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.

Help with Practical Needs

Do Something

  • 20 May 2016
  • Randy Wollf

*When my 16-year-old daughter Alketa saw the photo of the little boy washed up on the beach, her heart broke for people from Syria. She was compelled to raise money to help. God has a special heart for refugees, too.

“Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world” (James 1:27, The Message).

The wars in Syria and others places produce new victims every day. According to the UN Refugee Agency, there are almost 12 million people displaced from Syria alone. In Matthew West’s song Do Something, he looks at “a world full of trouble,” and asks, “How’s it ever gonna turn around… God, why don’t You do something?” The answer he hears is “I created you.”

If not us, then who

If not me and you

Right now, it’s time for us to do something

If not now, then when

Will we see an end

To all this pain

It’s not enough to do nothing

It’s time for us to do something

In January, our family heard about a unique way that we could do something.

New Hope Community Services Society (, an organization with a passion to help refugees settle into life in Canada, had recently purchased a 13-suite apartment building in the Whalley district of Surrey, B.C.

Most of the suites were for refugees, but they wanted three local families to move in to provide stability, build relationships, help where necessary and be the light of Christ to these newcomers to Canada.

We volunteered for seven months.

The first refugee family to join the New Hope Community came from Africa.

Temara and her five-year-old daughter Nehi lived as refugees for many years before arriving in Canada in February. Temara is originally from Ethiopia, but had to leave because of ethnic persecution.

I remember the day we took them to a large playground in our neighbourhood. Nehi wasn’t sure how the swings worked, but that didn’t curb her enthusiasm to try everything in sight. We later learned that they would have had to pay an entrance fee at this kind of playground where they lived in Africa.

My wife Lore and Temara have become good friends. Lore has helped her with tasks like using laundry facilities and unlocking a cart at the local grocery store. She also assists Temara with some of her English language learning. (“Saskatchewan” is pretty hard to pronounce!)