Refugees have a story of incredible perseverance and resiliency in the face of unimaginable persecution, trauma, and loss. Forced to leave their home countries, they’ve been displaced out of necessity and separated from their families. Learn more about how to develop long-term dignity giving relationships with these new neighbors who ache for security, community, and a place to belong where their many strengths and talents are welcomed.
James Litsey has been married to Lisa for nearly 38 years. After retiring from their medical practice, he and his family spent a three-year term with Pioneer translators in West Africa. Subsequently he worked with refugees to his town as a volunteer, then as director of the local refugee resettlement program, then as director of a Christian nonprofit working to connect local churches with arriving refugee families. He currently works for the Indiana Department of Child Services, and continues to mobilize churches for global gospel work, including welcoming international “strangers.”
Immigrants – People who have chosen to move to another country and settle there, often in search of safety, work, or educational opportunities for their children
Refugees – People who have fled their home country due to persecution based on race, religion, nationality, social group, or political opinion, and have been verified and classified by the United Nations as refugees.
Internally Displaced Persons – People who have fled their homes due to persecution, but are still within the borders of their home country.
Asylum Seekers – People who have fled their home country due to persecution and apply for protection in another country after they arrive.
Average number of people who flee their homes every day to seek refuge and protection.
The number of people forcibly displaced every minute as a result of conflict or persecution.
Percent of the world’s refugees are under 18 years old.
Percent of the world’s refugees are hosted by developing countries.
Number of U.S. federal agencies involved in the screening process of refugees.
Approximate number of refugees welcomed by the U.S. since the signing of the Refugee Act in 1980.
The average number of years refugees are uprooted before they can finally settle in a permanent location.
HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE DISPLACED IN THE WORLD TODAY?
According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, 65.6 million people were forcibly displaced from their homes in 2016. Of those, 22.5 million were refugees (the highest number ever recorded), 40.3 million were internally displaced persons, and 2.8 million were asylum seekers.
WHAT DOES “RESETTLEMENT” MEAN?
Less than 1% of the world’s refugees are “resettled,” or given the opportunity to start over in a new country like the U.S.
WHAT IS THE LEGAL STATUS OF PEOPLE WHO RESETTLE IN THE U.S.?
People who resettle in the U.S. have been selected by the U.S. State Department and admitted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. According to the Refugee Act of 1980, they have full legal status, including authorization to work, upon arrival. One year after they arrive, individuals who are admitted as refugees are required to apply for adjustment of status to that of Lawful Permanent Resident. After five years, they can apply to become U.S. citizens.
HOW DIFFICULT IS IT TO BE ACCEPTED FOR RESETTLEMENT IN THE U.S.?
WHAT ARE THE PRIMARY COUNTRIES OF ORIGIN FOR FAMILIES RESETTLING IN THE U.S.?
In 2016, 55 percent of all refugees worldwide came from 3 countries: Syria, Afghanistan, and South Sudan.
DO PEOPLE GET TO CHOOSE THEIR RESETTLEMENT CITY?
People who are approved for resettlement in the U.S. do not choose which city or state they will be resettled in. If they are being reunified with family members who have already resettled, they are usually sent to that city. Otherwise, the process of matching newcomers with receiving communities happens at a national level and newcomers themselves have no choice where they are initially sent.
Foreign to Familiar. By Sarah A. Lanier; McDougal, 2000. This book creates within us a greater appreciation for our extended family around the world and an increased desire to better understand them.
A Beginners Guide to Crossing Cultures. By Patty Lane; Intervarsity Press, 2002. Patty Lane demonstrates God’s heart for building bridges across cultures and shows how you can reach out to people of every nation, culture and ethnicity.
Cross Cultural Servanthood. By Duane Elmer; InterVarsity Press, 2006. This book gives practical advice for serving other cultures with sensitivity and humility. The author offers principals and guidance for avoiding misunderstanding and building relationships in ways that honors others.
Medium:“Everything Is Yours” by Clemantine Wamariya. A story of fleeing Rwanda.
CNN:“Sanctuary Without End” by David McKenzie and Brent Swails. Interactive article about Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp.
What Is The What.By Dave Eggers; Vintage Books, 2006. Valentino Achak Deng was forced to leave his village in Sudan at the age of seven and trek hundreds of miles to find freedom. When he finally is resettled in the United States, he finds a life full of promise, but also heartache and myriad of new challenges.
The Spirit Catches You And You Fall Down. By Anne Fadiman; Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, 1997. This book explores the clash between a small county hospital in California and a refugee family from Laos over the care of Lia Lee, a Hmong child diagnosed with severe epilepsy.
YouTube Video: Reality of Life For a Refugee Family – Yaman & his brother Mohammed had to flee Syria.
YouTube Video: Most Shocking Second a Day Video – A Young Girl’s Life Gets Turned Upside Down.
YouTube Video: Meet the 1%: One Refugee Family’s Road To A New Life In The United States
INSPIRATION FOR “BECOMING US”
She Loves Magazine:“Approaching the Table of Radical Grace” by Fiona Koefoed-Jespersen. We are all equally welcome at the table of grace.
Assimilate or Go Home: Notes From A Failed Missionary On Rediscovering Faith. By D.L. Mayfield; Harper One, 2016. In this collection of stunning and surprising essays, Mayfield invites readers to reconsider their concepts of justice, love, and reimagine being a citizen of this world and the upside-down kingdom of God.
When Helping Hurts – How To Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting The Poor… and Yourself. By Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert; Moody, 2009, 2012. This book encourages us to see the dignity in everyone, to empower the materially poor, and to know that we are all uniquely needy.
Healing Invisible Wounds: Paths to Hope and Recovery in a Violent World. By Dr. Richard Mollica, Director of the Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma; Harcourt, Inc, 2006. This book reveals how in every society we have to move away from viewing trauma survivors as ‘broken people’ and ‘outcasts’ to seeing them as courageous people actively contributing to larger social goals.