When the Church Opens Doors to Refugees


We sat in their living room surrounded by a feast. Thin pastry-like crust stuffed with seasoned rice, meat, and cashews. Grape leaves filled with rice. Folded pockets of creamy chicken. We reclined on couches circling a large coffee table stacked with dishes.

The mother of this family explained with halted English how scary it had become in their homeland of Syria under the president, how they fled to Egypt and lived there for four years before finding passage to America. With sadness, she mentioned family who were still there, though she was grateful things had gotten better. When she left the room, our friend who knew the family well, mentioned her father had just recently died.

These were flesh and blood people in front of me. People who had a different culture and faith from mine, but people presenting the Imago Dei nevertheless. We came to be in their home that evening through an interesting chain of events that started with a hurricane and with a church’s decision to adapt to their changing city.

When Hurricane Irma came barreling down upon Florida in 2017, many Syrian families who had settled previously in West Palm Beach temporarily fled north into Georgia. While there, they found Clarkston, Georgia, the most ethnically diverse square mile in the United States. This place was chosen by our government to be a great location for the resettling of refugees.

Refugees, once they have been placed in a home, have three months of financial assistance to find a job and become self-sufficient. This is a daunting task for many who have limited English skills and are overwhelmed with a different culture and way of life.

This was also a distinct cultural shift for the people of Clarkston, finding it filled with people so different from them. For the original church inhabitants of Clarkston, a choice had to be made– either run from the changing world of their city or embrace this change as an opportunity to do missions without even leaving home.

Reading the rest at ScrapingRaisins here.

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