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10 Ways to Help Refugees

My heart is heavy and so naturally I’m doing a lot of thinking about Bruce Willis. As one does. I lay awake half the night praying about refugees and couldn’t shake his character, John McClane, out of my head. I love the Die Hard movies – well, the first three are amazing and the last two are like when you go for that second donut even though you know you shouldn’t. The first donut tastes perfect but the second one leaves you feeling like you ate a tub of Crisco. The law of diminishing returns.

Anyway, Die Hard 2: Die Harder takes place at the Dulles airport during winter. There are fake soldiers in puffy white coats riding snowmobiles and someone gets stabbed in the eye with an icicle. It’s a whole thing.

The bad guys mess with the technology that guides the pilots in for landing, making them about to crash and burn on the tarmac. So in order to save the plane, at one point our dear Bruce runs out onto the runway waving makeshift torches to try to get the pilots’ attention. The torch thing doesn’t work and the plane goes down anyway, but eventually he saves the next one and stops the bad guys, of course.

I want the Church to be the guy waving the torches. We’ve got vetted refugees who aren’t allowed to come in and families in crisis. Someone has messed up the path to land safely in their new home. And I want the Church to be the guy on the tarmac doing everything we can to help them land.

I’ve been looking around this week going, “This is not the way of following Jesus. We aren’t wired to keep people out. Helping refugees is what we do.”

Now, whether or not you agree with what I just said, I love you and I truly believe you and I are both trying to do what we think is right. Like you, I am weary of fighting on the internet and everything I think or write is out of utter humility and love. So, regardless of politics and our similar or differing views on how to accomplish things in the land that we love, I brainstormed 10 ways to help refugees. I’m a doer and my heart is always to bring people together, so these are things we can do regardless of political persuasion.

1. Pray. Pray for our leaders in both parties, pray for our pastors and teachers, our lawyers and customs officials. Pray for the families involved. Pray for our nation and the world. Pray for wisdom and justice and for God’s grace to fill in the cracks in our government. Pray for relationships, for refugee families pulled apart, for our families with different views, for America’s relationships in the world. Pray for the Church. Pray for your church.

2. Support Preemptive Love Coalition‘s work in Syria and Iraq, as they help refugees fleeing war.

3. Read through scriptures in the Bible that talk about how we are to treat foreigners. If you’re a Christian, helping refugees is in your spiritual DNA.

4. Be good neighbors right where you are. Invite people in; reach out to your Muslim friends. Don’t be silent with your love. Love loudly with your actions. Let’s be refuges for the people around us. Let our homes be safe zones.

5. Pick up the phone and call your congressmen and women. Use your voice to speak up for others.

6. Support refugee businesses. Go to restaurants owned by immigrants and shop from places like Open Arms Shop, a social enterprise of the Multicultural Refugee Coalition.

7. Help World Relief serve refugees who are already here. Consider making a donation if you’re able.

8. Resist the urge to think only of policies and listen to the stories of real people. When we stop focusing on them and us and start listening to our fellow human beings, we keep our hearts softened and compassionate. No matter what actions we support or strive for, we need to start from a place of compassion and listening.

9. Stay engaged. It’s so easy to let ourselves focus on what’s right in front of us, and if we aren’t personally affected by something then we tend to move on. Keep reading, keep listening, and stay in it, because we can’t afford to look away. In addition to all the news that we consume from various angles, Ann Voskamp wrote a beautiful post this week, and Ed Stetzer wrote a thoughtful article, too.

10. Don’t be silent. All I want to do is watch old episodes of 30 Rock and make jokes about parenting. But it’s okay to let your heart break and talk about it. It’s okay to speak up, admit you don’t have all the answers, but press into the tension. Press in.

The first time I realized my American passport was magic — like The Doctor’s psychic paper that convinces people he’s whatever official they think he is in Doctor Who or how in The Librarians all they have to say is, “We’re the Librarians,” and people immediately let them in — I was living overseas for a summer and met several students who mentioned that they’d love to visit the U.S. and had entered a lottery to get a visa. A lottery? So I could just show up in their country with my magic passport but they had to apply and wait in line to get into mine? I realized the privilege and responsibility of living where I do, and while adopting my girls, I encountered a tiny sliver of the challenges people face when they apply to enter our country.

This morning in church we sang “Oceans” again. We sang the part that goes “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders” three times. Either we believe that or we don’t. That song sure was popular when we thought it was about going on mission trips, huh? But what if we applied it to refugees and those borders we sing about were our own? Is our trust without borders or isn’t it?

If you’re feeling grieved and helpless like I am, pick a few of these things on the list this week and do them. Let’s get some torches and light the way.