Last week, our president signed an executive order suspending the American Refugee Program for 120 days, and banning citizens of 7 other countries–Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen– from traveling to the United States for 90 days. Our country seems to be split right down the middle on this issue and so are our churches. Some of us are loudly against this order, others agree with it, and still others are completely silent.
Rather than persuade you politically one way or the other, at Church of the Open Door, we want to persuade you to take action. No matter our politics, as Christians, there’s one thing we can’t really argue about: we are called to love people. This includes immigrants, refugees, and foreigners.
The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.
So, let’s fight against a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7) and learn to love foreigners, immigrants, and refugees well. How can we do that, you ask? Here are four suggestions to get started:
1) Make an effort to understand the situation.
In this world we live in, reliable media sources can be a little hard to find. Everyone seems to have an agenda, and traditional, entirely fact-based journalism is harder to come by than it should be. As a result, we have to put in a little extra effort to make sure we’re getting the full story, and think critically through everything we watch or read as we do it.
It’s so important for us to make time to truly understand the situation, though. Why do these refugees need refuge to begin with? What’s going on in their countries? Put yourself in their shoes. Next, what is our government’s motivations? What are they trying to protect us from? Put yourself in their shoes. It’s time we step up and educate ourselves. We have to start asking the hard questions, and they should make us uncomfortable. Regardless, we have to make an effort to fully understand what’s going on and see both sides of the issue.
2) Work with migration and refugee services locally.
Now that we’ve tried to see the situation for the awful mess that it is, we probably have one of two responses: idealism (We have to save everyone right now!!) or cynicism (What difference can I even make?!). While we can’t necessarily save everyone, we have to do something. Jesus said so:
“For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’” Matthew 25:42-45
Depending on your location, there are many ways to serve refugees and immigrants locally. These include mentoring a family through the resettlement process, teaching English to adults and children, tutoring students trying to adjust to American schools, and much more. If working directly with people isn’t your first choice, there are also many ways to help behind the scenes such as cleaning and setting up apartments for new arrivals or shopping for supplies. A quick google search will show you the opportunities available in your specific area.
Though Church of the Open Door doesn’t partner directly with them, these local organizations do provide excellent resources and program opportunities to get involved with refugees and immigrants in Northeast Ohio:
Catholic Charities Diocese of Cleveland – Migration & Refugee Services
U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) – Cleveland
Refugee Services Collaborative of Greater Cleveland
Us Together – Cleveland
3) Donate to organizations working overseas.
If you are unable to get involved on a local level, you still have options. Many organizations are doing incredible work overseas with refugees and they need our help, too. This suggestion requires a bit of research on your part though: check to see which organizations have missions that you align most closely with, be sure these organizations are trustworthy (your money is going where they say it is), etc. Once you find one (or maybe more than one!) that you feel comfortable supporting, consider donating financially to them. Or if you’re feeling really ambitious, jump on a plane and let God use you to bless these people right where they’re at.
Some of the missionaries that Church of the Open Door currently supports are also working with refugees overseas. For more information on the work of these specific missionaries, and/or to donate to our Missions Department, contact Alex Marks at [email protected] or call our church at (440) 323-4644.
4) Pray for healing.
Alright, every single one of us can manage this one. At Church of the Open Door, we believe prayer is powerful and that God is always working to redeem and heal this broken world. Because of this, we need to be praying intentionally for our government, for these countries who are so war-torn that their citizens are unsafe, and for us as Christians to have compassion on these people.
Sometimes, praying in situations like this feels hard. Everything is so incredibly broken; where do we even start? What good is prayer anyways? Often God uses our prayer time to speak to us, to begin changing our hearts. Think of it like this: maybe your prayer won’t end the civil war in Syria, but God could call you to mentor a refugee family, and that really will make all the difference.