It’s Worth Your Time: Reach out to Refugees

reaching out to refugees

Have you ever moved to a new place where you didn’t know anyone? It seems as if it takes forever to find your way around and get used to new roads, grocery stores, and schools. Without family or friends nearby, it’s easy to withdraw.

Then it happens. A new colleague at work or person at the church you’re visiting offers some advice or recommends his or her most trusted mechanic. Life gets easier and you settle in. While we can probably all identify with this experience at one time or another, can you imagine doing it without knowing English? The majority of the refugees in our midst encounters this reality daily.

We focus in our churches on the need for refugees to learn English, and that is important. But in the meantime, how do they find housing, enroll their children in school, and understand how to get insurance or a driver’s license? The details of life can be overwhelming for a person who has never had to register his or her child for school or go to the health department for immunizations.

Christians are the key for helping refugees settle and feel welcome in our communities, because every single ministry that reaches refugees in our nation is in need of volunteers. Are you willing to make a difference?

You can choose how much time to give, but you may not be able to control how much you will be affected by the lives you touch. Our church recently began teaching English as a second language to a group of women from a variety of Middle Eastern countries in a local apartment complex. One of the volunteers recently shared:

“After class one day we stopped by the apartment of an Algerian woman. She quickly prepared a meal for us and afterward asked if I could help her with her citizenship test. She had been studying and needed an objective American person to quiz her. She handed me her binder with 100 test questions. She knew all the answers and spoke English in a natural way, surprising me since she had spoken only Arabic since we arrived. I remarked on her good pronunciation (which had to be translated to Arabic for her to understand). She disappeared into the kitchen, returning with a little notepad, asking me to write my comment so she could show her husband when he got home, as he had been teasing her about her efforts to learn English. She has since passed her test and is looking forward to the naturalization ceremony in Nashville.”

Another volunteer said, “Though we have cultural differences, we come together teacher-to-student, student-to-teacher, loving each other and with an eagerness to learn, with me learning how to teach them and them learning English.”

Worth the investment? For His glory—absolutely!

How YOU can make a difference

  1. Volunteer in a secular nonprofit. Be salt and light in these organizations that need a Christian presence.
  2. Volunteer for Christian nonprofits like World Relief, Arab-American Friendship Centers, or Catholic Charities.
  3. Begin an outreach ministry from your church or association.

Carol Ghattas, or Um Daoud, is an author, speaker, and blogger (LifeInExile.net). She and her late husband, Raouf, served over 20 years among Muslims in the Middle East and then came back to start the Arabic Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Contact her at rcghattas@comcast.net.

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