America is a land of immigrants and refugees. In fact, except for 5.2 million Native Americans, all the rest of the 325 million inhabitants (over 98%) of us come from immigrant or refugee roots. This is really what makes America great! We are a land of great diversity! My own grandfather, Miles Standish, was one of the refugees fleeing Europe for religious freedom, arriving on the Mayflower in 1620.
Our Statue of Liberty states, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free.” This is what has truly made America great; our open arms to those who are longing for freedom!
San Diego epitomizes this freedom as the “Refugee Capital of America.” Part of what has made San Diego into “America’s Finest City” is the fact that San Diego has accepted more refugees in the past 10 years than any other American city. We have opened our arms and accepted the “huddled masses yearning to be free.”
Friendships for Hope
The church that I pastor, the Paradise Valley Seventh-day Adventist Church, has been helping refugees for the past six years to learn English, gain job skills and become assimilated into the culture of America. We call our organization “Friendships For Hope,” because we want to offer our friendship to the thousands of refugees fleeing to our fine city. Now we have over 60 different nationalities worshipping together as a church family. We offer translation of our worship services in Arabic, French, Kinyarwanda, Laotian, Spanish and Swahili.
In the past six years, we have assisted over 250 refugee families in learning English and gaining job skills so that they are able to get off welfare and become productive citizens of our great country and community. We now have a community garden where refugees are free to come and grow their favorite foods from home. We have a thrift store where they cannot only gain work experience, but they can find quality clothing, furniture and household items to set up their new homes.
Do you truly want America to stay great? Get involved by becoming a friend to one or more of the “huddled masses yearning to be free” and help them to become part of our great nation of immigrant and refugee families. Instead of being afraid of the unknown neighbor, get to know them and become their friend. It may surprise you how much you will grow through the experience as well!
Get acquainted with our ministry to refugees by coming to our web page: www.FriendshipsForHope.org.
Will James writes from Southern California.
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