An invitation to consider refugee sponsorship

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1024px-Jacob_Jordaens_the_elder_-_Flight_of_the_Holy_Family_into_Egypt_-_Walters_372368

Flight of the Holy Family into Egypt: A painting by Jacob Jordaens of some now well-known people who lived for a time as refugees.

Human displacement through war and oppression is a major humanitarian crisis today. Millions of refugees plead daily to God for deliverance. Meanwhile, here in North America we are more isolated from each other than ever before and  increasingly enslaved by a misguided hunger for things. Lonely and unsatisfied, we implore God for help. Save our churches, save our children, save us, we pray.

What if God looks down and says, “My goodness, you people need each other.” What if God wants to use us to help refugees and use refugees to help us? I am deeply convinced that this is exactly where we are.

Organizations on the ground in the areas of profound upheaval need our help. But what if it is vitally important to respond in ways that invite the suffering of “over there,” past our checking account and right on into the living room? Refugee sponsorship is one such way to do this.

The details of how to get involved in refugee sponsorship are specific to the country where you live. (I write from Canada.) What is not different is the need for displaced people to find safe and welcoming places to rebuild their lives. Wading through the initial information about how to sponsor refugees is overwhelming and confusing. But with a little effort, it’s really not rocket science. Government documents everywhere typically run from dull to maddening, but the stakes are high. An entire family might be offered safety and a future for their children if we can make the time for a little research.

If nothing else, I feel God is calling me to sound the trumpet. This is possible. Refugee sponsorship can be undertaken by people with no special gifts or experience. If you were sitting in my kitchen over a cup of tea, wondering (even slightly) about refugee sponsorship, here are some thoughts and considerations.

*Pray, and expect God to act. People, including you, need help now.

*Sponsoring a family isn’t something you can do alone, but you’d be surprised how many people are interested in being involved if someone leads the way. A lot of people recognize the crisis and would like to help, they just don’t know where to start. Moses wasn’t that impressive when God chose him. You might not need to be amazing for God to use you either.

*Don’t require yourself to have all the answers. Knock on a lot of doors and walk through the ones that open. Move on quickly (without getting discouraged) if they don’t. You only have time to walk through so many doors anyway.

*Remember that what you’re trying to do is act of love and faith (not a lack of responsible thinking). Love is always a risk: that’s part of what makes it love. It is impossible to guess the answer to every question that will arise or to pre-plan for every scenario. Read, learn, ask questions, and then be willing to leap in faith with a small group of people committed to leaping with you. If things get messy, complicated and overwhelming, remind yourself that this is what the best kind of love looks like on its way to something beautiful.

No matter what they say, it’s not the money. The money will come. Otherwise, you need:

  • A few people who recognize the need and feel called to help.
  • A willingness to find and work with the strengths of a parish. Parishes are like people. There aren’t any perfect ones, but each one has places where God’s gifts shine brightly. Find those places and appeal to them. Consider working with other churches to expand the pool of talents you have to draw from.
  • A way to communicate as much as you are able about the global refugee crisis and the opportunity for sponsorship. Don’t assume everyone listens to the news. Be at peace with the fact that not everyone will want to be involved.
  • A willingness to be creative in finding ways to draw people in. Even the smallest level of engagement is one more person prepared to provide warm welcome to new families integrating into your community.

If you decide to pursue refugee sponsorship, expect God to respond to your tiny acts of faith. Expect God to raise up community and fellowship beyond what you imagined. Expect children and young people to get it and be happy for a way to sacrifice and be involved.

Copyright 2015, Michelle Dawn Jones. All rights reserved.
Picture: Flight of the Holy Family into Egypt, by Jacob Jordaens, 1647, public domain.

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