Strangers No More: Does God Have a Plan for Refugees & Immigrants?
How does God want the church to serve immigrants, refugees, and strangers? How are they part of God’s plan to spread the gospel to all nations? Throughout the Old Testament and the New, we are taught to treat the foreigner well: to extend hospitality, offer compassion, and embrace equality as we love them as ourselves (Leviticus 19:33-34). Anita K. Palmer put it even more simply: “For Christians there is a bottom line: Those whom God brings to our neighborhoods are our neighbors. If they are in need, we need to respond.”
We would be fooling ourselves to think that these issues don’t live on our own doorstep and that these questions don’t matter in Northwest Indiana. Calvary is a local expression of the larger, global church at a time when the words “refugee crisis” appear frequently on the news, and we’re a local church in a community that welcomes immigrants and refugees.
Our global partner in Greece has responded to the question at the top of this article by building a ministry convicted to act in faith and love towards these “strangers,” and as a church, we’re actively seeking ways to support and collaborate with them. Missionaries George and Marcy Romaos serve with AMG International in the greater Athens area, which has received waves of immigrants and refugees since the 1990s.
After the recent crisis, many refugees are staying put in Greece. Other European countries have closed their borders. Greece’s refugees are a wide mix of peoples and cultures: Afghans, Kurds, Pakistanis, Albanians, Congolese, Syrians, and the list goes on. AMG’s ministry focus has traditionally been church planting, camp ministry, and media evangelism, but as the refugee numbers rose, they have taken the needs of this community - and the needs of their home country - to heart. AMG has found and is filling gaps in government services with transportation, community centers, service projects, and youth camps. “Homespots" are centers for refugees to gather for community, refreshment, internet services, Greek and English lessons, Bible studies, and even micro-business trades training. “Mobile Homespot” provides transportation connecting refugees to services such as medical care, local markets, government agency appointments and Homespot.
The hope of Jesus is shared first by responding to needs in love and then, as God provides opportunities, AMG staff and volunteers unite acts of service with the gospel. The result is that the gospel is spreading in the refugee community and people are coming to Christ. Eight new believers were baptized last fall. AMG hosts an international church plant, but perhaps even more exciting is the way this church is reliving the New Testament. As refugees take the next step in their journey - returning home, getting visas to a new home country, moving on to stay with friends and relatives elsewhere - they take the gospel of Jesus along with them, at times establishing house churches in new places.
AMG International’s work is exciting and still developing. Here at home in Northwest Indiana, our opportunities might be fewer but the task is the same. Some of our neighbors have left everything they know in the hopes that life in our community will be better and safer. Our local partner, Compass International Family Center, is always looking for people who are willing to come alongside these immigrants and refugee families. Maybe that’s you? Compass provides language support and education, cultural training, and advocacy to immigrant, refugee, and international families. Individuals and Life Groups have opportunities to serve the nations right here in Valparaiso.
Want more information about Global Outreach or AMG International? Contact Lynette Green.
Want more information about Local Outreach or Compass International Family Center? Contact Victoria Peasley.