Refugee Resettlement

Readings for this week October 7 – 11
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – A Refugee God

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Exodus 14:29-31

The Israelites were a refugee people. Oppressed, enslaved, finally released but then relentlessly pursued, they were a people without a home, without the option of choosing where to go and what to do. But they did eventually find refuge, though it was a long hard road to get there. They had once been a proud extended family group – Jacob and his sons and their extended families – laid low by famine, but rescued and sheltered by God, who worked through the twists and turns of this family’s internal relationships to eventually put Jacob’s second youngest son, Joseph, in a position of power and influence in Egypt. From this position Joseph was able to rescue his family and provide for them.

God’s heart is with the enslaved, the oppressed, the war ravaged, the persecuted and those driven from their homes against their will. He rescued Israel from slavery and gave them a home. Even when they strayed from under his wing and lost their home, becoming exiles and wanderers once again, he still looked after them and cared for them, ultimately sending his son to rescue them – and all who have wandered out from under God’s wing – and bring them home once more. Those who have no home, no place to stay, those who are not welcomed and invited in, those who are scorned and abandoned – God calls them his people. He is the refugee God, calling a people to himself in order to share his Father heart for those who have lost everything.

Question to Consider
If God is the god of refugee people, how should that shape our response to those seeking refuge from war and persecution?

Prayer
Lord God, you are the God of the lost, the oppressed, the homeless and the hurting. You made them your people. May we have the grace and courage to live out your love today for those in great need. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – Flight from Home

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Matthew 2:13-15

Jesus was a refugee. We don’t usually see this as part of our nativity plays and Christmas stories and Advent calendars. We remember the baby Jesus lying in the manger, surrounded by the very recently arrived shepherds and wise men. Jesus has safely been born, representatives of the peoples of the world are genuflecting before him and all is well. But the holy family had to flee their home, under threat of death, escaping murderous soldiers sent to kill them and every other child in their village. The story of Jesus begins with persecution and displacement.

The travelling couple who had found themselves in a strange town in their own country, looking for welcome and shelter with extended family, soon find themselves forced to flee to a foreign country for an indefinite period of time, in order to protect the life of their young child.  Jesus’ life – his life with his parents – was not a life of immediate calm and domestic restfulness back home. They were displaced, persecuted, unwanted. Due to the threat against their child and the uncertainty of the fate of all of them as long as they stayed in Israel, they were forced to take refuge in a foreign land – perhaps living with other Jewish ex-patriots, but still living amidst different people and customs with a different language – until it was safe to return home.

Question to Consider
What do you think it would have been like for Mary and Joseph, being forced to live in an unfamiliar, foreign land, afraid to return home?

Prayer
Almighty Father, comfort those who are afflicted, reassure those who are afraid, heal those who are wounded – and may you do this through us, your people, as we share the joy and peace that your coming brings. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – The Stranger as Jesus in Disguise

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Matthew 25:31-40

The bible says firmly, repeatedly and unambiguously that God’s people are to treat strangers with dignity and to welcome them with hospitality. In the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Hebrew bible, the word used for stranger appears almost fifty times. The book of Deuteronomy itself contains many injunctions to not only treat the stranger kindly, but to offer them active support and provide for their needs: every three years farmers are to set aside a portion of their harvest for strangers, widows and orphans, and many passages remind the Israelites that they are not to oppress or neglect the sojourner in their land. Everyone has the potential to be a stranger at some point in their lives – the Israelites themselves were acutely aware of this – and so everyone is to be treated with dignity, respect and welcome.

Jesus makes an explicit link between those who are sick, hungry, imprisoned – those isolated on the margins – and himself. He does not tell his audience that when they feed the hungry, visit the sick and the imprisoned it is as if they are feeding and visiting him. He says that they are feeding and visiting him. Jesus’ identification with those on the margins is total – it is not figurative or metaphoric or exemplary, it is real. In the faces of strangers – the poor, the unknown, the lonely and the sick – in the faces of those deemed unimportant and unlovable, and therefore, we are told, not worth our time and love – we see the face of Jesus.

Questions to Consider
Where do you encounter the face of Jesus each day? Who are the people embodying Jesus for you today?

Prayer
Lord God, if we are truly seeking your face, we know where to find you. Help me have the courage to seek your face in the lives of strangers and those in need, wherever they are, however I can help. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – We Need Your Love

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Lamentations 5:19-22

In 2017 the government implemented a pilot scheme for Community Organised Refugee Support and called for community groups to volunteer to support newly arrived refugee families. SWBC applied to support three such families and were accepted as part of the scheme. The three families assigned to us, two from Syria and one from Iraq, arrived here in July of 2018. These families have been living with us now for fifteen months. During this time three of our neighbourhood communities have been supporting them and walking with them, while people from all over the church, and the wider community and the city, have helped with welcoming them and supporting them in their new lives here with us. Find out more here.

No one, on either side of the equation – the families or SWBC – knew exactly what they were getting into. No one knew what it would be like, how it would go, whether parts of it would be easy or hard, how we would all navigate the cultural, religious and language differences we knew there would be. All we had to offer was love and support. We said, “Welcome to New Zealand.” We said, “Welcome to our city, to our neighbourhoods and our communities.” We said, “You will be safe here.” We were wrong. The violence they had fled came to meet them here. The events of March 15 saw a member of one of the families seriously wounded, while another of our families lost a father and son and had another son badly injured. There is so much grief. They – and so many others – now walk a road suddenly longer, harder and more tortuous than before. As best we can, until the end, by God’s grace and in his power, we walk it with them.

Question to Consider
How can you support the families being cared for in our neighbourhoods?

Prayer
Loving Father, for those we care for give us wisdom and grace to love them unconditionally, to love them in the pain and the joy, to love them as we love you. Take us beyond ourselves and our capacities. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – A Prayer for Refugees

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Isaiah 58:6-7

God of our Wandering Ancestors,

Long have we known
That your heart is with the refugee:
That you were born into time
In a family of refugees
Fleeing violence in their homeland,
Who then gathered up their hungry child
And fled into alien country.

Their cry, your cry, resounds through the ages:
“Will you let me in?”

Give us hearts that break open
When our brothers and sisters turn to us with that same cry.
Then surely all these things will follow:
Ears will no longer turn deaf to their voices.
Eyes will see a moment for grace instead of a threat.
Tongues will not be silenced but will instead advocate.
And hands will reach out—
working for peace in their homeland, working for justice in the lands where they seek safe haven.

Lord, protect all refugees in their travels.
May they find a friend in me
And so make me worthy
Of the refuge I have found in you.

AMEN

© Catholic Relief Services

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)