faith in action

Love your (refugee) neighbors

A quiet town outside Stuttgart, Germany welcomed a group of refugees. What happened next surprised them.

Germany welcomed thousands of refugees in 2015. The government housed them throughout the country. Our city, Göppingen, which is about 60 km from Stuttgart, had been, until then, a place of heavenly and sacred rest. Suddenly, refugees from Iran, Afghanistan and Iraq were coming to our church.

Our church hosts a meal for the needy every Friday. Refugees started coming to this meal. Strangers on Fridays, this was no problem. But when they began to attend church on Sunday, everything began to change.

We were, of course, open to all. They had already gone through so much, so we also did not want to pressure them into Christianity. And yet, many were interested in the Christian faith. We know that for some this interest came from the asylum process; the government would not send a Christian to Iran, for example. Slowly, we realized this interest was more profound than a means of avoiding deportation.

Our congregation has small groups we call Bible safaris. These courses build community and help newcomers get involved with the life of the church.

The refugees joined in and they got involved. They formed new relationships and became a part of the church. An old Wesleyan principle of parish life came to new heights.

They are engaged in language courses and learn German. Internships and vocational qualifications are currently the top priority. And yet, all are very faithful to the church.

The refugee housing expired in October 2017. There were still four Iranian “new Methodists” who needed an apartment. My family welcomed one of them into our home.

His name is Abas. He is 23 years old and lives in our son’s old bedroom. He has dramatically changed our understanding of the life of a refugee.

We see how difficult it is to learn a new language, quickly and well. We see how complicated it is to understand a new culture. We see how challenging it is to navigate unfamiliar bureaucracies.

We are delighted and grateful to God that Abas and all the other refugees are living with us and are in fellowship with us. We ask God for a lot of openness and fairness, and we pray for our country, for Europe and the whole world.

The Rev. Hans Martin Hoyer is a United Methodist pastor in Göppingen, Baden-Württemberg in Germany.