trick-or-treating routine.

So I invited them to my place to carve pumpkins. They had never done this before, so I had to explain what it would involve. We had to work on the scheduling. Our first time day proved to be a no show, so we rescheduled for Halloween itself. I had bought three pumpkins, and had knives, spoons and candles ready. So they came as a family, and we had quite the time getting messy!

They wondered if this was the kind of pumpkin you could eat. Sure. I told them that Lyn sometimes roasted the seeds, so they took some home to try that.

I think we came out with some really nice faces! Don’t you agree?

three pumpkinsTweet This   Pumpkin carving turned out to be a great way to be neighborly. #NearFrontierTREK

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Your airport as front line ministry

One of the “near frontiers” in your area is the international airport. Every day, people from foreign lands enter the U.S. on what is likely the greatest adventure of their lives.

Many come as students to get their university degree. They are excited and hopeful.

Others come as immigrants to begin a new life, or to join family members already here.

Still others are refugees who have been forced to flee the country they love. This may be their first time in an airplane ever.

One very practical ministry is to provide transportation from the airport to that first apartment. This can lead to finding used furniture or learning local bus routes.

One of our workers regularly makes airport pick ups, and has made many friends doing so. Recently he brought an international friend to the airport to pick up his wife and 7 month old daughter. What a happy reunion!

Write us if you would like to learn more about this practical ministry.  doorbell@nearfrontiers.org

Tweet This  One of the “near frontiers” in your area is the international airport.

#NearFrontiersTREK

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