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From Neighbor to Friend to Family: Part 1 of a 3 Part Series


Who are my neighbors?

People are always moving, but one movement that has been constant over the past several decades is the movement of refugees displaced from their homes. Arizona has been keenly involved in refugee resettlement, becoming home to nearly 100,000 refugees since the state began accepting resettlements in 1981. According to the Arizona Department of Economic Security, a little more than a combined 20,000 of those resettlements have come from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria - some of the hardest nations for the gospel to reach. Phoenix’s diverse population also includes refugees from Myanmar, Somalia, Iran, the Congo, and Eritrea to name a few. A simple look at the statistics leaves no doubt, God is strategically moving people to our doorsteps. There is a good chance you live down the street from a refugee family. 

What does God say to me about engaging my neighbors?

God is very clear about how He desires the people of His kingdom to welcome their neighbors. In Matthew 25, Jesus says “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” Later in the same book, Jesus issues His greatest commandment to His followers: “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20). Finally, Leviticus 19:33-34 says, "When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The stranger who sojourns with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” Through these passages, we are able to draw the conclusion that God wants us to be active in welcoming strangers to our home, caring for them when we are able to care for them, and engaging them in prayer, love and Truth. 

How can I connect with my neighbors?

GoTEN is intentional about creating an environment that is welcoming to newly arrived neighbors and invites you to be part of it! Locally in Phoenix, GoTEN operates an ESL program open to refugee adults that would like to bolster their English skills, a program that provides supplemental learning opportunities to local refugee kids, a sewing program designed to empower refugee women to monetize their skills, and an international students program geared toward making sure that students from abroad are cared for and welcomed while they are studying in the United States. Each of these programs are welcoming in nature, but also offer volunteers the opportunity to connect with a local refugee or international student. Once a connection with a neighbor is established, a friendship can begin to grow. Stay tuned for more on moving from neighbor to friend in the next edition of this three-part series!