“The Gospel travels along affinity lines.”
I heard that statement a few years back and it has stuck with me ever since. It has served as a reminder that our God, who is relational to His core, delights in bringing the hope of Christ to men, women, and children through men, women, and children who have already caught a glimpse of His goodness and are willing to share about it. The bittersweet reality of our refugee friends is that their family and friends are scattered all around the world. Yet even with the distance of thousands of miles between them, their affinity lines—their relational ties—remain strong and vibrant. It is a common experience on home visits for refugee friends to call their family members in Malaysia, Syria, Iraq, or Afghanistan. One minute you’ll be talking with them over coffee or tea, and the next minute, you’ve got a phone in your face as your friend excitedly introduces you to their sister, brother, mother, or father! There is pain and loss in being separated from relatives and close friends. At the same time, God is working through the deep and expansive web of refugee’s relational networks to bring the joy of friendship and the possibility of true peace.
The five members of the GoTEN team in Asia lived in Phoenix before they launched overseas. While they were here in Phoenix, several of them started coming to one of my English classes as a way of meeting refugee families. They met Sam* in that class and quickly connected with her and her sister, Rose*, outside of class. Sam and Rose have another sister, Hannah*, who still lives in Asia. The team poured a lot of love into their friendships with Sam and Rose, and when they moved overseas, they were able to meet Hannah in person!
On my trip to Asia in October, I was able to go along with the team to Hannah’s house, and it was an incredibly special visit. Before we left, Hannah loaded us up with a large bag of invaluable items for us to give to her sisters. That bag included some items from their mother who passed away last year, shortly before she was supposed to be resettled to live in the U.S. with Sam and Rose. We kept those items as safe as gold as we traveled back to Phoenix from Asia—a 47 hour journey! Once we were back in Phoenix, Karis and I visited Rose and Sam to deliver the gifts from Hannah. It was such a powerful glimpse into the goodness of God in how he connects people through relationships and how he worked through this one specific Kingdom connection to bring the possibility of closure and comfort to these sisters during a time of family loss. Through these affinity lines, God can bring healing to those in distress; He can bring deep, life-giving friendships to those who have been lonely; He can open opportunities for His Gospel of peace to be carried from friends to family members; from Arizona to Asia.
It was an absolute joy to be with the team — we had a wonderful time working, playing, and worshipping God together! It was also astounding to see and hear the team speak in the heart language of their new refugee friends! As they grow in their language ability, they’ve been able to share stories about Jesus with their friends. Please pray that as they share these stories of hope, peace, truth, and love, their friends would receive the stories with joy. Pray that in their joy, they would then share those stories with their family members and friends, near and far.