By Christina Staats
For more than a decade, I ministered to university students in England with Cru. Two and a half years ago my church asked me to move back home to the US to start a refugee ministry with them in Akron, Ohio.
Like many people at that time, I knew little about refugees, but the crisis on the shores of Europe and Syria was provoking many conversations and a desire to help people in need.
What I discovered was that refugee resettlement was not a new thing for the United States. The country has been resettling refugees since World War II and there is a well established program for resettlement. Many refugees have been brought from the worst conflict zones on earth to US cities where they are given a new opportunity to continue their lives.
Akron has been a resettlement city for many years and it is now the place where my work is done, mobilizing churches and people to “welcome the stranger.” In this role, I have seen God at work in at least two ways.
First, God is at work bringing opportunities to share Jesus with people who come to the US from places on earth that are most closed to hearing the gospel.
I have sat with friends from closed countries and had the opportunity to talk with them about Jesus. I have helped them translate Bible stories and often, they have said, “It is the Christians who help us.” They have often asked if they could go to church with me.
Second, I have seen God work through young, university-aged new friends from Nepal. They are believers with a Hindu background. Yet these young believers are planting churches and are active leaders in those churches. Akron is filled with Nepali speaking churches with a vision to plant more churches.
They are now on a mission to reach people with the gospel. As they work to support their families, living in multi-generational houses, they are taking time in between their night shifts, or their studies, to share their faith, preach, and start house churches.
For example, I recently hosted an international Christmas party.
My friend Jas, at 22, got up and shared the Christmas story and the gospel with a room that was full of refugees and American volunteers.
Jas and I are praying
to start a Christianity Explored course in the new year so that we can help people learn about the identity, mission and call of Jesus. God is on the move!
Would you pray for refugee ministries this Christmas?
Pray that those from countries that are closed to the message of
Jesus will have opportunities to hear the gospel
Pray for the American church to move toward their new
neighbors, to get to know them, and to share both the gospel and their lives with them
Pray that God would use people from refugee and immigrant
backgrounds to reach out to others coming to the US as refugees
Would you like to get involved in refugee ministries?
Google “refugee resettlement” in your city to find out how you can
get involved in welcoming newly placed refugees locally
Learn more about God’s strategy for bringing people from
closed nations to the US so that they can hear the gospel and be served
in Jesus’ name. Help local and state officials see the possibilities.
Pray and look for opportunities for God to use you among the
strangers he is bringing to your community. This can have a positive impact on your own faith as you see in practice how big our God is.
And very practically, at Christmas, invite a refugee or an
international student into your home and show them hospitality
in the name of Jesus.