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I am going to speak to you today about the Dynamics of a Refugee Family

There are 82.4 million forcibly displaced people in the world today. 24 million are refugees. This is more than any other time in history. Refugee families are being relocated to welcoming countries around the world every year.

God has spoken in His Word in Leviticus 19:33-34, “Don’t mistreat any foreigners who live in your land, instead, treat them as well as you treat citizens and love them as much as you love yourself. Remember you were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord.”

Governments can only do so much to help, which leaves many gaps that need to be filled. I”m going to share some of the ways that individuals, families, and churches can get involved in the lives of refugee families.

First, it is helpful to understand the dynamics of these families and also what they have experienced before coming here. Every family operates a little differently, this is true for refugee families as well. However, there are commonalities between many of them.

Most of these families are experiencing Post Traumatic Stress from their war, grief over loss: loss of family members and friends, jobs, homes, and even country, also marriage problems and parenting problems.

A great Christian resource book for PTSD is Healing the Wounds of Trauma from the American Bible Society.

The Christian Grief Counseling Course is also a good resource. You can view links to these and other resources under the materials tab below this video.

Couples are navigating the highs and lows of marriage while under the stress of an unknown environment.

Showing the genuine love of Jesus to them and supporting them in practical ways, lowers the stress of being in a country where most things are new.

One Burmese family we became friends with had no English, afraid and with only a few furniture items in their apartment. They enrolled in English classes, and they were quickly able to get a job. This allowed them to save money to purchase a home, receive an associate degree and start a business. Even at that, there were struggles that put stress on their marriage and struggles with their children. They call us Mom and Dad and feel safe to share their struggles with us. Sharing the love of Jesus through our relationship, lots of prayer and even counsel from the Bible, helped bring healing and peace into their lives. This couple is the one we go to, to help other refugees in similar situations.

Another stress refugee families have is learning to raise their children in a new culture.
Refugee families are experiencing the clash of cultures when they resettle in another country. Teenagers are trying to find friendships and fit into “the group” by taking on the culture. The challenges some refugee teens have are; their traditional clothes, the religious restrictions on the food they eat and the new, excessive freedoms they now have. It is understandable and appropriate that refugee parents want to hold onto the traditions of their culture. Embracing some of the new country’s traditions can help alleviate some of the stress for the youth.

New schools can be intimidating and confusing to refugee parents also. Sometimes the refugee parents are looked down on because of their limited English and inability to communicate. Friends can be a help by assisting with filling out school forms and even going with refugee parents to meet with teachers to talk about their children’s successes and struggles. This is an important time to connect with the family and support the parents and the students.

We can also help connect families with preschool screening agencies to prepare their young ones for success in future education. These screenings can also help find any deficiencies or delays in their children.
Connecting refugee families with agencies in their communities is important to assist them with the many areas of need that they have. Agencies can provide legal aid, healthcare, support for new moms, and
housing assistance.

What is the best way to befriend the whole family and how can you appropriately enter in?

One of the greatest losses for the refugees is their family and friends. So the need is great for someone to walk alongside them through this difficult transition time in a new country.

John 14:16 says, “And I will pray to the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, Advocate, Helper, who will be with you forever.” That is the Holy Spirit.

We depend on the ministry of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, the One who walks alongside us, to lead us, to guide us, to teach us and to help us bring comfort and healing to the refugee families.

When we find that there are refugee families in our neighborhoods we can be the welcoming person that reaches out. Communicating your welcome with smiles, and small gifts are appropriate! Finding out if someone speaks English will be helpful to know and then learning where they are from, how long they have been in their new country and genuinely showing interest in their life is a good place to start. It can be beneficial to look up information about their culture.

When English is minimal, Google Translate is an app that can help. One time my wife and I used Google Translate with a Syrian multigenerational family for two hours and each one in the family had something to say or questions they wanted to ask. Even the grandparents wanted to join in and ask questions. We were able to ask them about their culture. We learned that in this family the women stay at home, taking care of the children, cooking and cleaning. The men work and provide money for the family. The extended family, the grandparents, will live in the same home. The grandmother will help with the cooking and raising the children. The grandfather will be honored by everyone and receive his wisdom and direction for the whole family. We respect these roles. Many times the men will gather in one room and talk and the women and children will meet in another room. When planning an outing with the family it is important to invite all of the family members.

Stopping by to visit with them, asking if they need help with something they don’t understand, even reading time sensitive mail; all are ways to help them. One refugee mother came to my office and wanted me to read a government letter she received. As I read it, I realized her two teenage children were about to be deported because she didn’t send in a document at a specific time. The families are often dealing with forms to fill out in order to receive the assistance they need.

Hospitality is a core value of many cultures. This is an opportunity for all of us to accept invitations from them to share a meal. You also can invite them over to our home for coffee, tea and dessert. Sometimes they want to bring their own food, because of religious restrictions. That’s ok. We always want to be flexible and accommodating to them. We don’t want to add anymore pressure.

What does sharing about Christ look like in a family setting?

Wanting to share Jesus always begins with prayer. We are asking God to bring revelation of who Jesus is, also asking God to give them dreams and visions of Jesus. In our relationships we are being genuine and living our faith before them, which demonstrates we have a relationship with the living God. We are sensitive to their beliefs and respectful of their religion, so we always ask them if we can pray and ask Jesus to help them and bless them. This is also a good time to ask them about how they pray and even about answered prayer.

I Corinthians 3:6-9. “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but only God made
it grow.” We know we can’t convert anyone. Only God can do that. It is our important part to plant the seed of the Gospel in our refugee friend, then water it with more scripture and love. It is the consistent love, friendship and our Christian witness with the refugee families that has opened their hearts to Jesus.

Holidays in many cultures have spiritual significance. Being interested in a refugee family’s holidays is important. Asking them to share their traditions from their country gives you an opportunity to have fun and learn together. This is a great time for them to explain what the holiday is all about. The same is true for our holidays. Some of our holidays will naturally lead to spiritual conversations. Many refugee families love the holiday activities of their new country.

Local families can invite refugee children to attend Christian kids camps or Vacation Bible Schools with their children. Then they get to
experience the fun and joy of getting to know each other and learning about Jesus Christ.

Gathering a group of ladies together is a great way to build relationships with a frightened, pregnant refugee mom who is missing her family support system of moms, aunts and grandmas. Women’s groups meet with the refugee mom before, during and after the birth of her child. Often relationships grow out of these events, and they begin to be interested in the Bible. Birthday parties also play a big part in family get-togethers.

One of our refugee families who we have known for 9 years has seen many miracles in answer to prayer. The mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. After prayer from the staff in our ministry, she returned to the doctor and was told that the tumor was gone. This family also experienced struggles with their 14-year-old daughter who was getting in trouble at school. We attended family court with them. Again, we prayed that they would show leniency with her, and they did. Her daughter also ran away from home and was missing for several days with no contact. We all prayed, and the mother even told us, she prayed to Jesus and said, “I know You are alive, and You hear me, and I need to hear from my daughter. Please Jesus, have her call me.” She called the next day and came home. This couple said they could not deny that Jesus is alive, and He hears our prayers. They visited our home one night and wanted to tell us that they became Followers of Jesus. They attend church with us now and continue to grow in God.

After all their trauma and loss, restoring value and dignity to them brings about healing in their lives. The learning goes both ways.
We want refugee families to feel that they have something to offer to society.
Some refugees served with the sponsoring countries’ military. We should honor these men & women as the heroes they are. Many were trained in specific trades in their military training. So they may have great skills that they can teach us. So, we honor them when we let them teach us.

Not everyone wants a handout all the time. It is humbling to continually have to ask for things, so we want to make sure we allow them to teach, and we listen. We want to show them that we want to learn about their culture from them, not just in books. Learning how to cook a traditional meal, trying to speak their language and use their greetings when we meet them shows that we have a genuine interest in them. When we are sensitive to the Holy Spirit and when the time is right, asking them about their beliefs and religious traditions is important in your friendship. All this honors the refugee family and puts us all on a level playing field. It’s important to let them know about your faith early in your relationship. One refugee told us that she didn’t think people in our country were serious about their faith. We want to show them our faith is genuine and important to us.

When we receive answers to prayer, we say, “All Jesus All the Time”. We want to honor Jesus in everything we do.

Let’s reach out with the love of Jesus to our refugee friends. God is bringing the nations to us and asking us, “How will you love them?”

Befriending a Refugee Family


Life is complex for immigrant families: couples are navigating the highs and lows of marriage in a new environment, parents are learning to raise their children in a new culture, and kids are trying to make friends in an unfamiliar language. Mark shares how to enter into the lives of these families in a way that displays the love of Christ.

Life is complex for immigrant families: couples are navigating the highs and lows of marriage in a new environment, parents are learning to raise their children in a new culture, and kids are trying to make friends in an unfamiliar language. Mark shares how to enter into the lives of these families in a way that displays the love of Christ.