Refugee Relief

by Pastor Chris Cashen
This article first appeared in the September 2020 edition of The Mercy Minute, the Committee on Diaconal Ministries’ quarterly e-newsletter.
What comes to mind when you hear of “refugee ministry”? Possibly ministry that requires travel to a particular place, hours or days of training, the acquisition of difficult language skills, and certainly sensitivity to cultural differences. While some of these may be helpful, none of them are barriers or obstacles to becoming actively engaged in ministering to refugees. The work is actually much less daunting than it might sound. In fact, think of it in the way our Lord clearly taught: “You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.” Lev. 19:34 (ESV).  There it is: minister mercy to the refugee (that is, the “stranger”) who lives near you “as the native among you.” In other words, we are all called to minister to refugees just as we would our next door neighbors who are in need. This passage puts refugee ministry in perspective.

While there may be cultural and language differences when ministering mercy to refugees as compared to US born neighbors, the work is essentially the same. As an example, just as others throughout the country suffer with the effects of COVID-19, so do our new neighbors from Syria, Ethiopia, Congo and Tanzania. During the last several months, we have purchased, packaged and delivered food, helped our friends complete rent assistance forms, and delivered rent payment checks. These opportunities provided entry into our neighbors’ homes and, in their time of need, the ability to speak to them of the gracious salvation offered by Jesus and pray in His name. To be sure, refugees also have unique needs that many of our US born neighbors don’t experience: help completing immigration forms or navigating the department of motor vehicles for a driver’s license. Today, with many schools teaching through virtual classrooms, doors are open to tutor neighborhood children whose parents are unable to understand the homework instructions given in English. Opportunities abound as refugees have been resettled throughout the United States. Just as when our US born neighbors seek help, the material needs of refugees open the door for the light of Jesus Christ to shine brightly in their world of darkness.