The following was written by Sarah Ensslen and Sarah Brubaker, members of Seven Mile Road, as the reflect on ways to respond to refugees following Sunday’s sermon.
“Love for the sojourner is a witness to our conversion, and a God-glorifying display of the Gospel to the world” (Siby Varghese, Justice and Refugees). Thus, God’s Word makes this love an imperative to be lived out. In the Old Testament God commands Israel to love the strangers and sojourners (Leviticus 19:33-34), and emphasizes caring for the marginalized, sojourners, and outsiders throughout the Prophets. In fact, this was a part of God’s plan from the beginning; for Him to be known by all people groups as a result of the way the Israelites tangibly displayed His love (Lev. 23:22, Ps. 98, Is. 58,). In the New Testament believers are reminded that they were once strangers and aliens who had no hope, but that Christ lived out ministering to and caring for those who were outcast and rejected in society (Eph. 2:12). Now they have hope and an eternal home – they have been brought near by Christ’s sacrifice, they are now family! We, Seven Mile Road are a part of this eternal hope-filled family. As such, it is our biblical mandate as a body of Christ to follow in Christ’s example – not as something to add to our “ to-do-list,” but as a conviction of the soul because of the extravagant love that has been displayed to and bestowed upon us as outcasts and sojourners. As Pastor Siby shared regarding Luke 10:25-37, we must move from asking, “If I help this man, what will happen to me?” to “If I don’t help this man, what will happen to him?” The Holy Spirit longs to work out Christ in us in this way – for us to be more conformed to His image as our hearts enlarge with care and compassion for the lost and hurting that results in action. God is very clear in Scripture that He did not call us to lives of safety, security, and comfort. No, He actually called us to lives of suffering for His Name sake, with Christ as our example. As we learned on Sunday, the lawyer in Luke 10 was asking the wrong question when he asked, “Who is my neighbor?” Using a compelling story, Jesus turned the tables and asked the man, “What kind of neighbor are you?” This question wasn’t just asked of this lawyer, or of the Israelites who had long been commanded to love the outsider in an effort to demonstrate God’s heart and character. This question is asked of us also – so what kind of neighbors are we, Seven Mile Road? If, as the body of Christ and individual members of the body, we were to be this type of neighbor to refugees, how might we go about doing that? If you’re interested, feel free to read on.
A local immediate opportunity: Bethany Christian Services is an organization that assists refugees and immigrants with resettling in the United States. Currently, the site in Elkins Park is looking to increase the number of foster homes and mentors they have for refugee teens/young adults as the number of homes and mentors they have is low. The refugees Bethany works with are between age 13 & 21. Some of these teens/young adults need a place to live, others just need someone who will invest in them, help them learn how to live in the United States in a way that they can support themselves, and be their friend. If you want to learn more about foster care and mentoring opportunities through Bethany, please contact Sarah Ensslen. Bethany also created a general FAQ page about how to help refugees in your local area.
The recent decision by the presidential administration to decrease the number of refugees allowed to resettle in the United States has impacted many organizations that minister to refugees. For example, World Relief reports that they had to close five of their offices and lay off over 140 members of their staff. While the political climate can change the total number of refugees we have proximity with, it does not change our overall ability to have an impact – the way we engage may just look different. One of the best ways to learn how to engage effectively based on the current reality here in the United States and abroad is to investigate organizations and agencies that specialize in ministering to refugees. These organizations will most likely have an accurate pulse of what the needs are and how you can be of help. For a large list of Christian organizations that work with refugees, click here.