I’m passionate about seeing every church welcoming the stranger and discipling the nations.
One really effective way of doing that is through Welcome Boxes. This is where trained volunteers deliver a Welcome Box filled with small gifts and local information to refugees who have recently arrived in the local area. These ‘Welcomers’ offer friendship and support over the next few months, as refugees settle into their new home, as well as helping people access the services they need and link them into community.
One church running Welcome Boxes is City Church Sheffield. Nicky tells us more about why she got involved and the difference that Welcome Boxes has made to their church:
“When I heard about Welcome Boxes, I realised that visiting newly-arrived asylum seekers would give us more opportunities to make connections with people in the city who might be isolated, vulnerable, and in need of support.
I saw the need, and arranged, with the family’s permission, for some people from church to visit them and to offer them support, toys, clothes, food, etc.
One example is a family I met through my work, who had just been reunited by the government’s Family Reunion Scheme. The wife and children had arrived that day with nothing. I saw the need, and arranged, with the family’s permission, for some people from church to visit them and to offer them support, toys, clothes, food, etc. This easily led to some wonderful friendships being made with several couples in the church.
We now have a core group of ‘Welcomers’ from the church who visit our new ‘Neighbours’ (refugees) with a Welcome Box, but we have many others who are involved in different ways. One of my passions is to see not only the ‘Welcomers’ who visit being involved, but for links to be created so that many people within the church become involved in some way, building a true community.
We are already seeing this in a variety of ways. We have, for example, people who love climbing and walking in the church, who invite our new ‘Neighbours’ into the Peak District with them to enjoy these activities. Some of our refugee neighbours with children have also come along to our toddler group at church. In this way, they have met new friends, which has naturally linked them into other activities, such as eating or painting together. Similarly, some men from church who play football on a Monday evening facilitate people we’ve met through Welcome Boxes to join them, by offering lifts and providing football boots where needed.
Some men from church who play football facilitate people we've met through Welcome Boxes to join them, by offering lifts and providing football boots where needed.
Our church has also started a group called Food and Stories, where internationals meet weekly at someone’s home to share food and Bible stories, and a Conversation Club is running for women who have English as a second language. As we have been running Welcome Boxes, it has been wonderful to see more people linking with these groups as well.
It’s still relatively early days, and we still have lots to learn but Welcome Boxes is helping us to turn inside out, helping us to connect with people from all walks of life.
We would love to see more and more asylum seekers and refugees becoming part of the church, finding community, family, and belonging. As that happens, we’d expect that, bit by bit, the life and the culture of the church itself is strengthened and changed. We want to keep growing into a church where people don’t think or feel that they have to be a certain type or person before they can fit in, because it’s so evident just by looking around that all are welcome.
We would love to see more and more asylum seekers and refugees becoming part of the church, finding community, family, and belonging.
If heaven contains a great multitude of people from every tongue, tribe and nation declaring “our God reigns” then we want to see a church on the earth which reflects the same diverse culture. For City Church Sheffield, partnering with Welcome Churches has been a great way to find practical and friendly ways of showing God’s love to people who might only be living around the corner and yet have had such different experiences of life.”
Nicky’s story is incredibly inspiring, and we love how the whole church is being transformed as they step out to meet and welcome people on their doorsteps. This autumn, Welcome Churches are launching a national network of churches committed to welcoming refugees and asylum seekers into their communities, reducing the isolation of thousands of refugees each year. We’d love your church to be part of our Welcome Network, showing that you are ready to welcome refugees into your town and community, so get in touch to find out more.
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