Stranger in a Strange Land

Rachel Chimits

Part of World Challenge’s domestic mission work is reaching refugees making their home in the United States.

The Refugee Project released a shocking statistic: “Nearly 69 million people have been displaced from their home due to war, persecution or violence. That’s one of every 111 people on the planet.”

In 2017, the United States had over 280,000 refugees enter, the majority of them from Asian countries where governments are cracking down on Christian churches. 

A Barrier of Tests

Many U.S. citizens might be shocked to learn how difficult it is for a refugee to enter the country.

First, a person or family must be registered with the United Nations and then wait for an interview with the UN before they can be granted official refugee status. Thanks to the huge number of people trying to flee war-torn areas or religious persecution, this process can take months.

Next, they must be referred for resettlement in the United States. Only about one percent of refugees receive this referral.

Then, each person must be interviewed by state department contractors and go through three separate background checks and three fingerprint screenings. Their case is reviewed at the U.S. immigration headquarters, another process that can take months or even years.

The person must then have an extensive, in-person interview with a homeland security officer and screened for contagious diseases.

If they pass both of these tests, they will be matched with a resettlement agency. They are put through a battery of security checks then one more security check at the airport when they arrive in the United States.

The grueling process typically takes between two and four years. 

Friends in America’s Refugee Capital

Lancaster, Pennsylvania was dubbed America’s refugee capital by the BBC. This single town takes in 20 times more refugees per capita than any other U.S. city.

The people of Lancaster have agreed to open up to refugees because they see this as Pennsylvania’s heritage as the place where many of America’s first settlers came and built their homes.

The city is constantly looking for volunteers who are willing to lend a hand in getting the refugees acclimated.

For those recently arrived, culture shock is often quickly layered on top of loneliness and fear for family and friends who are still waiting to make it through the labyrinthine immigration process.

Many refugees have minimal English skills, if any, when they arrive. Some have never driven a car or had a cell phone, and they may struggle to find work to support themselves. Negotiating unfamiliar grocery stores and strange currency is a weekly challenge.

Everything is difficult, even on the smallest level. Their bodies are often not accustomed to the enzymes in food or bacteria, so they’re frequently sick.

Finding a friend who will help them is invaluable.

World Challenge’s Partners

Workers at World Challenge are looking to take this help a step further. The development and outreach director of North America is currently working with some more seasoned refugees to reach new ones.

World Challenge is currently partnering with Somali refugee and ministry leader named Abdi in Lancaster and looking at working together with others who are living in the Denver area.

The best helper to a new refugee would be someone who could not only help them navigate all these new hurdles and speak their language but also be able to share a new reason for hope in Christ.

This is part of gospel living, helping others find a new home, not only physically but spiritually.