As members of an immigrant church, ELCA Lutherans take to heart Jesus’ mandate to “welcome the stranger.” We welcome refugees from around the world. We seek protection for trafficked children, asylum seekers and torture survivors. We advocate for justice for all immigrants.

Since 1939, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service has worked to create welcoming communities for America’s newcomers by resettling refugees, reuniting families and rekindling dreams.

Elise attends a Lutheran church in Long Branch, N. J., and has watched her neighborhood and her congregation change over the years. With a recent influx of immigrants to her community, she has witnessed many people struggling to learn how to understand their new neighbors.

Wanting to be a part of her community’s new diversity, Elise was committed to finding out more about how she could “welcome the stranger.” She became involved in her synod’s immigration task force and, through their work, learned about a new LIRS pilot project called “Be Not Afraid.”

A coordinated series of workshops and resources, Be Not Afraid equips immigrant families and congregations to cope with our country’s immigration system in ways that affirm community and abate fear.

Elise has learned about immigrants and their experiences and has discovered ways to foster welcome in her own community and beyond. Through its work empowering families and congregations across the country, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service continues to carry the torch — lighting the way for vulnerable immigrants.

Kyaw survived atrocities at the hands of the military junta in Burma. Having been involved in the democratic movement as a teen, Kyaw was a regular target of the local authorities in his rural village.

When the brutality continued, his family became increasingly frightened for his life and sent Kyaw to live in India. From there he fled to Thailand and then to Singapore. Life was difficult no matter where he went, but Kyaw remained faithful, confident that God would lead him to freedom.

When Kyaw finally landed on the island of Guam, he was recognized as a victim of torture and political persecution and was granted asylum in the United States.

After a long journey, Kyaw was welcomed to his new country by Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service and Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota eight years ago. A local Lutheran congregation was also a big part of his “homecoming” donating household items and providing Kyaw a caring network of support that guided him through his first few months in a new land.

Kyaw is now married with two small children and has a good job in Minneapolis. Kyaw reports that his family is happy, healthy and safe — and he remains ever grateful for the warm Lutheran welcome he received when he needed it most.

A cooperative ministry of the ELCA, The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service serves as a compass on immigration and refugee issues, an example of Lutheran welcome to newcomers.

Your congregation can join in the work of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service in many ways. You can get involved with your synod’s task force on immigration or sign up to advocate on behalf of newcomers.

You can sponsor a refugee family or host a fundraiser to support welcoming projects like Be Not Afraid. You can also feature an Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service display in your narthex or celebrate World Refugee Day (June 20) to broaden awareness in your community.

To learn more about ways to involve your congregation with Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service’s mission and ministry of welcome, e-mail or call the director for church and community outreach at 410-230-2756.

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