White Evangelicals and Refugee Ministry

By: T.M.

I am one of the 19% of white evangelicals who did not vote for President Trump. From the beginning of the presidential campaign I have closely followed the response of American Christians to President Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies. Since January talk of travel bans and moratoriums on the refugee resettlement program have consumed much of my attention. I have spent hours crafting arguments intended to persuade conservative Christians that welcoming refugees is consistent with both their faith and their politics. My progress has been slow, and I often find myself discouraged by the apathy or outright opposition of believers to loving refugees. But last week I experienced an antidote to that discouragement.

If you regularly read Faith & Forced Migration, chances are that you too are appalled, grieved, and frustrated by the actions and reactions of your fellow believers. Take heart, white evangelicals are actually at the forefront of refugee ministry in America. The media may tell you about the negative response of white evangelicals to the presence of refugees and immigrants in the US.  You may read that white evangelicals have overwhelmingly supported the travel ban. However, these media vignettes and statistics only tell one side of the story.

Last week I attended the 2017 Refugee Roundtable, a conference organized by the Refugee Highway Partnership for Christians who are loving and serving refugees in North America. Over the course of the three day conference I met dozens of fellow believers who love and serve refugees all across the US and Canada. I met newcomers to refugee ministry who are learning how to love the stranger for the first time and desperately want to change the narrative about the Church in America. I talked with veterans in ministry who have been faithfully serving refugees for nearly 40 years, long before it was trendy or so deeply controversial. I heard the stories of former refugees who came to America decades ago and have now dedicated their lives to serving the newly displaced and boldly challenging the American Church to fill the gap that our new president has left.

The media has woven a narrative of hate, prejudice and apathy, while overlooking stories of faithful service and humble ministry. These stories are not often told, because their plots are not shocking, their characters do not seek out the spotlight, and they certainly do not always end happily-ever-after. So, while the voices of those who oppose welcoming refugees may sound loudest they are actually the minority. Active support of refugees speaks much louder than the empty words of the fearful.

It’s natural to feel discouraged when such a vast majority of white evangelicals voted for President Trump, and when we learn that they are twice as likely to support the travel ban as other Americans. But there are also those who, through their quiet, faithful service are seeking to change the narrative about evangelicals in America. I encountered these subversive servants last week at the Refugee Roundtable, and I was honored to join my voice to theirs. Will you join us as well? In the face of your own discouragement will you seek to act boldly and subversively to love your refugee neighbors? For it is only through loving action that we can drown out the noise of bigotry and apathy so that our side of the story is heard.