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And UPGRADE'S Founder

   Dawn Wilson


Entries in Refugees (2)


10 Ways to Make Friends with Foreigners

Though she now lives in Kansas, Gail Goolsby once lived overseas and knows first-hand how to build friendships with people in other countries. In this Relationship UPGRADE, she encourages us to open our heart and home to make friends with foreigners.

“The world is shaken and people are scattered around the globe,” Gail said. “How can we connect as caring Christians with the international immigrants entering our communities?”

I (Dawn) have often heard pastors and evangelists say, “The mission field is coming to our doorstep.” It’s true! We need to know how to connect with those the Lord is bringing to America.

Gail continues . . .

According to Homeland Security statistics, over 560,000 immigrants received permanent U.S. resident status in the first half of 2017, coming mainly from Mexico, India, China, Philippines, Cuba and the Dominican Republic.

Almost 40,000 fleeing refugees were admitted to our shores. The top five countries were Syria, Iraq, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and Burma.

Politicians and military personnel have their own view of global wars and displaced populace seeking safety and a better life. I am no expert, but I know as private citizens we have the chance to impact the lives of some of the most vulnerable and disillusioned people with a heart of love and hospitality.

For those coming from countries closed to Christians, we may well be the first believers they meet. We can have conversation about who Jesus really is and what He can mean in their lives.

I believe God is bringing those close who used to be out of reach for the Good News.

What should be our response?

“When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 19:33-34 NIV).

Here are 10 ways to connect with foreign neighbors.  

1. Check with the local resettlement agencies in your area for the needs they have.

Clothes, coats, shoes, furniture and household items are essential to families arriving with great needs and few resources.

2. Educate yourself on a particular people group and culture living in your location.

Find out what foods they eat to make a welcoming meal, and learn greetings in their native language.

3. Develop relationships with shopkeepers, hair stylists, nail technicians, etc., by asking questions and showing interest.

Let them see you as a friendly Christ-follower who is open to spiritual as well as practical conversation in a non-threatening way.

4. Volunteer to be an English tutor or conversation partner.

Local colleges and churches sponsor English classes to help immigrants assimilate quickly. The main qualification is being a native English speaker!

5. Host an international friends group in your home or at a local community center.

Meet regularly with others who have the same interest to help immigrants make new friends while practicing English and learning cultural information.

6. Transport immigrants to work interviews, doctor appointments, shopping trips, etc.

Here is another opportunity to practice English and show care.

7. Invite new friends to your home and share your family.

This is the most influential way to make friends. Hospitality translates through every culture as a sincere connection point.

8. Sponsor an international student from your local university.

Text, call, or take him or her to lunch or coffee regularly to see how things are going and, again, invite into your home for holidays or weekend meals.

Take students on sightseeing outings and show off America.

9. Start a Discovery Bible Study with a small group and invite new international friends.

This is not an academic, pastor-led experience, but rather people reading selected Bible passages, talking together about what is learned, and making personal applications.

10. Bring your international friend to church or other formal study groups if he or she is comfortable.

This is not usually the best first step due to large cultural differences and misunderstandings, especially among Muslim-background friends.

Contemporary religious services can appear irreverent and offensive without thorough preparation and exposure to American culture and Christian ways before attending church.


The women of the world, particularly the Muslim world, are often seen as second-class citizens or worse. That doesn’t mean they are uneducated or even unloved, but typically they are very restricted in the expression of their personhood.

These people are almost unreachable by men.

They are covered, they are absent, and they are culturally not to be in the presence of men outside their family.

We as women have incredible power here, ladies.

We can speak to them, touch them, embrace them, have them in our homes uncovered, visit in their homes, and share as the sisters we really are.

I have special women friends in my hometown from Iran, Jordan, Congo, and Afghanistan. We eat together, share family time, practice English, cook new recipes from our home cultures, explore pumpkin patches, play games, watch movies, and talk for hours about female concerns and interests.

The riches of such relationships give back much more than the cost to me in time or resources. This is my opportunity to make friends with foreigners God has planted in my world at this important time in history.

What foreign neighbors cross your path that you could engage to develop a relationship and share the love of God?

Gail Goolsby, MA, Med is a lifelong educator, including past leadership at an international school in Afghanistan. Gail and her pastor husband of 39 years live where the wind blows over the prairie in south Kansas. She counsels and coaches using God’s Word to help others Learn to Live Well.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of fsHH at Pixabay.


Be the Voice, Hands & Feet of Jesus This Christmas

In this Christmas UPGRADE, Becky Harling challenges us to see Christmas differently—through the eyes of Jesus—so we might more compassionately respond to others in need.

Becky asks, "What if Jesus actually wants you to be His voice, hands and feet this Christmas?"

When I (Dawn) first met Becky, I was overwhelmed with her sincere heart. It does not take much for me to imagine her reaching out as an ambassador for Christ, and I can hear her asking God the questions she shares in this post.

Becky continues . . .

I’ve always been intrigued by the story of the feeding of the 5,000. Maybe because my husband loves bread and there were 2 loaves involved.

Or maybe it’s because I wonder when I’m entertaining, if I have enough food to feed the crowd. When Jesus took a small boy’s lunch and multiplied it to feed 5,000, it was miraculous and inspiring!   

But the thing that intrigues me most about this story is the responsibility Jesus placed on the disciples to feed the crowd. When they expressed their compassionate concern for those who were hungry, Jesus turned to them and said, “You give them something to eat” (Mark 6:37). 

It’s fascinating to me that Jesus didn’t say, “Don’t worry guys, I’ll take care of it.” Instead, He invited the disciples to be involved. 

I believe this statement spoke about the plan He would soon be unfolding; His plan to change the world through you and me!

Later, Jesus promised to leave His Spirit to dwell in us so that we might become His voice, hands and feet in the world (John 14:15-24).

This Christmas, I’m more aware than ever of the needs of people. Here in the United States it seems our homeless population is growing and I hear Jesus voice in my heart whispering, “Becky, YOU give them something to eat!”

The refuge crisis is on the rise and when I pray for the plight of refugees, I hear the whisper of the Spirit saying, “Becky, what are YOU doing to help refugees? I left my Spirit in YOU.”

As I travel the world with my husband, Steve, who is the president of Reach Beyond, a non-profit organization seeking to be the voice and hands of Jesus around the world, the needs feel overwhelming.

In my state of feeling overwhelmed it’s easy to become paralyzed. Instead, I’m learning to ask the Holy Spirit how to be His voice and hands in that moment. Whether we’re visiting a radio station that we’ve planted and the folks simply need encouragement or if we’re hiking to a dirty village where folks need a clean water system, I’m learning to whisper a prayer, “Lord, how can I be your voice and hands in this moment?” 

Often it’s just taking the next step.

  • Listening to the person who’s discouraged.
  • Praying with those who need hope.
  • Giving to a clean water project.
  • Seeking to understand the plight of the refugee.
  • Hugging the little village child.

What I’m discovering as I continue to pray that prayer is that the opportunities are endless. 

This Christmas may I challenge you? In all the joy of the holidays and celebrations, live beyond yourself. Seek to be the voice and hands of Jesus.

Here are some practical ways to do that:

1. Carry some prepackaged food, gift cards, or blankets in your car for the homeless. Or even carry written and signed Christmas cards.

Ask the Lord for wisdom. When you see a homeless person, and you feel the Spirit prompting you, give them a gift card, granola bar or blanket and a signed Christmas card! Most homeless have no address to receive Christmas cards.

2. Check out the rescue mission in your area.

Ask how you can serve. It’s easy to come up with easy answers for those who are homeless but poverty is cyclical and very difficult to escape. Ask God for a heart of compassion.

3. When you hear of or see refugees, don’t write them off.

Seek to understand and perhaps offer to take a refugee woman shopping for groceries. I personally believe that with the currant refugee crisis God is bringing the mission field to us! Don’t let fear hold you back. Ask the Lord for the courage to be His voice and hands. Most refugees have experienced more trauma than you or I can imagine.

4. Research a non-profit that aligns with your heart and give generously.

Most of us here in the States have more than enough and God loves a generous giver!

Friend, what if Jesus wants you to be His voice and hands this Christmas?

Becky Harling is an international popular speaker and the author of several books including, The 30 Day Praise Challenge. Her latest book, How to Listen so People Will Talk releases, August 2017. Becky’s husband, Steve Harling, is the president of Reach Beyond, a non-profit organization seeking to be the voice and hands of Jesus around the world. You can contact Becky for your next speaking event at