Donna Kushner had been interested in the plight of refugees for years before she found a way to respond.
“When I saw the news about Syria, I decided I wanted to jump in and help,” she says, “even though I didn’t really feel like I had the time.”
Donna searched the words Orlando refugee services, and a volunteer opportunity with Catholic Charities stood out.
She spoke some Arabic, so she was matched with a Syrian refugee family that had arrived in the United States just 24 hours earlier.
Aazim and Raida (names changed to protect their identity) and their two children greeted Donna as if she were family. She listened to their stories, helped them with paperwork and answered their questions.
She gave them the gift of her friendship.
“They long for connection, to know that friendship can be reciprocal and that when something is given it is not out of obligation,” says Donna.
Donna made sure Aazim and Raida felt like family as well. She invited them to share a meal with her family and grandkids, navigating the language barrier with smiles and nods and occasional Google translation help.
Like many newly settled refugees, Aazim and Raida faced financial struggles. Aazim rode his bicycle to work the night shift at a local bakery, which hardly provided enough for their $900 rent. It would be months before they learned English, and months before they could afford a car.
“God, this is too big for me to know how to help them as one person,” Donna prayed.
God led Donna to reach out to Facebook friends, and a team of people came together. They helped with rides and English tutoring, and a donated sewing machine allowed Aazim, who had been a tailor since he was 12, to gain extra income by sewing bags.
Their dignity was slowly being restored.
Donna’s first priority was to meet Aazim and Raida’s physical and emotional needs . That was now happening.
Her desire was to bless them by sharing the life-saving message of Jesus Christ with them.
Aazim and Raida spent four years in Jordan before being resettled to Orlando. Christians there aided them in their darkest hour, their flight from the Syrian conflict. The care they experienced had a profound impact. Aazim and Raida noticed that these Christians were different.
Donna wanted to continue modeling Christ to them in their new homeland.
“The mission field has come to us,” she says. “Why would we not enter into their lives?”
Serving refugees can open incredible opportunities to share Christ with people from places in the world that have little to no Christian witness.
Jenny Yang is the Vice President of Advocacy and Policy for World Relief, a humanitarian aid organization similar to Catholic Charities that seeks to empower the local church to serve the most vulnerable. In this short clip, Jenny explains how many refugees are hearing the gospel for the first time:
World Relief outlines 5 fundamental steps:
For more thoughts on being a Christ-like neighbor to the people around you, see How to Love Your Neighbor and Your Neighborhood.
About the Author: For Meghan Posey, missions is where all her passions come together: her love of language, culture, Jesus and adventure. Meghan works on the Digital Marketing Team at Cru headquarters in Orlando. Before that she served with Cru for six years in Costa Rica.
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