I am privileged to serve at Central UMC in Charlotte where the stranger, the alien, the foreigner, the immigrant and the refugee is welcomed and embraced. I have learned much in my few years here for in the midst of thinking I was serving my brothers and sisters who have fled from the refugee camps of Africa, Asia and the Middle East I have been the one who has been served. It has been in the welcoming of folks from all over Latin America that I have been welcomed among them. It is through some of the refugees I have been taught the lessons of humility and hope in the face of their great trials. I have learned real lessons of forgiveness in the grips of what was real brutality and injustice for them. And in the lovely refugees who have clung to life when death, anger, bitterness and hatred seemed to be the only possible outcome of their ordeals, this educated preacher has learned what joy-filled, abiding faith is all about.
It is my privilege, not my burden, to be in community with refugees, whether they are church members or not, whether they claim Christ as Savior or not, whether they are Muslims or not; for I have yet to meet one upon our streets of East Charlotte who has not been full of gratitude for so little. We are a misinformed society who thinks they have a free ride. I don’t have the space to list all the ways this is wrong. You may be surprised. Please come sit with me and Pastor Susan and we will be glad to share all about their travel to the US and the many hurdles they face once here. And yet in the midst of it all, they still teach me about beauty and goodness in humanity, for in them I truly see “imago dei”, the “image of God.” It’s the image of joy, peace, love and hope I see — the very image of the coming of the Christ Child that we are getting ready to celebrate in about a month.
I have yet to meet a Syrian refugee in Charlotte, but I truly hope that I do soon. It will hopefully be a privilege, as it has with all the others. I would like to say, “Welcome. Welcome to Charlotte. Welcome to your new home. We have been waiting for you. How may I help?”