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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Welcome the stranger

When asked why ELCA congregations and individuals should assist immigrants, Elizabeth Senft gives a simple answer. "Jesus commanded us to welcome the stranger," says Senft, director for church relations and resettlement for Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, based in Baltimore.

Since World War II, more than a quarter of a million refugees have built a new life in the United States with the help of LIRS and affiliates. That figures includes 2,200 Sudanese — like Rebecca, Helen and John — in the past 10 years.

Finding ways to help depends largely on geography, Senft says. But long-distance aid is just as important. Individuals and congregations can correspond with refugees or donate kitchen equipment, cleaning tools, backpacks with school supplies, furniture or cash.

For those with refugees in their communities, there are opportunities to mentor and teach English skills. Volunteers can also help by getting immigrants to medical appointments and offering other transportation.

Senft recommends contacting LIRS or Lutheran Social Services to find a local affiliate. For more information on the work LIRS does with refugees, go to www.lirs.org.


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