Working with Refugees, Stage 5: Being and Doing

Day 1 blackboard

God must be the initiator of a faith-based ministry with and for refugees and asylum-seekers. This ministry requires God’s heart in each person seeking to help them. Throughout the Old Testament, God commands His people to care for the alien, orphan, and widow. In the New Testament, Jesus instructs people to love their neighbors as themselves. When asked by an expert in the law who his neighbor was, Jesus replied by telling the parable of the good Samaritan. Then Jesus asked him which of the people in the story was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hand of robbers, and he identified the neighbor as the one who showed mercy to the beaten man. The Samaritan did not know the beaten man lying on the side of the road, but he recognized him as a person who needed care.

Neighbors, sojourners, and aliens are people God created and cares about and are the ones He means for us to care about too. Since God does not show partiality among people, we should not either. Since He “executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien” (Deut. 10:18) and commands His people to show love for the alien (Deut. 10:19), we must care for the people of the world whether or not we have a personal relationship with them. This understanding is the basis for any ministry to people. God initiates the ministry.

How do we move from God’s command to care for the alien to doing ministry? How do we understand God wants us to do this ministry specifically? God gives the vision. “Conception: Empowering to Serve Refugees” teaches about the different aspects of conceiving/envisioning a ministry from God. It also explains why you should enwrap each stage of the ministry in prayer.
 

Being and Doing

The beginning of a faith-based ministry can mean literally day 1 of the program or the first week, first month, or first year. What is important in any of these time frames is the effective being and doing of faith-based ministry to refugees and asylum-seekers. Planning and founding the ministry is often long and involved. The first day of actual ministry is exciting and sometimes exhausting.
 

Prayer

Prayer is still vital for faith-based ministries at this stage. It keeps us connected to God. Prayer reminds us who initiated the ministry and called us to join Him. It keeps us focused on God and His call so that when days are difficult, we remember the basis of the ministry. It also helps us as we prepare for each day and assess and adjust the material or the ministry. Prayer is the glue that holds everything together.
 

Prepare

Obviously, weeks and months have gone into preparing to start a faith-based ministry to refugees and asylum-seekers. It has become an exciting part of daily life. At the start of the ministry, specific actions must happen. These actions can include

  1. Ensuring the venue is ready for use. (Chairs and tables are available and set up, floors are clean, the doorway is not cluttered or blocked, etc.)
  2. Preparing the lessons if you will teach English.
  3. Training and preparing volunteers for day 1.
  4. Preparing copies of intake forms or registration forms.
  5. Ensuring supplies are easily accessible.
  6. Praying with volunteers and other supporters the night before or the first day of the ministry.


Present

As day 1 or week 1 arrives, the actual ministry occurs. We need to make sure everything is ready—including us. This includes heart, spirit, mind, body, and the practical ministry. We prepare to receive each person, offer informed assistance, and minister through it all with grace and love. Here are some tips for day 1 ministry:

  1. Engage in prayer. Make sure you and each of the volunteers are “being” the ministry vision God gave. People can sense when an “act” is being put on. Align your heart and spirit with God’s and “love your neighbor as yourself.”
  2. Ensure you understand very well the ministry you are offering. Prepare the English lesson well. Be knowledgeable about the amount of food according to organization policy for a family of 4, 5, etc. Make sure the food nutrition tables are easily available so you can get the food without faltering. Confirm the clothes are clean and organized. Guarantee the rules of behavior are visible and known to everyone who enters the premises.
  3. Learn the ministry’s goals, objectives, and policies well so you can explain to the person receiving help what you can and cannot offer.
  4. Keep a sensitive heart as you willingly and actively listen to the refugees’ stories and pray with and cry with them.
  5. Take a break so you can process what has happened and pray about people, pain, and fear. This prayer break opens a pipeline to God for refreshing and healing after dealing with traumatized people.


Assess

After day 1, the first week, the first month, and the first year, assessment of the ministry should occur. Assessment is important to guarantee the purpose of the ministry is being carried out. This assessment determines whether the ministry you perceived and heard was necessary is the one being expressed most by the refugees and asylum-seekers when they seek help. It also includes determining whether you are meeting needs accurately and appropriately. Ask these questions: Do the people really need clothes for an interview, or do they need to learn how to look for jobs and how to interview? Is the greatest need of this refugee population English, or is it help with rent, food, or counseling?

Assessment includes looking at the way the work is being done by each team member. Consider these questions:

  1. Is the plan of ministry being done in the way the team leader or ministry board wants?
  2. Are team members exhibiting a servant heart as they help refugees?
  3. Do any of the team members seem prejudiced, or have complaints arisen against one of the team members?
  4. Is more training necessary for team members?
  5. Is counseling or debriefing needed for team members after listening to refugees’ stories?
  6. Does a trained professional need to join the team in a particular area?


Adjust

With answers to these and other questions, the team leader and members should adjust the ministry, what they do and the way they do it, for it to be more effective for refugees and asylum-seekers. If the real need is counseling, seek 1 or 2 counselors in the city or community who would volunteer their time. Alternatively, seek training for trauma-healing counseling for the ministry team members. If the need is something else, seek ways to meet that need, after you have asked God for wisdom. If the need is more than what you perceived, seek more funding so the ministry can provide other necessities.

If the assessment determines a need for change among the team members, speak to the team about the issue and need. Address any specific team member whose attitude hinders the ministry. Help him or her understand what is happening. Offer ways to help that person be more effective in his or her ministry role. Decide whether more training for the team is necessary and set that training time. Include in each day of ministry time for team members to debrief individually and collectively. As the team leader, you need to set aside time to minister to team members. The team members are an important resource, and their needs are important to the ministry too.


Prayer

Finally, at the end of day 1, week 1, month 1, and year 1, the team leader should set aside a time of prayer. This time will be time to reconnect with God more intently about the ministry to refugees. It will be a time of reflection with God and a time of opening your heart to Him for readjustment to His will and way. This time with the Lord will also be a time of resting with the Father and preparing for the race ahead.


Conclusion

The arrival of day 1 brings excitement and trepidation. Are you ready? Are the team members ready? Have you heard from the Lord correctly? Have you comprehended what the refugees and asylum-seekers are saying? These questions can weigh you down with worry or lift you with excitement depending on where you received your guidance—from God or people. Day 1 should be exciting. Meeting new people and helping them. Sharing God’s love while seeing lives changed. Day 1 should also provide insight into whether changes need to occur to make certain the ministry focuses on the need God wants to be met. It brings with it assessment and adjustment for the team too. More than anything, day 1 brings the opportunity for you and the team members to join God in the work He is doing. It’s an opportunity to know God better and to grow in your relationship with Him through prayer and obedience.

Through it all, we should remember what Jesus told the people by answering the question of the expert in the law. In trying to trick Jesus, he asked, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” We recall His famous reply in Matthew 22:35–40.

Putting these 2 great commandments into action requires a relationship with God. A relationship with God draws us closer to love Him more dearly. John put this relationship of our love for God and obedience into a more understandable statement in 1 John 5:2–3.

We need to ask ourselves these questions and seek God’s will: Are we loving God with our whole being? Are we loving our neighbors as ourselves? Day 1, week 1, month 1, year 1, and beyond require absolute obedience to God and His vision of ministry to refugees and asylum-seekers.


Adapted from “Inception: Working with Refugees, Stage Five: Being and Doing” by Gail Davis with permission.

 

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