- Talk about your ministry with refugees. What brought you to it? How long have you done it? What’s your role?
I just started working with refugees this year. It was precipitated by the refugee crisis and the inordinate amount of refugees now living in our neighborhood. Our little church plant is wrestling with this new calling. It is an obvious need in the area, but it is not always obvious to know how to best help. I currently volunteer at a refugee home in our neighborhood for a weekly tea parlor, a place to which refugees can come, get tea and some baked goods that a local organization has donated, and talk with people, practicing their German. This will sometimes lead to further relationships based on a new friendship.
- Describe your most fulfilling day in this role. Describe your most challenging day in this role.
A fulfilling day was the news that one of the families we had been helping officially got their first apartment. They were able to establish a new home there after the five of them lived cramped in one room at a local refugee home.
A huge challenge to me is when a refugee speaks neither German nor English and we cannot really communicate. Gestures, smiles, and signs of affection are the only way to communicate good intent, but it’s tough to have a relationship.
- Is there anything that surprised you about refugees that you didn’t know before you worked with them?
This is not really a surprise, but the reality of the diversity of situations, cultural backgrounds, languages ,and class. Some are well-educated and some total analphabets.
- What or who are all the players who influence what you can offer? (i.e. Local government? USAID? Your agency? Local churches? Individuals who come to serve short term?)
We work with the local refugee home that is government sponsors and with another small local church that helps with the tea parlor.
- What is something you have learned that can help other global workers in their work with refugees?
Have no assumptions about anyone, good or bad. You just have to take people as they come and ask loads of questions. The other thing I learned quickly is that we can start talking about God with refugees a whole lot faster than we can with Germans. For most refugees, talking about God is a normal part of their culture and they tend to be surprised when Germans don’t want to.
- Tell us about a refugee individual or family you’ve encountered. In brief, where has their journey brought them, and what can they hope for? (i.e. Will they be in a refugee camp all their life? Are they trying to get to a different country or integrate here? Etc.)
We are currently serving one family from Afghanistan. They fled because of war and are hoping to find asylum here in Germany. They do desire to go home, but if you would to ask them now, they’d just look at you in disbelief. There is nothing to go back to currently. They left everything behind, came with the clothes on their backs. They are living in a refugee home, hoping to get their own place. The teenage boys are working very hard to learn German and are doing well.
- Your job is hard. What keeps you going? Is there a passage of Scripture that motivates you? The story of a person you met? What self-care do you intentionally engage in so you will last?
I don’t find the job hard when I am praying and listening to the Spirit about what I ought to do. The need and the options sometimes seem overwhelming and helping people in a way that doesn’t demean them is a challenge. But that is the human perspective. I know that God is sovereign and has brought them here for a reason.
And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him (Acts 17:26-27).
- How can we pray for you?
Pray for unity at the church plant to know how to best make meaningful contacts with the refugees at the homes. Pray for wise allocation of resources for kingdom-building purposes. Pray that when the refugees do come to the church, they would feel comfortable and sense the presence of God drawing them, even if they can’t understand everything going on or the culture is foreign to them. Pray many refugees would have a life-changing encounter with the risen Lord!