Our City: Ministering to Refugees Part II

Justin McGee continues his talk about how Restoration became involved with the refugee ministry. Part I of his article can be found here. Please note that some names have been changed for privacy. 

In April of 2015, two of the members of the refugee team arrived at the airport late one night to pick-up the “Alm” family of nine – Syrian Muslims from Aleppo. They had been living in Jordan for two years before they arrived in Dallas, and they were walking into a country very different from the one(s) they had lived in.

As the next year with the Alms unfolded, our church rallied to furnish their apartment, helped them obtain the proper paperwork, enrolled the kids in school (twice), and searched with them for new homes and vehicles. We drank tea and coffee with them and sat around their table. With nothing to their names, they extended hospitality to us as we loved them with our presence and resources. It was a relationship. A relationship built on a reciprocity between two seemingly unlike people. While this relationship only occurred amongst a handful of congregants, the roots of the seed spread amongst the soil of our church through the stories of God’s faithfulness being shared with the community.

In the summer of 2016, two significant trips continued to define the church’s desire to join God in the restoration of the lives of refugees. A family from the church – one that had been working intermittently with the immigrant population in Europe for a few years – decided to move full-time to Germany for a two-year period. Their goal – to reach Arabic speaking refugees for Christ, to disciple them, and to see God create a movement back to himself amongst and facilitated by those from their very own culture.

Also, a member of the church vestry flew to Jordan to visit the couple who was serving refugees there. While in Jordan he was introduced to a Syrian refugee family from Homs, the Alezz’s, who were being resettled in Dallas, TX – alone — six days after he met them overseas. This Syrian family was best friends with the couple we supported.

Our small church, already emotionally, physically, and spiritually supporting one refugee family, had to make a decision: do we have the bandwidth to take on another family in need; would this be a good steward of our time, energy, and resources? Would this be a drain on our already generous community?

The leadership prayed and discussed, but God’s hand over the past two years made the decision clear. We decided the cohesion between the visit from the vestry member, the connection to the couple we supported, and the family’s move to our own backyard was too much to ignore. We decided to water what God had already planted, and we would adopt a second Syrian refugee family.

God’s call was once again affirmed when the church announced the decision and opportunity to join God in the restoration of our city. Over twenty adults volunteered to serve on this new team! And the process of rallying around a family from a different culture, faith, and language began again…

As this new team of twenty situated themselves within the lives of the Alezz family, their neighbors across the hall became curious. They would hear the pitter patter of the Restoration kids and families approach their neighbor’s door almost daily. As we would be welcomed in, it was as if the Iraqi family followed in on our heels.

A relationship naturally grew between the Alezz family and the Alk family because of their similar culture and common language, and since our presence was felt often in their apartment, we unconsciously began loving and serving them, too.

Soon after we met the Alk family, they moved to a new apartment complex. Our souls were so intertwined with theirs that we, without much plotting or fear of church burnout, announced and set up a new team to move with them to their new residency across town. The fruit was too sweet, too visually tantalizing, to turn away from. The church’s desire and response flowed from a vocation cultivated and nurtured over the past two or so years, originally planted back to 2014 when a committee attempted to seek God’s heart for the church in restoring the city (and world).

When we started the church, we never imagined we would be a place to shelter, minister, and advocate for this type of displacement. But, God has been faithful; he has ordered our hearts, our lives, and our loves to be directed toward this particular type of marginalization in our society and world. Through divine appointments and accidents, God has placed our little church in a position to locally and globally spread the gospel of Christ amongst the very people God loves and whom we often ignore and insulate ourselves from.

We don’t fully know what we are doing; we don’t have the right or best formula for transmitting the gospel into Muslim contexts; we don’t really know how to fill out government paperwork to help our friends receive the help they need; we don’t really know the cultural taboos and norms; but…

We know that God loves us, that our friends are in need of hope (practical and spiritual), and that all men are created in the image of God. Therefore, we pray, by the mercy and grace of God, we fall forward into his Love and that the fruit which only comes from the Lord continues to sprout among us. And in serving Christ as best as we can through our imperfect love, our friends reach out and taste the goodness of the Lord.

 

Amen