Guest Blogger Refugees & Immigration Reform

ALL YOU NEED ARE YOUR CAR KEYS Loving Refugees: Part 3

Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 3.51.35 PM[Cherie Gray is the Executive Director of the Tucson Refugee Ministry in Tucson, Arizona.  Her website is Tucson Refugee Ministry.  I consider her one of the foremost experts on refugee assimilation in the U.S. I am deeply grateful for Cherie being a guest blogger and providing this three part series]

This is a new era! It is no coincidence that God is moving millions of people from one continent to another. He is reshuffling the deck –moving people out of their comfort zones – out of the land of their ancestry – out of their spiritual strongholds. There are so many who need to witness the extravagant compassion and mercy of Jesus! He is airlifting them right into your neighborhood.

The good news is that God has already equipped us to bind up the brokenhearted, to comfort those who mourn, to provide for those who grieve, to administer justice, to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked and to welcome the stranger. What a job description! And it belongs to every believer – not just the “professionals”! You’ve got this!!

Below are a few more pointers for reaching out to refugees:

  1. Identity. The word “Christian” is often misunderstood and defined quite differently by international friends, so you may want to consider other ways to identify yourself with Jesus that carry less negative baggage. If you want your international friends to know that you honor God, even before you open your mouth, consider what you wear (err on the conservative side) and be aware of gender boundaries.
  1. Humble Yourself. Learning the English language will be the key to success for your refugee friends.   You can bring them joy (and entertainment) by making an effort to learn some words in their language. They may laugh at you, but it will build a bridge and they will always appreciate your efforts!
  2. Healthy Balance. Respect their culture and teach them yours. When you visit them in their house, go by their rules (shoes at the door? sit on floor? eat with fingers?). When you invite them to your home, go by your rules (pray before meal? help yourself?). Our international friends have a beautiful culture and unique traditions. We don’t want them to leave everything behind when they assimilate.
  1. Report. Ask your pastor if you can give a report to the congregation about your international, cross-cultural adventures with your refugee friends. Prepare a short powerpoint presentation to help others understand your experience. Consider starting a program at your church to give others a chance to embrace a refugee family.

You are called and commissioned to love and serve among the nations! But no need to raise funds for an airline ticket, get your immunizations, write support letters, or even pack your bags. All you need are your car keys! God is bringing the nations to your doorstep. Will you welcome them? 

Favorite Resources:

  • We Welcome Refugees – positions the global church as a key agent of hope and compassion in the current refugee crisis (
  • Refugee Highway Partnership – a worldwide network for Christian believers who are serving refugees; they offer many wonderful resources and an annual refugee ministry summit for the North America region called the RHPNA Roundtable scheduled for July 20-22 in Toronto, Canada. ( (
  • IAFR – International Association for Refugees is assisting forcibly displaced people together with the refugee church. (
  • International Teams – helping churches embrace refugees along the Refugee Highway through ministries of presence, compassion, empowerment and training. (
  • World Relief – empowers the local Church to serve refugees and other vulnerable populations, working in community with the local church to see people transformed economically, socially and spiritually. (
  • UNHCR – The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was established to lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. Its primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. ( Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 3.52.34 PM
Guest Blogger Refugees & Immigration Reform

LOVE GOD – LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR Loving Refugees: Part 2

Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 3.39.22 PM[Cherie Gray is the Executive Director of the Tucson Refugee Ministry in Tucson, Arizona.  Her website is Tucson Refugee Ministry.  I consider her one of the foremost experts on refugee assimilation in the U.S.]

“It’s you!!” Like a deer in headlights, I stared at the smiling man, unable to place his face. “It’s you”, he said again, “You’re the one!”. Caught off guard, I wasn’t sure how to respond to this Arabic gentleman. “Do you remember me?” he asked. I desperately scrolled through my mental address book – searching for a clue but drawing a blank. Still insistent, he took off his glasses and stated emphatically, “Now you recognize me?!” I couldn’t place him, but he quickly filled in the blanks explaining, “You were there when my family and I arrived at the airport two years ago.”

After cries of joy and many warm greetings we made our way into the room where we were both attending a dialog between Muslims and Christians called “Loving God – Loving Your Neighbor”. Instead of finding a chair nearby, he made his way to the podium. When he was introduced I silently gulped. This was the Imam!! He offered some opening statements extending gracious greetings, then while I was still putting the pieces together, he pointed me out saying, “This is my friend. She welcomed my family when we first arrived in America. She is an example of loving God and loving your neighbor”. Although that night at the airport had been a small effort for me, he and his family remembered my face and that welcome was permanently imprinted in their memories. (That night also relaunched an amazing relationship with the Imam and his family that continues to this day!)

Loving our “neighbor” may not be the obvious (or the easiest) choice. It might mean crossing the street to help someone from an “enemy” country – someone who has been beaten and has stared down death. It may involve binding their wounds, putting them on our own “donkey” and taking responsibility for their recovery. We won’t be surprised when governments hurriedly cross to the other side of the road – their budgets too overburdened for them to stop and help.   We won’t be disappointed when non-profits and charitable organizations are overwhelmed by the magnitude of the crisis, and start looking the other way. We, as followers of Jesus, are uniquely suited to be the Good Samaritans!

Here are more ways we can reach out to our New American neighbors:

  1. Stick your toe in the water. Make a commitment together to serve for a specific period of time, with clear boundaries. Ensure everyone involved agrees on what is expected during this timeframe. Consider a “milestone party” at the end of your commitment – to celebrate the interesting things that all of you have learned from each other.
  1. Pencil It In. Schedule your visits with your international friends – literally put those visits on your calendar. (For Americans, if it’s not on the calendar, it’s not going to happen!) Time is the most precious gift we can give. Invite your pastor or one of your church leaders to come with you to visit your new friends at least once.
  1. Empower. Avoid the “Fairy Godmother Syndrome”. Giving gifts, meeting needs, and endeavoring to fix everything can leave those we are trying to assist feeling helpless and dependent. Empower your new friends to stand on their own two feet. They are amazing, resourceful, creative survivors to have made it this far! If they ask for help with financial or material needs, point them to God and remind them that He is the Provider. Offer to pray together about their needs. If you still feel led to help with a specific need, first consult their agency case manager, confirm it is a valid need, and give anonymously through them.
  1. Radical Hospitality. Invite your new friends over for a meal. Hospitality is their love language, and it is a great honor for them to be invited to an American home. Hospitality trumps all other arguments (i.e. – “if they see my house, they will think I’m rich”). What we share with our international friends over the kitchen table will be repeated to their beloved relatives in faraway homelands. Cross-continental conversations happen almost daily via Skype, Viber and WhatsApp.

“Americans are not like what we expected!” an Afghani refugee told her volunteer. The Afghani lady was evasive when asked what they had anticipated – and how they had arrived at those assumptions. She hastily offered, “I tell my family back home – Americans are so nice! They ask me to come to their home! They are so friendly!”   Hmmm – reminds me of I John 4:18, “There is no fear in love”!


Guest Blogger Refugees & Immigration Reform


Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 3.25.08 PM

[Cherie Gray is the Executive Director of the Tucson Refugee Ministry in Tucson, Arizona.  Her website is Tucson Refugee Ministry.  I consider her one of the foremost experts on refugee assimilation in the U.S.]

Have you watched the news lately, feeling helpless as streams of ragged, bewildered, desperate refugees flood the screen? Until recently, these forcibly displaced people have been mostly hidden from mainstream society, although nearly 70,000 are accepted legally into the U.S. annually! How many are resettling in your city?

The nations are not far away anymore, confined to forgotten islands or forsaken bush country. Bringing hope and sharing truth with least-reached and unengaged people groups is no longer reserved for the valiant and few super-saints – the selectively “called” that we send overseas.

God is now tapping “average” church members on the shoulder – those who have never applied for a passport, nor speak other languages! He is inviting soccer moms, school kids, businessmen, fitness instructors, grandfathers, spelling bee winners, board presidents, techies, photographers, football stars and politicians to love God and love our neighbor.

And it’s really easy to get started! Here are some first steps…

  1. Connect. Look up your local refugee resettlement agency. Sign up to be a volunteer, attend their training, and determine where God wants you to serve. There will be a variety of opportunities and different levels of engagement – one time projects and short term commitments.   Ask if you can greet a newly arriving family at the airport when they first land in America, and give them a hero’s welcome with signs, flags, flowers, etc.!
  1. Meet and Invite. If your city doesn’t have refugee resettlement agencies, consider visiting international markets, food stores or ethnic restaurants to meet foreigners. In many countries, it is not uncommon to be invited to a stranger’s home for tea/coffee. If you have a divine encounter while shopping, don’t be afraid to extend an invitation to your home.
  1. Pray. Begin praying for your international friend as soon as you learn their name. Research their country – learn about their language, culture, religion and traditions. Continue to be a learner and a listener. Ask God to show you how to build bridges and be the Good News!
  1. Together is better! Recruit your friends to join you in an airport welcome, hosting a meal, or another special project. Embrace one refugee family together, taking turns making visits. Engage your entire family in ministry. Kids are great connectors – they are non-threatening, provide universal commonalities, and are often better at building bridges with international neighbors than we adults are.