I am blessed to know a number of people who have served refugees. The truth is that anytime we serve others (refugees or otherwise), we may expect to bless them–but oftentimes we end up being blessed even more.
Relationship and service enriches our lives. Serving those of other cultures enriches us and sometimes opens our eyes to our own cultural impoverishment. I discovered this as a missionary kid, and it’s a lesson I never forgot. The low-income people of the countries where we lived were rich in relationship, in generosity, in faith, and in wholeness. I think we had more to learn from them than vice versa in many cases.
This makes sense. After all, Jesus said that when we serve “the least of these,” we are literally serving Him. Joshua Ryan Butler writes in The Skeletons in God’s Closet:
The most shocking part is not that Jesus says it’s good to help the poor: you could find that teaching anywhere. The shocker is that Jesus identifies himself with the poor. He says, “This is where you find God!” This confronts us. Our tendency is to think God is most intimately found on the mountaintop, at the retreat center, in the peace and quiet of a serene vacation. We tend to think if we can just get away from the messiness of people, the distractions of society, the noise of urban chaos, we will find God.The mountaintop has its place: rest, retreat, and Sabbath are important. God gives them as great gifts for us. But Jesus says this is not where his presence is most intimately found. If you want to find him, go to the slums. Go to the war zones. Go to the prisons. Strap your leg to Mother Teresa’s and step with her into the weak, hurting, and ravaged places of our world.
This is where we find God.
I am not here to tell you that I am awesome at doing this. I learned this as a missionary kid, but as an adult who all too often gets jaded and cynical, there are many times I forget to see Jesus in the poor and suffering. I get annoyed. I recoil. I get afraid. I just plain get busy. But this is the teaching of Jesus to which I am called to return. And what helps me, what calls to me, is seeing other Christians who practice this teaching beautifully.
So I asked some of these people how working with refugees has enriched their lives. Here are some of their responses: