Better Together: Reaching out to Refugees in Pittsburgh
I was put in touch with Aisha, a Muslim woman from Syria, through a friend working in Jordan. I visited Aisha when she first arrived in Pittsburgh to offer assistance with living in a new country and to simply be a friendly face. The first time I met her, I was surprised when her kids sang Christian songs, the eldest told me stories in Arabic about Jesus, and they asked to come to church with me. We visited a local church the next Sunday together with her sister-in-law and their nine kids in tow (walking to church ended up being a hilarious type of extreme sport - I neglected to look at the topography of the area and pushing the prams up the very steep streets of north Pittsburgh was a challenge!). Although the church was friendly and welcoming, the fact that the two families didn’t speak English made it difficult to take part in the service.
Realizing that an Arabic-speaking context was necessary, I prayed about how to facilitate this. While living in Egypt, I’d done some training in leading discovery bible studies for people from different faiths who were open to exploring Christianity. However, I didn’t have sufficient Arabic to lead this, especially since the Syrian dialect is different than Egyptian Arabic. However, over the next couple of months, I saw God bring a wonderful group of people from different churches in Pittsburgh around these families, including fluent Arabic speakers. We started to meet on Sundays to eat together, and to read and discuss Scripture. Although I left Pittsburgh earlier this year after finishing my time of study, this group still continues to meet. I loved these opportunities to serve and to see the way God is using His Church to love and welcome refugees.
The way that this group of people formed around our refugee friends, and were able to provide different types of support, showed me how God can bring a community of people to serve together. The season of studying at a seminary in Pittsburgh gave me space to reflect on previous years of serving as a mission partner with CMS in Egypt. In overseas mission contexts, the needs, the brokenness, the poverty, and the desperation can become overwhelming. I realized that in the past I’d often taken on too much myself in ministry, and had an unhealthy tendency to take on other’s needs.
A mentor shared with me how this is a common pattern for those who serve in the Church, even to the extent of creating co-dependent relationships and wanting others to need them. However, the promise of Scripture is that the world is not ours to save - the world has already been saved by the One who loved us and gave Himself up for us (Gal 5.2). Not only does the world already have a Saviour, but God has already established a Church, millions of people around the globe, to be His ambassadors in the world. Therefore, we are never alone, and we don’t need to act as lone rangers in ministry. We can remember how God has intended for us to work in His mission within a community.
Rosie is a recent graduate of Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pennsylvania. Prior to seminary, she was based in Cairo for five years, working in the Partnerships Office of the Anglican/Episcopal Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa. She is now back in her home country New Zealand discerning what the Lord has next for her.