Working with Refugees, Stage 3: Connect with People

man and woman shaking hands in office

The third stage of beginning work with refugees focuses on connecting with people. Connections include the gatekeeper, the activist, and the caretaker of the refugees. Further, connections must occur in addition to these for effective and possible expansion of ministries and for acceptance of refugees by the community in which they live.

Prayer

As in each of the earlier articles of this series, prayer must enwrap any ministry with and to refugees. God is the One who must give the vision and empower the work so the workers will not grow weary, heavy-hearted, and give up on the work to which He calls His people. Additionally, prayer must weave throughout each part of the refugee ministry to know directly from God whom or which organization to meet with to get volunteers and funding. Prayer helps you determine when to change the work and when to enlarge it. It also helps you know to whom to reach out for added expertise. In addition, prayer opens people’s hearts as you and the refugee organization advocate for refugees. Without prayer throughout the entire process, the ministry weakens because it rests upon the limited wisdom of people instead of all-knowing God.

Research

Why should you want to connect with other people and organizations instead of being a lone ranger working with refugees? God intended the community to help sojourners and aliens. Deuteronomy and Leviticus were both written to the Israelites as a people, a nation. God commanded them to love the aliens because they, too, were aliens in Egypt (Deut. 10:19; Lev. 19:34). Additionally, in Deuteronomy 14:28–29, Moses taught the Israelites to take care of the aliens by keeping their third year’s tithe in their town to feed the widows, orphans, and aliens who lived among them. In each of these passages, no singular person helped all the poor people. It took a community concerned for the poor to take care of them. Because of this, strive to work alongside other people and organizations who already work with refugees and the poor in the community.

Based on your mission statement, goals, and objectives, decide from which experts and skilled people you might need help in the ministry to refugees. These may include church members, social workers, counselors, doctors, lawyers, immigration officials, educators and the education department, nurses, and job skills teachers. Note these areas of skills could include individuals or organizations and businesses or government employees. Do not dismiss an expert because you do not need that person now. Keep his or her information in a file for the future in case the refugee ministry expands in that direction. Develop relationships with these experts.

Once you decide which skilled people or organizations you should look for, start your search with the following methods:

  1. Talk to the refugee leaders. They will know some organizations already because the grapevine is effective among disadvantaged people.
  2. Discover what organizations help people in need and refugees by talking to local pastors. They are active in the community and, if they are not new in their positions, will know of organizations and people who work with refugees and needy people.
  3. Search an internet browser for organizations who help the poor and refugees in your community.
  4. Do not overlook your own connections—your doctors; people you know through your child’s school, your church, your job, etc. Even if these people will not be helping currently or soon, they may help in the future. Keep a file of their details and skill. They could become a useful connector, skilled volunteer, or board member.

Meet with Others

Once you have listed people and organizations who help refugees and the poor of the community, email or call them to arrange an appointment to speak with them about the vision God has laid on your heart. Be specific about that vision. Say, “I want to help refugees in our community by teaching them the local language or providing blankets, food, school uniforms, etc.” If you do not receive a response to your email to an organization, then call and ask for an appointment to meet with the director.

Before you arrive at an appointment, prepare what you will say to your listeners. Do not go in without an agenda. Include in your presentation

  1. The vision God gave you
  2. Your mission statement, goals, and objectives
  3. Your needs to make this ministry operational
  4. Questions about how they began their ministry
  5. Questions about their main ministry focus
  6. Questions about areas in which you are weakest so you can gain from their knowledge
  7. A request to spend a couple of hours in their ministry learning what they do
  8. Permission to call them should a need for their expertise arise
  9. An offer to set up volunteer days for their employees to work with your organization monthly or quarterly, if the organization is a business
  10. A request for funding to help with ministry to refugees of the community, if the organization is a business or a funding agent

Once the first meeting with the people or organization is complete, you will possess a better idea of other assistance ministries in the community. These assistance ministries will know about you and your organization. An initial bridge with them will be in place by which to get help in the future. These connections will enable you to reenter their sphere to be an advocate for the refugees in the community.

Adapted from “Inception: Working with Refugees, Stage Three: Connecting” by Gail Davis with permission 

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