In his sermon “On Visiting the Sick” John Wesley focused on a verse from the 25th chapter of Matthew 25 in which Jesus said, “Just as you did it to one of the lest of these who are members of my family, you did it to me (NRSV).” For Wesley, a person had to go and visit the sick as a means of grace. Of course, it’s good to send well wishes and to maybe send a physician to do the work on your behalf, but to authentically walk in Christian discipleship, Wesley would say that we should “visit the sick” ourselves. We can assume, then, that the same logic applies to “I was a stranger and you welcomed me (Matthew 25:35 NRSV).”
Right now, there are thousands of Afghans who assisted the United States during our 20-year war in Afghanistan who have been forced to abruptly leave their homes with their families and seek refuge in a strange, new country. More than 500 of those refugees will be seeking to build a new life right here in northeast Ohio. Churches and organizations, such as Nehemiah Mission, have already been in ministry with refugee communities and have begun collecting necessary items to help new friends and neighbors plant roots in our communities.
On September 21 and September 28, 2021, the Connectional Ministries offices of Multicultural Vitality and Missions & Community Engagement hosted two Zoom webinars focused on how we can answer Jesus’ call to welcome the stranger right here in northeast Ohio. Dozens of people from our East Ohio Conference and from Living Water Association United Church of Christ, Northeast Ohio Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Ohio Diocese of the Episcopal Church met virtually to learn from US Together and Refugee Response how we, as faith communities, might respond to Jesus’ call to welcome the stranger.
US Together works with refugee resettlement agencies on behalf of the United States government to resettle families, provide immediate services and support in the first 90 days. Refugee Response is a non-profit organization based in Cleveland that can help families beyond the first 90 days. These refugee resettlement organizations do tremendous work, but it is not their work alone to do. Just as Jesus has invited us into relationship with him and one another, we too can be good neighbors and welcome the stranger in our midst.
If you or your church want are interested in learning how to welcome strangers to your community, e-mail the Rev. Kathy Dickriede, director of Missions & Community Engagement, or e-mail Will Fenton-Jones, director of Multicultural Vitality.
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