Earlier this year, for the first time on record, the number of forcibly displaced people in the world hit 100 million. What that means is that one in every 78 people on Earth is displaced from their home as a result of war, violence, famine, and human rights violations each day.
We’ve welcomed over 3,500 refugees into our Quad Cities neighborhood since 1999. And as a member of that neighborhood, an employee at World Relief Quad Cities, and as a Christian, that number is staggering. It’s heart-breaking.
A few things come to mind as I reflect on that number. The first is that, when we talk about the 100 million, we’re not just talking about a number, we’re talking about people. These are men, women, boys and girls – of all ages, of many different races, and of incredible individual journeys that we, as Christians, are called to engage with (Matt. 25:31-45).
This is the challenge for us, as Christians, when it comes to resettlement: to put a human face on the number, first and foremost. Otherwise, the problem has a much harder time affecting us personally, and a much easier time remaining out of sight, out of mind, and certainly not right here in the middle of our communities.
These 100 million aren’t just people “over there,” either.
While many refugees do live “over there” – across oceans in refugee camps waiting to move on to a place like America where they and their families can be safe – many of them also live right here (or soon will live right here). And I don’t just mean in the country. I mean, here in the Cities – in your neighborhood.
I believe that, as pastors and Christians in the Quad Cities, we have an important question to ask ourselves: What will we do today and in the future as an incredible opportunity to fulfill our Matthew 25 and 28 mandates sits in our own backyards?
Most importantly, though, when I think of these people, I’m reminded that they each carry something they received long before they were called “immigrant” or “refugee.”
The fact of the matter is that from the very beginning, God set in motion a pattern of imbedding every person that would be with a dignifying status – His own image.
Because of this, we should be reminded that when it comes to people – wherever they’re from – it’s personal to God. No amount of cultural differences, languages, national borders, or miles between us have ever diminished this certitude.
Pastors, since moving here in April I’ve had the joy of sitting down with you and talking about what God is doing in the Quad Cities, and I’ve shared with you how I believe immigrants and refugees are an integral piece of that movement among us.
Today, I want to challenge you (along with myself) with three things.
- Let’s get face-to-face. Let’s sit down with refugees and enjoy a meal together and take the time to hear their stories and to learn about their experiences with the goal in mind of being like Jesus who ate many meals with many people very different than Him. World Relief QC is here to walk alongside, and I promise it will fill you with much joy.
- Let’s impact our neighborhood. I challenge you to talk to your churches about serving the neighborhoods these refugees live in – areas like Century Woods in Rock Island. At the end of the day, doing so isn’t just filling a need or showing kindness to the foreigner among us, it’s fulfilling the Great Commission right here, right now.
- Let’s see them as image-bearers before seeing them as immigrants. When we look to immigrants and refugees in our neighborhood, let’s think and speak of them as “fearfully and wonderfully made” before the word “foreigner” crosses our minds and mouths.
I believe in the Quad Cities and its capacity to continue welcoming the foreigner and the stranger in our midst. But even more, I believe in what God is doing here, both through your churches and through our office. Would you consider partnering with us through prayer and service to bring Christ’s love to the nations in our neighborhood?
Blessings to you, today.
Feeling inspired to get involved? Schedule a conversation with Spencer. Or, request a guest speaker at an upcoming event.
Spencer Conner is the Church Mobilizer at World Relief Quad Cities. He is originally from Atlanta, GA and has served as a Student Pastor in several churches between North Carolina and Kentucky over the past decade. Spencer is married to Beth, World Relief Quad Cities’ Community Engagement Manager, and they live in Davenport, IA with their golden retriever, Tuck.