John (name changed) is a refugee who fled from the Middle East and has been settled here in America with his family for just under two years. John and his family were originally brought to Texas where they lived and found work. Just a few months ago, however, John had to make his way to Kansas City for various reasons. His plan was to stay there, find an apartment, and bring the rest of his family up also. After 2 months of being by himself, I was introduced to him through a friend. The week before, he had just had a stroke and was very weak in his mid-thirties. Two weeks into meeting him, he informed me that he was going to go back to Texas the next day to be with his family and may not be coming back. So I ran out to my car and gave him the Bible I was planning on bringing to him in his heart language and with great joy he received it and thanked me numerous times. He proceeded to tell me that he had been reading through the book of John with one of his friends in Texas and had been reading every morning from the Bible since he had been here, but that his Bible had been stolen along with his bag just a few days before. He was very excited to read, and so we eventually opened up to Mark and read the first chapter or so and talked about the many amazing miracles Jesus performed. Not too long after, we said our goodbyes and the next morning he went back to be with his family.
This story is just a short testimony of how God is at work in the lives of others, even where you find yourself now. Praise God that He allows us to come along side Him and work in His harvest fields!
This year as we have told the Christmas story in the homes of new-American neighbors who have settled among us, I have been reminded anew that Jesus began His life on earth as a refugee. In fact, we might consider Jesus as a two-time refugee. First, He left Heaven and came to earth as the One who would purchase the redemption of our souls in a rescue plan designed by God His Father. Jesus emptied Himself of all that rightfully belonged to Him and for our sake became poor that we might become rich. That was His first and ongoing refugee experience. Second, Jesus would have less than two years of life before He would be the target of a plan to destroy Him designed by Herod. So Jesus fled with His family to Egypt to escape from the murderous plot of Herod. Our new settler neighbors know what it is like to flee for their lives from their country of birth. And now they can know that Someone is able to relate to them as One who has walked through this refugee experience long before they did. His name is Jesus. Refugee Jesus who came to seek and save the lost and to serve- giving His life as a ransom for many. Cf. Matthew 2:13-15, Mark 10:45.
This year for Christmas, we have been "gifting" our neighbors from around the world by showing up to their home with wrapped Christmas gifts. We use this time to sing Christmas carols (you know, the ones about the Christ in CHRISTmas), present the simple story of Jesus' birth, and to pray for them. Refuge KC is so thankful for Crossroads Church & Pastor Darryl Jones, Emmaus Church & Risa Woods, and First Baptist Independence & Pastor Kevin Payne.
Have you ever felt like an outsider? I vividly remember a certain experience from my time living in another country. As my wife and I looked for a place to eat a picnic, we wandered into an area that was somewhat unsafe due to political tensions. After we sat down, some children came over to watch us eat. They acted friendly at first, but quickly became antagonistic. The situation climaxed as we started to walk away and they, waiting until our backs were turned, began to throw rocks at us. The message was clear: You aren’t welcome here because you aren’t one of us.
We are all looking for a home. Many of our forefathers came to America because they were looking for a refuge from turmoil. The Israelites were no different as they wandered in the wilderness those 40 years, something which the Jewish feast of Sukkot remembers. They eventually made it to Canaan, just as our forefathers made it to America. And in the same way, many refugees are now arriving in our cities.
However, this is only part of the story. It turns out that the land of Canaan was not a lasting home for the Israelites and America is no lasting home for us. “Here, we have no lasting city,” the New Testament teaches, but we look for a city “whose builder and maker is God.” We wait for a new creation in which righteousness dwells.
So the fact that the nations are coming to America provides us a wonderful opportunity, an opportunity for both sides of the story. On the one hand, it’s an opportunity to welcome them to our country, warmly inviting them to a new earthly home. But more than this, as they are battered and bruised by the turmoil of this world, we can invite them to a better home and better world—a world in which justice and peace remain forever.
Doh Wah came from the Karen State in Myanmar through a refugee camp in Thailand. He is one of the first refugees that we had the privilege to meet and serve in 2012. After living in the US for five years, Doh Wah was eligible to take the test for citizenship. After becoming a naturalized citizen, Doh Wah called me to help him apply for his passport. Shortly after this, he called me again to take him to vote in the presidential election. Doh Wah is purchasing his home and serving in his local church fellowship. Doh Wah is a joyful soul who is always eager to help others. He speaks Karen, Burmese, Thai and English. Doh Wah is married to Say Hi, and he is the father of 5 boys! He is your new American-Citizen neighbor.