Throughout history refugees have fled from familiar surroundings, hoping to find refuge and safety elsewhere. Refugees may leave their home countries because of war, persecution, or natural disasters. Some latest statistics show that 70.8 million people have been forced to become refugees, with 25.9 million crossing international borders. Some refugees may stay in refugee camps for as long as 17 years, and often arrive with just the clothes on their backs. Of the 37,500 people fleeing their home countries every day, 52% of them are under the age of 18. Half of all refugees are women and girls.
As a Mission Friends leader, you realize that the above information is not appropriate for preschoolers. What preschoolers can understand is that sometimes people must leave home to be safe. Through our Mission Friends curriculum, suggestions have been made for ways to involve preschoolers in simple Helping Others activities for refugees or internationals. As an adult, here are some ways that you might become more involved in ministries to help refugees.
- Check with local ministries that provide help to refugees in your area. Ask what needs they have, or what needs they see in families with preschoolers and children.
- If you live in a place where there are no nearby refugee resettlement programs, consider connecting with a ministry to internationals on a college campus or through an English as a Second Language class (ESL).
- Pray and ask the Lord to show you which ministry idea to pursue.
- Invite other Mission Friends leaders or adults to join you as you help refugees in your community.
Choose a hands-on ministry idea from the following list:
- Meet Basic Needs—After procuring a list of most needed items for refugee families, invite other Mission Friends leaders and adults to purchase or collect necessary things. Families might need diapers, seasonal clothing, bedding, hygiene items, nonperishable food, or drinking water. Gather all items and deliver them to the refugee ministry program. If appropriate, offer to help sort and distribute items, pray for refugee families, or visit with family members.
- Play Day—Working with a local refugee ministry, invite refugee families with preschoolers to attend a play day at your church. Arrange play stations with a variety of games, toys, and activities. Provide activity areas like the ones you arrange for a Mission Friends session: a simple art activity, blocks, picture books, homeliving toys, rhythm instruments, a nature activity, and puzzles. Make sure activities are easy to understand in case preschoolers or families do not speak the same language.
- Outdoor Games Day—Play simple games that can be easily understood regardless of language, such as tossing beach balls in a basket. Provide fun snacks that will not violate any cultural dietary restrictions. Be sure to invite adults or families from your church who will enjoy interacting and connecting with refugee parents and children.
- Summer Fun Bags—Create Summer Fun bags for refugee children. Include these types of items: small toys, a blow-up beach ball, sunglasses, a beach towel, sidewalk chalk, and other summer fun items. Stuff items into reusable shopping bags. Guide your Mission Friends group to make cards by drawing pictures of their favorite summer activities. Include cards in the bags.
- School Backpacks—Refugee families will need school items when school begins. Your Mission Friends group can draw pictures to decorate cardboard boxes. Place these at your church to receive school supply donations. Invite an adult missions group at your church and/or the Mission Friends families to donate backpacks to pack. Mission Friends preschoolers can help to sort and pack the backpacks. Donate filled backpacks to a local school with refugee children in attendance or through a local refugee ministry.
Pray for and continue to seek ways to help refugee families in your community.
by Suzanne Krein