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Ways to Serve New Immigrants in Your Community

  • 13 June 2017
  • Randy Wollf

Immigrant familyNot everyone can sponsor a refugee family. However, there are many ways that we can serve new immigrants who are living in our communities. My family had the amazing privilege of living in close community with new immigrants for seven months. New Hope Community Services had purchased an apartment building in Surrey, British Columbia for housing refugees and helping them settle into life in Canada. They were looking for host families to move in and do life with these newcomers (you can read about our experiences as a host family by reading a past blog called Do Something). 

As we interacted with new immigrants, I learned new ways to serve them. Here are some ideas for how you can serve new immigrants, even if you aren’t acting as their official sponsor: 

Develop Your Cultural Skill Set

The first way of serving immigrants is to develop your own cultural skill set so that you are in a better position to serve them. How do we do this?

  • Expect cultural differences – Some cultures are task-based while others are more relational. Some are individualistic while others are collectivistic (emphasizing the significance of groups). Some cultures tend to plan their time while others view time as flexible. The first step to developing your cultural skill set is to expect these kinds of cultural differences and to recognize that one cultural perspective is not necessarily better than another. 
  • Adapt to those around you – As you encounter cultural differences, discern which of your values at play in the situation are negotiable and which are non-negotiable. Be flexible with those that are negotiable. 
  • Dialogue about cultural differences – Be open with your immigrant friends about the differences you observe. Listen to the reasons why they do what they do. Carefully and sensitively communicate the reasons for your cultural preferences. As you do so, you will build mutual understanding and respect.

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Why Pharisees Can't Count

  • 5 June 2017
  • Keith Reed

Pharisees"Joe had curly hair. But he didn’t know how much hair he had because he couldn’t count that high. In fact, he couldn’t count at all." [1]

Joe is a fictional character in an imaginative children’s book called Sideways Stories from Wayside School. In the third chapter, we learn that Joe isn’t allowed to go to recess because he can’t count correctly. When his teacher, Mrs. Jewls, asks him to count five pencils, Joe says, "Four, six, one, nine, five. There are five pencils, Mrs. Jewls." Even though his answer is correct, Mrs. Jewls tells Joe that he is wrong: "You got the right answer, but you counted the wrong way."

Joe’s counting problem is an example of why the process in which we do things is important. His teacher understood that his answer was lucky—even a broken clock is right two times a day—so the way he counted had to change. His method wasn’t sufficient or sustainable.

I’m sometimes tempted to believe that arriving at the right answer validates the way that I got there. But when we place too much weight on the "right" thing, we can discount the process which is often as important as the result. When I’m truthful with myself, I discover that some of my honourable deeds are prompted by a heart that is less-than-honourable. An act of generosity is sparked by my hope that I’ll be recognized; a gesture of service is motivated by my desire to please someone; a decision to sacrifice my agenda is fueled by the possibility that I will get my way the next time.

When my noble actions are prompted by selfish motives, I live like a Pharisee. I might arrive at the "right" answer, but I’m counting the wrong way.

Timothy Keller suggests the main barrier between Pharisees and God is not their sins, but their damnable good works [2]. He explains this further by stating:

To truly become Christians we must also repent of the reasons we ever did anything right. Pharisees only repent of their sins, but Christians repent of the very root of their righteousness, too. We must learn how to repent of the sin under all our other sins and under all our righteousness—the sin of seeking to be our own Saviour and Lord.  

The call to repent is at the foundation of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. When we refuse to acknowledge our wrongdoings—even if they lead to acts of righteousness—we cease to be disciples and start counting like Pharisees. 

An Outsider’s View to Door-to-Door Evangelism

  • 16 May 2017
  • Keith Reed

Locked doorThe Mormons came back.

They knocked on my front door on a Monday evening at the typical time: shortly after our dinner table had been cleared and just before our kids’ bedtime.*

I had not met the two young men who stood on my porch, but I quickly learned one was from Sacramento and the other from Salt Lake City. One introduced himself with the title of Elder, the other with only his first name. While they talked, my daughter gripped my hand and pirouetted from time to time. This wasn’t new to her either.  

Visitors from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have made it a habit to stop by our home. A few years ago, my wife and I invited a small group of missionaries into our home to discuss their faith in greater depth. This led to a series of meetings over several months and gave me the chance to participate in an Alpha course with a couple from the local LDS ward. The missionaries from that first meeting have returned to their respective hometowns, but the cycle of visitations is now continuing. New faces, new introductions, but very similar interactions.  

After I bid them farewell, I collected my thoughts and reflected on how it felt to be an “outsider”the person perceived to need the faith being presented. Many times, Christians try to think with this mentality so they can communicate the gospel message more effectively. But thinking from a certain perspective is much different than experiencing it firsthand.

Here’s what I learned from my latest interaction:

They came with a purpose

Pranks aside, people don’t knock on doors without a reason. Salespeople want me to change my gas or internet provider, my neighbour asks me for a favour, my friend arrives and doesn’t want to barge in. There’s always a reason for knocking.