Get Close to Refugees, and Let Love Grow

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Two new books consider the personal, practical, and theological sides of welcoming the stranger.

I recently spoke at a church in the Midwest. My exhortation included a reminder of God’s image in our refugee neighbors, including those families caravanning out of violent communities south of our border. When we see strangers through the eyes of Scripture, our obligation differs from what the pundits and politicians preach on cable news. We find ourselves at the Nile’s edge, like Pharaoh’s daughter, poised to receive the Hebrew baby from the other side of the river. We see a person under threat of a death edict and respond with welcome.

In the lobby after the service, several people rushed over to thank me for speaking directly about refugees and immigrants. “I’ve been waiting for someone from the pulpit to say something,” one woman said as she pressed her hand in mine. I expected to be chided for talking about a controversial topic or accused of wading into politics. However, to my delight, congregants were glad to hear a word from our holy book about modern sojourners and our role.

What became clear that Sunday morning was that we not only need but also want to have better conversations about immigrants. We want to hear the clear instruction of Scripture regarding refugees. We want the opportunity to wrestle together about how to welcome strangers, even as we remain vigilant about possible dangers. Often we look to our pastors and other church leaders to host these discussions. So where do church leaders begin?

Diminishing the Distance

Kent Annan, director of humanitarian and disaster leadership at Wheaton College and cofounder of Haiti Partners, offers a place to start our education in You Welcomed Me: Loving Refugees and Immigrants Because God First Loved Us. As a veteran of international …

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