This morning in church Alan did a little interview with Hannah and I about our time in Fort Wayne. It is a good way to keep the church informed about what's happening, and I do appreciate and love how Alan takes the time to highlight mission work in a personal way. Yet I always feel like I need more time... as in, can I just do the sermon one day and really dig deep into what God's teaching me? Because once I start talking about it, it's very hard for me to find a good place to stop! And I always have this feeling as I go back to my spot in the congregation: "Oh man, I forgot to say that!" which is a feeling I hate to feel. Hannah had some great things to say this morning, and I have a feeling she could have taken a whole sermon too. On our trip home she shared a lot with me that was powerful and challenging and beautiful. So, I'm turning my blog into a Q&A space for a few days... if any of my readers have a question for me or Hannah about what God is up to in Fort Wayne, please write it in my comment box, and I'll work on posting answers.
One of the questions Alan asked this morning was, "How can the Church be more involved in refugee ministry?" I talked about prayer and giving as two big ways, really thinking of "our church" and "my refugee ministry" specifically, rather than the general things. But Hannah and I had talked about that on our trip too, and how important it is to get the Church more involved in refugee ministry because we see it as something that is close to the heart of God. So in addition to praying for and giving to refugee ministries...
Make friends with an international person near you - at work, at the store, in your classes, in your neighborhood. Find out where they or their family are from originally, and if they have immigrated to the States from another country, welcome them to America and introduce yourself. If language seems to be a barrier, smile a lot and use charades as you talk (do not shout - they aren't deaf) to communicate that you want to be their friend. Ask them if you can do anything to help them (do not assume their needs), and think of ways you can ask them to help you. Offer them American foods that you make, and graciously receive the food they may offer to you. Ask them to do things with you and your family, and do not take an initial "no" as true rejection. In many countries it is rude to accept an offer the first time, and even the second time. Ask them about their culture and tell them funny or important things about American culture. If they have immigrated here, they will need to know, and they appreciate you taking the time to teach them. You do not need to be a linguist or an expert in world cultures - just be sincere and humble, and be willing to look a little foolish for the sake of new experiences and new friendships. The beauty of the ministry in Fort Wayne is that it began with one person reaching out to an international neighbor and asking how she could help.
In your hometown, you can love people of all nations the way Jesus does. In Matthew 25, Jesus said, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." So when you welcome an international, you welcome Jesus. When you give them a hand, you give Jesus a hand. When you honor and esteem them as valuable members of your society, you honor Jesus. When you invite them into your home, you invite Jesus in. That is how the Church can be involved in international ministry.