3 Practical Implications for Resettlement Organizations When Refugee Numbers Are Changed

Regardless of opinion, here are three practical implications for refugee resettlement agencies when numbers of refugees brought to the US are reduced or the flow is stopped. 

Based on a conversation I had today with a resettlment organization in Atlanta…I am sure there are many more issues they face. 

1. Reduced Funding: Orgs receive funding based on the number of refugees they settle. The US was slated to receive 110,000 refugees this year. That number has been reduced to 50,000 – where it was roughly 5 years ago (i have been told but not confirmed.)Last year we resettled 85,000 refugees. 
2.  Downsizing:  Reduced funding naturally leads to letting go staff such as caseworkers.  One resettlement group in Atlanta told me today they expect to lay off half their office (10 people) due to the 4 month hiatus and reduction in the number of refugees to be resettled.  An estimated loss of $240,000 to their budget. 
3.  Rehiring or Training New Employees:  When the refugee highway is opened again, these groups will likely have to rehire or train new employees to handle new cases.  Experienced personnel may have found jobs by the time the spigot is turned back on.  

At the end of the day, it’s about how best to help those fleeing war and persecution, not what is best for aide or relief organizations.  Even so, decisions affect not only those in need of help, but the many wonderful people and organizations set up to help them.  

Just something to consider.  If you’re looking to hire people with cross cultural experience, maybe call up a refugee organization having to do layoffs.  Or just call them up and thank them for what they do.  

Ways to Help Refugees No Matter What Governments Do

welcome sign at skala

A camp near the coast of Lesvos, Greece.  Photo taken in March 2016.

While politicians and protestors make their votes and voices heard, there are always ongoing ways to serve refugees.

Whether a government welcomes refugees, waits, or refuses, there are always opportunities to help the millions of refugees living in camps all over the world.  Some estimate the average stay in a refugee camp is 17 years.  So, don’t let noise and headlines distract you from what has always been an great need in our world.

 

Here are some agencies doing amazing work for refugees and ways you can help:

In camps around the world:

World Relief:  Whether Africa, Asia, the Middle East or United States, World Relief is there.   You can donate, adopt a refugee family, or go international to serve with them. Check them out at www.worldrelief.org

Euro Relief:  Euro Relief is a wonderful organization with opportunities to serve directly in camps in Greece.  We have sent 2 teams to serve with them and have had a wonderful experience both times.  http://eurorelief.net/

Samaritan’s Purse: SP is working in camps in Greece and Croatia as well as working with partners in Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary.  Check them out at www.samaritanspurse.org 

Conscience International:  If there is a crisis around the world, chances are CI is responding.  They work in camps in Greece and with squatter camps in Turkey as well as projects in other countries.  Check them out at www.conscienceinternational.org

In Clarkston, Ga.:

New Home – New Hope: NHNH is on the ground, day in and day out with refugees living in Clarkston.  It is a highly relational way to serve refugees, not just a programmatic one.  Donate furniture.  Teach English.  Donate specific ethnic foods.  Just visit and get to know families.  Refugees need friends as much or more than anything else.  Check them out at  www.newhome-newhope.org

Friends of Refugees:  This is a stellar organization serving refugees in a wide variety of ways.  Volunteer.  Intern.  Lots of ways to serve.  Check them out at www.friendsof refugees.com

Refuge Coffee, Co.:  Hosting an event, why not have a coffee truck?  Refuge Coffee Company hires and trains refugees for the coffee business.  Check them out at http://refugecoffeeco.com

StartMe:  Help refugees start their own businesses!  Become a mentor and help refugees achieve their dreams.  Check them out at www.startmeaccelerator.org

Public schools:  Call up one of the schools in Clarkston and offer to volunteer.  They are often an overlooked area of need as people tend to focus on the apartments and refugee families.

Ep 15 – Preparing the Soil: Helping Liberian Cocoa Farmers be Fruitful

In this episode you will hear from three people who recently returned from visiting a rural Liberian village.  While there, they shared the gospel, discipled believers, trained teachers, dedicated the Mack and Pattie Hannah library, provided health education, and listened to local Cocoa farmers talk about what they need to be successful.

Out of those conversations, a vision has developed for a Christ-centered Cocoa Processing Facility that has the potential to change the lives of many families in the Gbansue village.

Check out episodes 6 & 7 of the Mission Life podcast for an interview with Jessy Togbadoya, founder of the Balama Development Alliance, the ministry featured in this podcast.

Also visit www.balamaproject.org

 

5 Reasons Jesus Stunk at Evangelism

According to modern theory, the better you are at communication the more listeners and followers you will have.  

And preachers that are seen as skilled at speaking to non-Christians point to the large crowds that gather to hear them.  

But if this is true, then Jesus stunk at evangelism.  Here are 5 reasons why:

1.   He often confused people.  He spoke in parables and riddles intentionally designed to leave people searching.  No good evangelist confuses people. 

2.  He often did not answer questions. In fact he often answered questions with questions.  No good evangelist would leave a question unanswered.  

3.  He only ended up with 12 committed followers after 3 years of ministry – maybe 120 at most.  An evangelist today would struggle to keep their funding with such numbers.   Especially if they performed miracles as well.  Why sabotage momentum that a miracle produces with confusing, inflammatory preaching?

4.  He made high demands and showed impatience with those who had legitimate excuses. Telling people to sell everything and not letting people go to a family funeral is a bit much.  A good evangelist knows when to lower the bar.

5.  He lost more followers than he gained.  Success in a ministry equals growth of numbers not decline.   But Jesus was suspicious of crowds and often said things that thinned them out. A good evangelist would adjust their technique if they lost masses of people all at once.  

And I’ll add one more…

6. His preaching cost him his life.  A good evangelist gets booked for conferences and writes books.  They don’t create riots and end up being killed – especially by religous folks. 

If only Jesus had been more nuanced and skilled maybe his evangelism would have led to something.  He could have retired comfortably and been a sought after speaker. 

But alas, we’ll never know what could have been.  

The Appeal of Worthless Religion

Two years ago I became a foster parent.  The experience has challenged me every day since.

Caring for someone else’s kid who is suffering the effects of sin, trauma and poverty should not be my problem.  On more than one day I’ve wanted to quit, push reset, and get back to my happy and somewhat quiet household.  “We can make this stress go away,” I’ve said to my wife.

But after I’ve thrown my fit, I listen.  God speaks.  “I love these kids as much as yours.  I’ve placed my church on this planet to care for the suffering and outcasts because I care for the suffering and outcasts.  But you want to quit?  You want to make it someone else’s ‘problem?’  I care for you even though you don’t make it easy.  I took on the sins of the world, yet you don’t want to give up your seemingly predictable, quiet, middle class lifestyle to help carry the burden of kids who need love and a safe place to live?”

Ouch.  I get it.  So I stand back up, dust myself off, quit my whining, and go back into a loud and crazy house for the sake of the gospel and not my own.

And therein lies the challenge.  The issue for suburbanites like myself is not having another cause.  We have plenty of them.  From donating at the grocery store, to special collections at church, to races that raise money to fight such and such.  Causes are everywhere.

Our challenge is not money either.  We’ve got plenty of that.  At my church, if you need help with rent and utilities, we’ve got you covered. We need to raise money for a mission trip, bam!  Done!  If we ask for food or other donations to help a local ministry, you better have the bins ready because they will be overflowing.

No the real challenge is not finding a cause or giving money.  We hold something much more dear to us than finances.  We protect our TIME and our COMFORT at all costs.

I’m guilty of this.  It’s why I’ve wanted to quit being a foster dad so many times.  Our family was already busy enough.  We didn’t really have the time to take in other people’s kids, make sure they got to their therapy appointments, meetings with lawyers, home visits by social workers, etc.

It’s not like my wife and I looked at our calendar and said, “You know what.  For the next several years we really don’t have much going on.  Why don’t we take in stranger’s kids and see where that goes?”

Our life was busy enough.  Plus, life was good and we were by and large comfortable.  That must be God’s will after all…a safe, comfortable home where your kids are growing, overscheduled, and going to church on Sundays.

We suburbanites live where we do for the comfort, for the convenience of close grocery stores, gyms, schools and places for our kids to play.  We lobby to keep trouble out of our neighborhoods, not invite it in.

Sure, we admire people who serve others in radical ways.  But we don’t want that for ourselves.  We’re glad someone else is doing it.  We value our comfort and time way too much to feel like its also something we should do.

If you need money, we’ll reach into our pocket.  If you need donations, we’ll run to Wal-Mart.  If we can volunteer when its convenient, sign us up. 

But our personal time and comfort are another story.

And maybe that’s the way it should be for some folks.  Not everyone is called to be a foster parent. (And I just use foster parenting out of my own experience. Insert going to the nations, adopting, discipling,etc. )   

 We need respite care and babysitters, people who will donate to help when kids come into the home.
But let’s be sure we’re not avoiding making a greater sacrifice.  I’m no martyr just for being a foster parent.  I’m only sharing what I have learned about myself and seen in suburban church life.

Unfortunately, churches often have very low expectations for their members.  We are afraid of the ‘big ask.’  Just sit and listen. Attend.  Donate.  Volunteer.  Get in a small group and talk about spiritual things.  And you’ll be fine.

Church staffs spend their time planning and marketing low risk opportunities.  We schedule serving when its convenient, avoiding certain days because of college football, possible summer vacations, and the like.

We don’t ask too much or else people might stop coming and stop giving.  All the while, Scripture screams at us about God’s priorities.  Proclaim my gospel.  Embody my gospel.  Go to the nations.  Care for the widow and the orphan.

We see how he judges his people for their lack of obedience, not necessarily their lack of church attendance.  We see how he brings down condemnation on hypocrisy and easy religion.

Yet we don’t think that applies to us.  We are not them.  Ours is a different day and a different situation.  God knows we are busy.  He knows we don’t have the bandwidth to really get involved in people’s lives, like being a foster parent.

So we turn our heads.  Attend another service.  Sit in another Bible study.  And nothing really changes.

That was me.  That still is a big part of me.  But that part is losing its appeal.

James calls it “worthless religion.”  It’s easy and non threatening.  And I want no part of it.

God has blessed us suburban Christians.  But to whom much is given, much is expected.  He sacrificed his own Son so that we might know him.  He took on our sin, carried our burdens, to bring us into his kingdom.

500,000 kids are in the US foster system.  13,000 in Georgia.  900+ in Dekalb county.  The government wants our help.  We Christians can meet this need.  Are we too busy?  Are we too comfortable?

The thing I’ve learned about foster care is this, it doesn’t challenge my finances.  It challenges my heart, my priorities, what I truly value. I guess whenever we take on the burdens of another that is true.

The gospel, at the end of the day, calls us to alter our lifestyles not just our schedules.

Perhaps if Jesus showed up in many suburban churches today he wouldn’t say, “Sell everything you have and give it to the poor.”  He might say, “Give me your home, your family, your precious time and comfort,” instead.

“And in return, I’ll show you grace you’ve never known. Together we’ll do what you never could have imagined.  We’ll make my name great among the nations and even in your cul-de-sac.  And you’ll meet some awesome kids along the way.”