On May 6 & 7, Arrive Ministries held Welcoming the Stranger, a seminar conducted by our World Relief colleagues Matthew Soerens and Liz Dong.
The mission of Arrive Ministries is to carry out God’s command to bring lifelong transformation to refugees and immigrants in Minnesota. We believe that transformation begins with saying and living out welcome.
More than 300 people in the Twin Cities and 140 in Rochester gathered to hear Soerens and Dong present an update on U.S. immigration policy, decline in the number of refugees being permitted to resettle in the U.S., and limitations on accessing legal status for undocumented residents and those seeking asylum.
World Relief is one of nine national agencies resettling refugees through the U.S. State Department. Arrive Ministries is their local affiliate in Minnesota. Soerens emphasized, “Our mission isn’t just to resettle refugees well or help immigrants integrate into communities; it’s to empower the local church to serve the vulnerable.”
Dong, who works with immigration at World Relief and is the Midwest Mobilizer and advocate for Evangelical Immigration Table, elaborated on the importance of the acronym P.L.E.A.S.E. when it comes to loving refugees and immigrants.
Prayer – Listening – Empowering Churches Abroad – Advocacy – Serving Locally – Evangelism
Specifically, Dong shared at length about the “L” – Listening to Immigrants’ Stories. Dong – now a Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient – shared her own immigrant story of joining her mother in the U.S. when she was just four years old.
There are people in the church that did not walk away and didn’t distance themselves from us and didn’t see our case as too controversial. They loved on us as people.Through no fault of their own, their attorney made a clerical error when helping her mother obtain a Green Card which caused Dong to lose her immigration status, leaving her undocumented. Later in her youth, when she better understood her situation, she struggled with her identity and uncertainty. She shared that during this time in her life, the church did not turn her away, but listened and responded with love.
“It matters to me a lot personally because my mom and I are Christians today because two individuals decided to practice Biblical hospitality. And our faiths are strong today because even while we wrestle with my undocumented status, there are people in the church that did not walk away and didn’t distance themselves from us and didn’t see our case as too controversial. They loved on us as people.”
Dong urged the church to consider the loneliness and uncertainty that those with various statuses like DACA (Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals), TPS (Temporary Protective Status), or the undocumented face without the ability to gain full legal status.
While organizations like Arrive Ministries are primarily working with newly resettled populations and immigrants who are filing green cards, family reunifications, and accessing citizenship, there are many other populations who are here without immigration status. Ultimately, Arrive Ministries sees the church stepping into all of these situations to provide community, friendship, and the love of Christ.
Through discussions like these, we can see what is being done to extend welcome and the love of Jesus and where there are areas for growth and greater impact.Arrive Ministries also hosted this seminar for the first time in the community of Rochester, offering a session for pastors as well as an event open to the public.
“Our goal was to gather pastors and community organizations offering resettlement services and programs in the area. Although resettlement numbers have significantly decreased in the past two years, we know that there are still large populations already present in communities like Rochester, and more coming as secondary arrivals or seeking asylum,” said Bob Oehrig, Executive Director of Arrive Ministries.
“Through discussions like these, we can see what is being done to extend welcome and the love of Jesus and where there are areas for growth and greater impact. We know that together we can accomplish more than we can individually,” said Oehrig.
Soerens and Dong encouraged attendees to get to know their neighbors, extend friendship, and advocate for those who don’t have a voice.
They called on pastors to affirm the Evangelical Statement of Principles for Immigration Reform and church members to get involved by volunteering through local partners like Arrive Ministries, where over 150 churches are actively engaging their refugee and immigrant neighbors.