Three Ways to Help Our Refugee Neighbors This Week

January 31, 2017

Bill Carson is the lead pastor of CityReach Church - Bay Ridge and a board member at Brooklyn Arab American Friendship Center (BAAFC) in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. BAAFC works with many refugees from the Middle East, offering families English as a Second Language classes and helping the area’s Arab American immigrant community bridge cross-cultural barriers. Below, Bill offers three ways we can help our refugee and immigrant neighbors this week.

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1. Pray.

I'd be lying if I said I knew exactly what to do. There are so many people I know who are affected by this, directly and indirectly. So my first instinct as a Christian is to pray. "If something happens when I pray, something doesn't when I don't" (Dr. Don Meyer). It really can't be business as usual anymore. Perhaps we need to have a call to prayer and fasting for our refugee neighbors. A call to prayer means a call to action, not for negativity or political opinions—there are more important things at risk—but for prayer, solidarity as humans, and the power of God to move. Imagine all the possibilities as we cry out to God together all throughout the city.

2. Extend hospitality.

Establish and build relationships with your neighbors. Invite them into your home. Let your neighbors know they are welcome. What a practical and effective way for a refugee to sense how our God is a refuge in a time of storm! Inviting them into our space communicates so much of the Gospel—Christ left his place in Heaven, came to our place, and said, "Let's go back to my place" (Dick Foth). Hospitality and the Gospel are directly connected. And remember, fear has no place, for God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and a sound mind.

3. Offer practical help.

ESL is a huge need, especially to be able to acclimate to life in the U.S., receive a well-paying job, etc. It lends itself to self-sustainability. And you don't need to speak another language to teach English. Places like BAAFC, local libraries, and community centers offer these classes. This is where I meet most of my neighbors.

As of this moment, the biggest needs of lawyers at JFK are Farsi and Arabic translators. They can get in contact with New York Civil Liberties Union or International Refugee Assistance Project. JFK, Terminal 4. Similarly, there are needs for lawyers willing to do pro-bono work (contact Open Hands Legal Services). We had an excellent lawyer come to BAAFC who explained to the students what to do in the instance that Immigration were to arrive at their door. They have rights. But many don't know what they are, such as a right to refuse entry to their home without a warrant.