Recently Governor Greg Abbott announced that as of January 31, 2017, Texas will join Kansas and New Jersey in not participating in the refugee resettlement program. Does this mean refugees will only settle in the other 47 states of our union? Actually, no.
The settlement of refugees across the United States is a federal program run by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) rather than a state program run by each state. The federal funds that pay for the program in Texas have been funneled through Texas state officials, up to now. So the impact of withdrawing from the program is that the state will no longer be the middle man in distributing federal funds to assist refugees after January, 2017. However the federal government has the authority to appoint others outside of state government to oversee those funds.
The ORR is working closely with various refugee resettlement agencies to make sure that caring for and integrating refugees into communities in all the states where they locate continues uninterrupted. Local governments, churches and non-profits are assisting. Regardless of how you feel about refugees, once they are here, it is not only in their best interests, but in the best interests of every citizen, to help these new arrivals become productive, well-integrated residents of the U.S. The body of Christ has the even more compelling motive of showing Christ’s love to these needy folks, many of whom have never heard the Gospel.
How can you or your church help?
- Ask questions. If you don’t know if refugees are located in your area, do an internet search for “refugee resettlement in (Your State).” Call these agencies and ask what organizations need help in working with refugees. See if they can give you some leads regarding where you might assist newcomers to the United States.
- Get involved. If you live in a community where refugees are settled, get involved teaching them English, helping refugee children with homework, tutoring in a school that serves refugee children, or helping a new refugee family get settled. Inquire at area churches to see if there are existing programs to serve refugees, and, if not, consider helping your church develop such a program in cooperation with others in the community. If you live in an area where refugees are currently not settling, consider talking a mission trip to serve them in an area where they are locating.
- Pray. Ask God to give wisdom to federal officials as they administer federal funds, so that service to refugees continues and no family falls through the cracks when state officials pull out of the process in Texas on January 31, 2017. Ask that refugees would see the love of Christ demonstrated by believers and be drawn to Him.
Imagine the impact the church will have if we live as Jesus with skin on before the refugee community.