Whatever your views are on the global refugee crisis, you can be sure of these things: Refugees are here in America – with more probably coming. These refugees face incredible challenges when they enter a new country, and most of them aren’t believers in Jesus Christ.
Picture yourself in their situation for just a moment. Perhaps you’ve had your home – along with everything you own – burned to the ground by militant extremists. Maybe you’ve even seen your family members executed before your very eyes. And you’re told, “Leave, or we’ll do the same to you.”
So these refugees take their children and leave, hoping to make it to a new country where they can start rebuilding their lives. And if they finally do, they’re greeted by a population that doesn’t want them there. The food is foreign, the language is hard to learn, and it’s nearly impossible to get a job to support themselves.
They want to be at home in their new country – but they feel so far from it.
So what can you do to help these people rebuild their lives after having lost so much? Here are five ways you can help:
1. Have some compassion
I understand the concerns many people have about the influx of refugees from the Middle East. I share many of those concerns myself.
But the truth is that the vast majority of refugees in America today want nothing more than to live in peace. In fact, most would rather be back home, if there was a home left. So give them the benefit of the doubt when you meet them.
2. Help them assimilate into American life
Most refugees would love an American to help show them how to do little things like pay a bill or take the bus to the store. There’s also a huge need for refugees to learn English, because the majority both need and want to.
You can also offer to teach them to drive and go along with them if they’re ready to purchase a vehicle. Refugees are often taken advantage of because they don’t know the culture. You can be their cultural guide.
And of course, you can help them find a job and assist with their material needs until they do.
3. Offer to take them places
It’s hard in America to go about your daily life without a car. What would normally be a 45-minute trip to Walmart becomes a three- or four-hour trip when you have to walk to the bus stop, wait for the bus, make a connection, and then do it all over again.
Most refugees would love it if you would offer to take them somewhere once a week – whether it’s going shopping, to the doctor, or to a government office to file paperwork. It’s a simple task but will go a long way for someone new to America.
4. Invite them to experience your life
The majority of refugees and immigrants will never set foot in the home of an American, much less have their kids invited to American birthday parties, attend church, or go to an American sporting event. That provides a big opportunity for you to invite them to experience our daily life.
Find ways to involve refugees in your day-to-day routine. Need to go to Home Depot to pick up a new rake? Ask them to come along. Heading to church on Sunday morning? Check to see if they’d like to go, too. You don’t have to put pressure on them – just extend the invitation.
5. Be a real friend
Few things cross cultural barriers like being insincere. If you’re just going through the motions to check off a list, your refugee friend is going to see through you. He or she may still appreciate it, but you’re not going to cultivate the kind of relationship that gives you the platform to share the Gospel.
Being a friend is more than just helping – it’s being present for someone who’s going through a very tough time. Call them. Visit them. Pray with and for them. Be a source of encouragement and comfort for refugees – and they’ll never forget it!
Jalil Dawood is the author of “The Refugee: A Story of God’s Grace and Hope on One Man’s Road to Refuge”and the founder of World Refugee Care
Image courtesy: ©Thinkstock/Bestgreenscreen
Publication date: August 1, 2017