How can we reach the immigrants in our community?

I regularly frequent the coffee shop in my neighbourhood. True, I can have a cup of coffee at home. Why then do I head out to the coffee shop on a near daily basis?

The neighbourhood cafe is a place of connection. It is a communal place where people pause from their busy days to share a space. Oftentimes, at the coffee shop strangers will strike up conversations. Sometimes, strangers will become friends.

As I write this post, I have already said “good morning” to some other morning regulars of our neighbourhood café—a couple of middle-aged South Asians and a table of South Americans. “Good to see you again. How is life?”

It may seem easy to connect with the “scattered people,” but I have often heard the question, “How can we reach the immigrants in our community?”

To clarify, migrants are ‘scattered people’; some are voluntarily, while many are involuntarily. For this post, I refer to international or global migrants or ‘externally-displaced’ people; however, every community has internally-displaced people who must also be reached. Immigrants are specifically people who have arrived in a country from another country.

So what do we have to do to reach people in our community? Allow me to propose three initial steps:

  1. Ask God for open eyes, an open heart, and open arms. Obvious? It is unfortunate that this step is often overlooked, but it is the most important. How can we propose to reach others with the love of Jesus Christ if we have not been inspired to do so? We will need to seek the heart of Jesus before moving on to the next steps.
  2. Throw out the stereotypes, particularly in this time with the news highlighting the plight of millions of asylum seekers (refugees). Appreciate the lives beyond the stereotypes. We may meet visible minorities in our community who look different, come to the conclusion that they are immigrants, and proceed to communicate with faulty preconceived notions of their backgrounds. A couple of years ago, my surgeon was a recent immigrant from Armenia. His assistant was a PhD student from Iran. They were educated and influential. In my city, I have met many immigrants from all parts of the globe—India, China, and Somalia, Ireland, Serbia, and Poland. Many immigrants are needy and some come from developing regions. Others are highly educated and may be quite sophisticated and wealthy. Immigrants come from varied backgrounds with a myriad of experiences that cannot be condensed into easy generalizations.

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