I once helped the daughter of dear family friends, former refugees from Iraq, get into the school of her choice. This family was zoned to one of the lowest-performing schools in the district, and the mother was desperate to get her transferred to another school. It was already quite late in the application process, so besides submitting her application, I also wrote a letter to the principal, called the school, called the district office, and prayed.
The girl was accepted, and we were all elated. After we finished registering her, her mother warmly exclaimed to me, “You are an angel!” My kids were with me and they gave me a side glance that said, “Her? She ain’t no angel…”.
And they’re right; I’m no angel. I truly view myself as an ordinary citizen doing little things where I can. In my volunteer work with refugees, I have gone grocery shopping and helped set up apartments. I have drunk warm Coke in barely furnished apartments. I have eaten dolma and baklava while watching Arabic soap operas. I’ve driven clients to clinics and immigration offices. I have taken Syrians to their first-ever Chinese restaurant, and an Iraqi boy to his first-ever Christian summer camp, where he prayed to commit his life to Jesus. I haven’t done grand things; I’ve done many little things. But when you help refugees they often show a lot of appreciation, even when the things you did were not that much effort on your part.
This is the painting that graces the cover of my book, A Better Country: Embracing the Refugees in Your Midst. The artist, Jacquelyn Kramer, was inspired by the Syrian refugee crisis. The painting is entitled, “May angels protect you on your journey to safety.” The theme of angels makes me think of Hebrews 13:2, which says, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” My refugee friends might call me an angel for helping them, but they are my angels. Refugees keep me grounded when I allow my petty worries to outsize themselves. Refugees help me better understand the realities of the world. Refugees teach me about suffering, perseverance, faith, and stewardship.
Abba’s House wants to help refugees, but we also want to partner with refugees to seek the peace of our city. They have so much to teach us. Brothers and sisters, do not neglect hospitality to strangers, for you may find they are the angels guiding you.