It has been a while since Kent Annan visited with the Micah House family at our Christmas banquet to share an inspiring message from his most recently published book, You Welcomed Me.
He started to get my attention when he started a dialogue about refugees with his son and this question that came out of that discussion.
"Wait, Dad. Are we for them or against them?"
It is the answer to this question that seems to be what I speak about when I am engaging with someone who is new to this type of ministry.
While the world-wide refugee crisis is messy in so many ways, Micah House has a significant and focused purpose. In fact, is it safe to say that we actually address this as a spiritual topic? Is it not up to us how we decide how hospitable we will be?
Our welcoming posture means that we take thoughtful, caring and sustainable actions to help others. If Romans 12 challenges us to outdo one another when it comes to honouring (not quite a recognizable word for our culture) maybe we can base our ministry on the description “incredible welcome” and grace that God offers to each person.
Best way possible
We are so thankful for the church community for I see they have come on board with this in dramatic and ongoing fashion. I am truly blessed to see them become so engaged. I believe that welcoming those seeking asylum has become something personal to the church and it has definitely grown into the areas of immigration as well. When I hear our team describing some of the former residents I hear them using words that would strongly suggest that they are friends. In fact, the gentleman that performed personal work of art at the Christmas banquet received a lot of love from a lot of people there.
Joy in connection
While I am sure others are still in the arena of challenges in this area - let’s face it, who naturally wants to step toward pain - and trauma is unfortunately a part of the lives we welcome here. However, there is love. Jesus’ love enables us to make this step into their lives and what replaces that challenge is the joy in connecting - helping someone in need.
“Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity,” - Simone Weil
We do not pry into the lives or their experiences that have caused them to be asylum seekers. However, do not define our openness as trying to “flatten” the stories for political reasons - our openness is defined as being able to see others as whole people. How easy could it be for movements to use people's stories as their tools. We do know that they are not perfect victims and we would most likely not categorize them as saints, but we step in the right direction with them when we share in our humanity. In other words, except for the grace of God, that could be me. A word I see at Micah House is empathy. It is risky only in the sense that it involves identifying with those we are trying to help. Is it not true that imagination plays a role in loving your neighbour as yourself?
Years of ministry
Not only was Micah House a new ministry thirteen years ago, they were an adrenaline rush, a provider of joy to a community that burst out in compassion because they were one of the only committed outreach ministries to asylum seekers in the Golden Horseshoe. They are coming to a place where they are being shaped in deeper ways as they enter into the long term part of ministry. Scott Jones used the example at the Christmas banquet, just prior to Kent Annan speaking, as there being a need for a “bigger boat.” Our donors could be feeling similar feelings as well but also from a different perspective. Maybe they are feeling that the work is no longer as rewarding - I heard that from one church. Others want a more complex relationship with an evangelism component, others I am sure have felt that their generosity was not met with appreciation by either Micah House or even the individual refugees themselves. This is where I know Micah House can come alongside and provide opportunities for discipling and allowing everyone a chance to grow in love and in receiving grace. I know that Scott has done this for me during my first five months.
While taking a sabbath is important, it may be more about finding joy that will help avoid compassion fatigue. I believe joy can be found in generosity - I believe it comes from a fruit of the Spirit that we call - goodness.
Let me get back to Kent’s address again. What I personally came away with that night was the idea that when I am in the presence of a refugee, I am in fact, standing on holy ground. I thought initially it was a stretch, but by the end of the night, I became emotional as he described what he meant. I found a clip from Kent as he preached along these lines in a church before Covid-19. The sermon was called, On the Holy Ground of God’s Mission. It was based on welcoming the stranger and welcoming God and it’s scripture reference was Luke 4:16-21. I trust that you will enjoy it and that it will leave you with some meaningful dialogue wherever God leads you to serve. If possible, I would be very open to being a part of that dialogue with you.
Erwin van Laar, Strategic Development, Micah House