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How to love your refugee neighbors near and far

Showing up and showing love for our refugee neighbors seems especially meaningful right now. The devastating earthquakes that hit Turkey and Syria last week are affecting some of the most vulnerable people in the world. According to the U.N., more than four million Syrians and Kurds who have already suffered so much from the almost 12-year civil war in their country and currently rely on immediate humanitarian aid live in the region that was hardest hit. Over 2.8 million of those 4.1 million were already internally displaced and living in camps and/or abject poverty.

This is a reality that is hard for us in the U.S. to wrap our minds around. Sometimes it feels like there's nothing we can possibly do to help in a situation that seems so far removed from our everyday lives. But even in the absence of knowing what to do, the most meaningful thing we can do is to pray. Ask God to comfort those that have been affected, and for Him to encounter those that don't yet know Him. Beyond that, you can show love to your refugee neighbors that live right here in Nashville, some of who have either experienced similar events and might be triggered by seeing what is playing out on the news, and some who have family that has been displaced or might have lost loved ones in the earthquakes.

Here are 8 ways to practically love your refugee neighbors:

1. Pray for them by name. All refugees have experienced significant trauma. Ask God to comfort them in their loss (of home, family, life as they knew it), bless them in their new homes and provide the resources they need to live good lives here in the US. Pray for them to know that God sees them and loves them and can turn their pain into good. 2. Invite them into your home. When refugee families first arrive in the U.S., many (if not all) feel isolated with no family, no community, and no means of transportation. Despite that, close to 90% of refugees will never step foot in a typical American home. Even if there is a language barrier, the simple act of inviting them into your home can make a world of difference. Knowing that someone cares and that they are not alone allows refugee families to feel the love of Christ through our actions. 3. Share a meal. Sharing a meal is perhaps one of the best ways to show our love for our refugee neighbors. Whether it’s at your home or theirs, breaking bread together meets not only a physical need but also the mental and spiritual need for relationship. It is one of the most powerful ways that Jesus connected with people. No matter where you live, meals are an opportunity to connect and share our own culture while experiencing someone else’s. Especially for many refugees rebuilding their lives in the U.S., sharing a meal also demonstrates respect and interest in their life and culture, something that may often be overlooked in their new home. 4. Listen. Sit and listen to their story. Ask them intentional questions. We may have had very different upbringings and viewpoints, but we are all made in the image of God, and each of us has an important story to tell. By listening to each other's story, we’ll gain understanding of each other, new perspective on God and the world, and by doing so we are showing them that they are welcomed, loved, and valued. 5. Meet a tangible need. Sometimes loving our refugee neighbors is as simple as meeting a need- large or small. Although resettlement agencies do the best they can to set up a new family with the basics after they arrive, they don't have the financial means to cover everything. Does this family need a washer and dryer? Do they need beds for their kids? Do they just need someone to go to the grocery store with them and help them shop? There are so many things we can do to help a family that is feeling overwhelmed with haivng to completely start over. 6. Speak Up. While loving our refugee neighbors on an interpersonal level is who we are called by Christ to be, sometimes we need to use our voices, our connections, and our knowledge to make a broader impact. Groups that are engaging in advocacy on behalf of refugees like We Welcome and World Relief are great places to start to learn more about issues and how you can use your voice for our vulnerable refugee neighbors. 7. Volunteer. Whether it's with UPN or another local organization serving in the refugee community, volunteering is a great mutually beneficial way to engage with your refugee neighbors, all while helping support the organization's mission and increasing their capacity to serve. If you are interested in serving with UPN, find out ways to get involved here. 8. Give Financially. Again, whether you give to UPN or other organizations that are engaging in the work of refugee care and support, finances are always an area of need to continue the work and expand services. Extra tip: Loving our refugee neighbors is better when we do it together. If you’re considering reaching out to a new refugee neighbor, ask someone to join you so the impact of showing love and welcome can be multiplied! If you don't know where to start, ask us! We would love to help get you intentionally connected to refugee families or individuals.

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