Every relationship you have holds the potential to change you. And when you grow your perspective to understand the experiences, thoughts, and values of others, those relationships hold the power to help change a community.
I’ve had many relationships throughout the years that have guided, challenged, encouraged, and shaped my life. And I’m sure you could list the names of several people who did the same for you. But it was one relationship that significantly impacted the trajectory of my life because it opened my understanding of the world and the people in it.
During high school, I was blessed to meet another young woman my age, an exchange student from Croatia. We got to know each other and became friends. One day I learned that her living situation was falling apart. She faced the blunt reality of being forced to move to another town and start over. Because our friendship had become an important part of my life, I felt compelled to do something. I proposed the idea to my parents that my friend move in with us.
I would like to think it was my persuasive skills that made them say yes. Rather, their openness was rooted in their love for God and for others – core tenants of our Christian faith. They welcomed her with open arms. Before long, I was sharing the master bedroom with my new friend who truly became like a sister to me for the rest of that school year.
“When your perspective is given the space to grow, it has the power to change you.”
We became friends for the same reasons most friendships begin: sharing interests and spending time together. We didn’t enter into a friendship with the intention that we would grow or change from it. But through the ebb and flow of our shared experiences, it naturally became mutually transformative.
Our friendship helped me become more of the person God invited me to be. She grew my perspective – and by doing so, I began to change into someone who values differences and wants to welcome others. My understanding that we are all beautifully made in the image of God, brimming with life and potential, continues to inspire me to this day in the work God has called me to do.
“Your perspective grows in the context of relationship and by your proximity to the stories of others.”
In my role at World Relief, I regularly get to listen to and learn from our refugee and immigrant neighbors. As we celebrate Refugee Awareness Month and World Refugee Day on June 20th, two World Relief staff members who came to the United States as refugees offered to briefly share their experiences. I believe listening to their stories – and other refugees’ stories like them – helps to broaden our perspective on the true impact that occurs when we choose to walk alongside our refugee neighbors as they rebuild their lives.
I celebrate these friends and the thousands of other refugees who have found themselves rebuilding a life in the wake of tragedy.
Every year millions of people are forced to leave their homes for hundreds of reasons and become refugees. Whether they’ve been persecuted because of their faith, their nationality, their gender or sexuality, or experienced extreme poverty or political oppression, they still bear the image of God. In spite of the story playing out in their lives at that particular time, their worth remains. We get to become a part of that story as they rebuild their lives in the U.S., and in so doing, discover how the image of God is alive in us as well.
“Your perspective grows when it becomes intentional.”
As I look back on my high school years, I’m so grateful for my parents’ willingness to listen to my friend’s story. They stepped out in faith and moved closer to her, choosing to do something they hadn’t done before by giving her a place in our home.
Their decision reflected an important truth about growing your perspective to build mutually transformative relationships. It takes intention to move out of your comfort zone into spaces where people are different from you. It’s in these spaces where you grow, learn, and transform. Yes, it can happen by accident, but it almost always requires a deliberate effort.
During this Refugee Awareness Month, let’s be people who are intentional. Let’s be people who celebrate our refugee neighbors. And let’s be people who celebrate and welcome those around us the way that God celebrates and welcomes us.
The Part You Play
By the end of September, World Relief Chicagoland expects to resettle over 400 refugees from all over the world and people like you have a part to play every step of the way. Through volunteering, donating needed items, or giving financially you can be a part of something greater, a truly welcoming community. To learn more about how to show welcome and celebrate Refugee Awareness Month, visit World Refugee Day 2023 – World Relief