Inviting our neighbors

by Heather Blackerby
Monday, May 16, 2016 | 4 yrs old

A text comes through at 10 p.m.

It’s from one of the first refugees assigned to me as a client when I started work for a refugee agency back in 2008.

A well-educated, Iraqi man, whom our family now calls friend, is asking our opinions on the current presidential campaign.
"Hey, I am in love with [insert unnamed political candidate here],” the text reads. “What do you think about him?"
And, in that moment, it dawns on me. I’m two years removed from a six-year stint of serving at a local refugee resettlement office and realize, I didn’t just accept a position there to help immigrants find jobs. Rather, in retrospect, I see that it was more of an entry point for beginning a lifelong journey of loving my new-to-America neighbors toward Jesus.
These texts wouldn’t have come through my phone eight years ago. No, this has been an evolving relationship with this friend’s entire family. It started with job assistance but it progressed to more than that.

His mother came to visit when my children were born. I've been there to celebrate the high school graduation of his sister. I've been asked to help navigate highly difficult job applications, and even asked for direction in the planning of weddings. We've shared meals at each other's tables.
Whose lives are open for me to speak life and truth into? Who asks my opinion and genuinely wants to hear it?
It's the ones that know me, and the ones that I know. It’s the ones who I've invited into my life and who have invited me into theirs.
Eight years after my introduction to this world of refugees, I firmly believe that my greatest impact wasn’t in the donations or the money I helped raise or even the jobs I helped secure.

Rather, the greatest impact has been in the God-appointed investment of a few. These reciprocal relationships have lent themselves to real conversations and a genuine desire to hear and know the opinions of one another.
And that is where I believe Jesus and the gospel enter — through the messy, beautiful world of relationships.
So, in the meantime, I’ll continue to invest, and be invested in, by a family who doesn't know my God.

My prayer is that my Jesus will break through, the Spirit would lean into their hearts, and that one day our conversations will shift from sharing political opinions to gospel-centered, fruit-bearing truth.

Editor’s note: Heather Blackerby is a wife and a stay-at-home mother to three children, residing in High Point. Heather invested six years at a refugee resettlement agency. She is passionate about building Christ-centered community through intentional relationships within her neighborhood.