Showing Love | Reaching Out | Becoming Us
A woman at the grocery in full hijab is struggling with English. Should you help?
The new kid at school tells your son about living in a refugee camp. What do you say?
Your church asks for outreach volunteers to a university’s large international student population. You wonder, “Could someone like me really help?”
Questions and opportunities like these arise more and more. Our instincts often avoid what might stretch us, but we have a sacred opportunity to welcome our neighbors from every corner of the globe. God calls us to reflect his welcoming and inclusive heart. This begins by shifting our perceptions away from an “us and them” mindset. Scripture tells us that every person has value and deserves kindness, compassion, and dignity.
The RISE Project exists to inform, include, and inspire us to lovingly engage international students and people with refugee status in mutual and empowering relationships.
In Matthew 25 Jesus talks about separating sheep from goats, but he’s really teaching us how he recognizes his people. You know the passage. As he invites the sheep into his eternal kingdom, he commends them for certain actions. It’s a very short list. Welcoming strangers is on it. Jesus tells the sheep that in welcoming strangers they were actually welcoming him. Then he tells the goats in refusing to welcome strangers they were refusing to welcome him! Ouch! Sounds like welcoming strangers is a big deal to Jesus! But what does it mean?
Saying “Welcome to America!” with a warm smile is a good start, but it’s not enough. The verb Jesus uses literally means “to bring together.” Elsewhere in the New Testament it is usually translated “to gather,” like a farmer gathers his wheat, or the disciples gather leftover bread. Jesus expects us to purposely enlarge our circles to include the strangers among us. Nothing less than that! But gathering people is hard. It takes intention, persistence, and humility. It’s hard because we must give ourselves, giving things is not enough.
Only through the power of God’s Holy Spirit can we welcome well. It doesn’t have anything to do with politics or economics or the laws of any earthly nation. It has to do only with the heart of God, made plain throughout the Bible. We welcome strangers because Jesus told us he expects his sheep to do so. The RISE project is interested in helping churches welcome. provides video series, training sessions, and media resources to help us welcome people from every tribe, tongue, and nation.
After all, Jesus said it is how we welcome him.
You can do something simple today.
Where to start – what can I do today?
The most important step for all of us in engaging with people who are resettling in the U.S. is to dedicate ourselves to learning so that we can shift from “us/them” thinking to “we’re all us.”
For International Students, many universities have “Meet and Greet” luncheon events where you can make friends with international students and even visiting scholars.
Steps to take:
Explore the Trainers section – Refugee Journey or International Students – for more information about steps you can take today
International students on U.S. campuses.
Visiting scholars teaching on U.S. campuses.
Intensive English Program Students.
Average number of people who flee their
homes every day.