It’s hard to believe it is already the last week of the blog. To revisit some of the themes we covered, I talked to some people in the church who are doing bridge-building (and therefore Kingdom-building) work to hear what pricked their hearts to reach out to outsiders in our midst.
It can be hard to know how to get started when all you feel is a heart tug, and so I have also asked today’s contributors to suggest helpful resources for those who are interested in the same groups of outsiders.
You will notice that in all cases, there is some degree of intentionality required. It can be awkward interacting with a new person, regardless of their background. It can be difficult to know how to talk to someone from a different culture or religion. When Kevin first arrived in the US, long before we were interested in each other, he was suspicious of me greeting him at church. At the time, I was teaching ESL classes, and he assumed I was only befriending him so he would join my class. (English is his native language.) That was obviously not my intention, and we now laugh about how our signals were crossed.
The Hommes Family shared their story about international and interracial adoption. Melanie told me more about what drew them to international adoption:
When we decided to begin the adoption process we quickly decided on exploring adoption in China. We had a deep love for Japan and her people due, in large part, to Jim growing up there. It is now nearly impossible to adopt from Japan and so our thoughts turned to China. We knew that there were hundreds of children in China that needed homes and we had a home that was in need of children. After reading the book Lost Daughters of China by Karin Evans, we were more committed than ever to adopting our children from China.
I would strongly recommend finding someone who has already walked this path to walk it with you. Having someone who has experienced it all can be so helpful in your journey through all of the paperwork, the interviews, the waiting, the changing rules of the country you are adopting from, the travel, and the welcoming of the adopted child into your family. I am willing to talk with anyone who is interested in this. I would also explore adoption websites and I highly recommend the agency that we used when adopting Jake: Chinese Children Adoption International (CCAI). After reading all of the online information, call and talk with people that work there. CCAI is so committed to assisting you with any question at any time. The owner also has an amazing testimony.
Refugees in Pittsburgh
Others are connecting with with refugees who have resettled in Pittsburgh. Mark and Emily Weaver are currently working to foster relationships with local refugee families. It is a process that can take some time due to how overwhelmed and understaffed many resettlement agencies currently are. Mark shares how they first started thinking about forming these relationships:
We were both motivated to engage with local refugees after reading and listening to news stories that not only told the stories about the conflicts that are creating refugees but also how those refugees were integrating into the nation. I was particularly influenced by a story about how some Canadians were interacting and guiding refugees and some of the challenges that are included. We wanted to be a part of welcoming people to a new culture and nation; making that transition smoother. I think everyone should try to engage with the stories of refugees and feel that empathy for the stranger. There are many organizations, both Christian and otherwise, that people can seek out based upon their own passions.
Daniel Essig owns a contracting business, Essig Renovation & Design, and has hired some refugees over the last year for fair wages. He describes his own experiences as a temporary sojourner, and how that changed his posture towards those who are permanently displaced from their homeland:
My first interest in refugees/immigrants was sparked when I lived abroad for an extended period; I worked in Mexico for 3 months, and studied in Scotland for 4 months. Those experiences gave me at least a small glimpse of what it’s like to not know the language/customs of where you have set up home and what the implications are for earning a living and building community. Our community group attended a refugee informational panel discussion last year, which we found really helpful! After that meeting, Kate and I talked about what we could do to help these folks. It seemed clear to us we should consider what it could look like to hire refugees. Currently, I have 2 Somali refugees working for my company.
I was able to do this by approaching the manager of a local refugee organization who was at that panel. He set up a meeting with a caseworker, who passed our name onto multiple caseworkers, who connected us directly with refugees who had construction backgrounds, or at least had a desire to learn construction.
Joel Chan and Anna Yong have been connected to a refugee family as part of a mentorship program. Anna shares their motivations for getting involved:
We became invested in getting involved with refugees because we felt broken about the global refugee crisis and we decided that we HAD to do something. We had been praying and donating money to organizations that serve refugees on the ground, but we wanted to do something more. Refugees were the subject of a lot of the discourse surrounding the past presidential election, and the debate over refugee policy is complex – and out of our hands since we cannot vote in the US. We felt that, regardless of policy, we were called to love those who are already here in Pittsburgh.
Our family is volunteering with Hello Neighbor, a brand new mentorship program that matches people like you and me with refugees, in order to help them integrate and settle into their new lives here in Pittsburgh. People can also get involved (either by volunteering or donating goods) through one of the three resettlement agencies in Pittsburgh that are responsible for helping refugees in their first 90 days in the USA: Acculturation for Justice, Access and Peace Outreach (AJAPO), Jewish Family and Children's Services of Pittsburgh, and Northern Area Multi Service Center's Community Assistance and Refugee Resettlement (NAMS). There are countless ways to get involved. We are happy help you figure out where to start!
These responses highlight some of the informal ways that members in our congregation have reached out to particular people groups. Some of the other blog contributors may not be able to publically share the group, organization, or NGO they are connected with for security reasons. I invite you to reach out to me, Kevin, or Matt, or even to the authors themselves to get more information on how to be involved in the work those contributors are doing.
There are many more people in our church doing things like this than are listed here, and there are many more organizations in Pittsburgh connected to adoption, immigration, or refugee care than are listed here. For example, I spent a year volunteering with Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council as an ESL tutor for a postdoc from Japan.
One of City Reformed’s formal partnerships is with PRISM, a group that serves international students, visiting scholars, postdocs, and their families in a number of ways. Christa Saenz is the contact person for getting involved in that ministry. Some of our community groups serve at PRISM events once or twice a year.
If you are feeling called to serve a people group, don’t let that interest fade in the face of uncertainty. If God is putting a call on your heart, have faith that He will also provide support for you to step out and serve.
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Matt Koerber is the senior pastor at City Reformed Presbyterian church. This is his personal blog that he also asks guest writers to participate on.