Dinners With Refugees

Unknown-26Free Methodist bishops have called church members to “embrace all” and “go global.” Dearborn (Michigan) Free Methodist Church Associate Pastor Megan Weber is embracing people from around the globe without leaving Dearborn. She recently began hosting community dinners at which local believers dine with refugees.

“Community dinners are a place where we can lay aside our agenda — or our need to convert the other — and just be, and listen, and let God develop trust and relationship.” Weber said. “I am just trying to be a good steward of the experiences God has given me and the doors He has been opening in our community in working with refugees.”

Weber said her vision has been influenced by authors Hugh Halter and Carl Medearis. Halter teaches that Jesus’ life and ministry took this order: incarnation, reputation, conversation, confrontation, transformation. Medearis writes, “The distance between Jesus and people isn’t doctrinal. It isn’t political or social or even theological. It’s a matter of personal contact. Jesus collided with two fishermen, and their lives were changed.”

“We need Free Methodists colliding with people that are different than them,” Weber said. “As we invest in the lives of refugees, we are living out the incarnation where we are gaining a reputation, and there is opportunity for conversation. When we become good listeners, others trust us with their hard questions, but that first comes in setting aside agenda.”

Weber said a dinner table is common ground for people of different backgrounds to develop relationships, because everyone eats.

“God just really put it on my heart to facilitate paradigm-shifting relationships through positive exposure,” said Weber, who added that both American Christians and Muslim refugees may have negative views of each other before dining together. “What we don’t know will scare us.”

In order to connect with refugees, Weber contacted Catholic Charities, which resettles refugees in Michigan. She suggested searching for a person’s local refugee resettlement agency online because different organizations lead resettlement efforts in different areas. Key agencies also include World Relief and Lutheran Services.

“They rely on volunteers because they get so inundated with refugees,” said Weber, adding that volunteers are needed to provide help and transportation such as taking refugees to doctors’ appointments and to the grocery store.

Language barriers can make the dinners challenging, but connections are still possible. Refugees may also have dietary restrictions — especially if they follow a Muslim halal diet. Weber said it is good to avoid animal products, and store-bought items are safer because the refugee can look at the ingredients before eating the food.

She said there was a time in her life when she had no Muslim friends and hardly any friends who weren’t Christians, but time outside the United States changed that.

“I’ve had the experience to live overseas in the Middle East and get to know refugees … and really see them as people made in the image of God,” she said.

Weber has been inspired by the efforts of Social Services for the Arab Community and partner organization Without Borders that are supported by Free Methodists from Ottawa Lake, Michigan, and Holland, Ohio.

“Our passion is serving immigrants and refugees. God tells us to welcome the foreigner to show Christ’s love. Hospitality communicates so much in the Arab culture,” Social Services for the Arab Community Executive Director Lona Lakatos told Light + Life Magazine in a 2013 article.

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