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Building local community for refugees

By January 4, 2016

(International) MNN — There have been a lot of conversations about the Church’s response to the growing number of refugees. Most discussions focus on how best to provide shelter and aid.

But Ann Steigerwald of Christian Associates International says local churches need to also focus on how to build community for refugees. And she believes it starts with truly inviting people to the table.

Creative Commons/Dominic Santiago

(Creative Commons/Dominic Santiago)

She shares, “I think we’re challenged to create a welcoming and embracing environment for people who come from all kinds of different backgrounds, spiritual traditions, even life experiences so people that live in a lifestyle that’s maybe not very consistent with the Christian faith. We need to find places to engage them and have conversation.”

Steigerwald admits it’s a challenge to let go of traditionally Western context, and humility is the key to meshing culture and Christ in a way that serves refugees well. “We see ourselves as participating with God on mission. God’s already ahead of us doing things, and He’s inviting us to participate with Him. So it helps us stay humble about what we bring to the table. It helps us to let go of our sort of structures and models and allow that to be shaped by the context where we are.

“But there are challenges. How much of our understanding of the Gospel is still seen through our Western cultural context, and where do we need to be challenged–and where do we need to fight for the things that are the central tenets of the faith?”

Creative Commons/MaximillianV

Creative Commons/MaximillianV

One Christian Associates church plant has found the balance. In Glasgow, Scotland, Iranian refugees reassigned by the UK government are part of a growing community called the Upper Room. Steigerwald says that quickly identifying national leaders who can be supported and trained is key to serving subcultures well.

To learn more about what Christian Associates is doing to serve refugees in Europe and beyond, visit their website at ChristianAssociates.org.

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