“How Can the Local Church Welcome Refugees?”
“The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:34).
Fred Farrokh, a Muslim Background Believer (MBB), suggests seven ways to welcome MBBs:
MBBs can be a gift to the local church since many MBBs are familiar with overcoming persecution. So, the local church should see MBBs as people who can contribute to the life of the church.
In many cases, the MBB may have lost family connections through immigration or being disowned for his/her faith in Christ. The local church needs to create a sense of family for the new MBBs. Men in the church should seek to interact with MBB men, women to women, and families to families.
MBBs should be invited to Bible studies and prayer meetings.
The local church should not rush MBBs to the pulpit for testimonies. Let it come naturally. We don’t want the convert to get a big head and possibly get set up for a big fall.
The local church can utilize the MBB as a resource on events in the MBBs country but should not expect or demand the MBB to make political evaluations. The MBB, having already created shame for his/her family through conversion, may not want to make matters worse by weighing in on politics.
MBBs need pastoral oversight and accountability, whether this is through the senior pastor or cell group leaders. It is not necessary to know a lot about Islam to pastor or disciple an MBB.
In summary, try not to make the MBB feel “different” from other newcomers, but rather welcomed into the family of God.
One Church with Many Languages
Pastors Doug and Lamond Banks of Maranatha Chapel in Evergreen Park, Illinois, were formerly missionaries in Mexico City. Hispanics, Arabs, African Americans, and Eastern Europeans surround Evergreen Park. God gave them a vision for one church with many languages and it has become just that. Step-by-step the Lord has led them to establish Spanish, Arabic, Jewish, and African language congregations that are all part of one church. (Read their faith-filled story in the “The Local Church Reaching Muslims” Intercede, May/June 2015)
Pastor Lamond shares,
“Through language classes (ESL), cultural integration, and language congregations, we have been the ‘church serving.’ Using gifts of friendship, mutual support, and sharing we have built bridges and friendship with our immigrant neighbors.”
Ways to Meet the Needs of Refugees
English as a Second Language classes
Orientation to the community
Fred Farrokh adds, “If the MBBs are newcomers to the country they may need various kinds of practical assistance related to their resettlement. While the church and church volunteers may initially help with ESL or shopping, it is also fine to connect the MBBs with existing community resources for transportation, job training, job placement, legal paperwork, housing, etc. Church volunteers should see their primary ministry as spiritual and moral support. Maintain reasonable boundaries to avoid burn-out.”
Refugees are most open when they first arrive. One of the greatest gifts we can give to refugees is to listen to their stories.