Thirty years ago, John and Becky planted a church in Aalen, Germany, where they continue to serve. Currently, they are focused on developing the younger generation for spiritual leadership and the bulk of their ministry has been focused on transitioning the leadership of the church to a new team. However, with the emergence of the Refugee Crisis, another opportunity has entered their agenda.
In the past few years, Germany’s response to the refugee migration has been very positive. In the past year alone, a million refugees have entered the country, and though the reception of the refugees has not been free of tension, overall the German people have responded well to the influx.
With so many refugees coming to their city, John and Becky wanted to find out how they could help.
A group of interested people from the church gathered to brainstorm ways to get involved. They settled on a few simple answers that have led to a very productive ministry which could be reproduced in almost any city around the world. Here are three ways to serve the refugee community that they’ve found:
1. Offer language classes.
In order to flourish in Germany, the refugee community needs to learn the German language. John and Becky and their team realized that this was the easiest way they could help. They used their church facility for the classes and set it up like a café. Once a week, they offer language lessons for the refugees and a place for them to connect with Germans over tea. They call this ministry the ABC Café.
One of the best ways you can help refugees is to encourage them in their language-learning journey. Whether starting your own language classes or joining existing ones, you can be a practical help by just taking the time to speak and listen.
2. Show them the ropes.
Though Aalen is not a very large city, it can still be very confusing to someone who doesn’t know the language, the culture, or the systems. The church in Aalen wanted to go beyond their ABC Café and help the refugees navigate their city. By connecting with families, they have been able to help with doctor visits, grocery shopping, and job searching.
Once you have found a place to connect with refugees, one simple way to help them is to show them how things work around in your area. Just accompanying someone and showing them around can be a huge help and also possibly the beginning of a deeper relationship.
3. Invite them into your community.
John and Becky and their team have provided transportation that brings refugees to their church service in Aalen from one of the nearby refugee camps. With the help of technology, they are able to provide translation for their guests, so that they understand the message. This has been very impactful. Also, simply asking these refugees to join their community and giving them an opportunity to share their story has opened many doors. As much as they need language and cultural learning, they need relationships more. Most importantly, they need Jesus.
Even if you are not able to help in any other way, inviting refugees into your life can be immensely profitable. Ask to hear their stories, honor their cultures with genuine interest, and learn from their experiences. A friendship that crosses cultural lines can add so much to your life as well as theirs.
The Pappas’ have enjoyed the relationships they have developed with the refugees in their city. Though it is hard to see some of them leave after investing so much, they believe that God brought them together for the time they had. They hope their experience will be a model for others to follow in serving the refugee communities around the world.