For Pat Hatch, the journey toward working with refugees began 35 years ago in an unlikely place. Stationed in Seoul, South Korea, with her military husband who was frequently away, she spent her days working at an international school and the rest of the time finding out how to fit into a totally unfamiliar culture. “I experienced what it’s like to be the odd person out, and I didn’t like it,” said Hatch.

Profoundly affected by that experience, Hatch has spent her entire professional life back in the U.S. serving refugees and immigrants, first as a church volunteer and school teacher, then starting and running a nonprofit for immigrants, later serving as program manager for the state of Maryland’s refugee programs, and most recently, heading MNA’s newly-formed Refugee and Immigrant Ministry.

In 2014, MNA broadened its ministry to Hispanics and asked Hatch to lead a new entity, the Refugee and Immigrant Ministry.

The need for this ministry was clear as MNA observed changing demographics, where one out of seven U.S. residents are immigrants. “Our kids and grandkids are growing up in a world of great diversity,” says Hatch. “If they don’t see that diversity in our churches the church will be seen as anachronistic and less pertinent to life.”

Immigrant Care in an Age of Terror

How to treat immigrants and refugees is a hot-button issue, with recent terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino exposing deep fears about the effect of immigration on national security.

Hatch cites God’s clear call to care for the strangers among us, but also looks back on decades of experience working with refugees to provide historical context. Refugees are victims of terrorism, not perpetrators of it, she says. “They know firsthand what it has done.”

She notes that in the 1970s, the U.S. took in three million refugees and there were fears all around, with much debate as today, but the fears were unrealized. Those immigrants became loyal U.S. citizens who were productive members of society.

“The fears are understandable,” says Hatch, “but there is not a dichotomy between protecting the country and admitting immigrants. Terrorists would not submit themselves to the 13-step, 18-month process conducted by the Department of Homeland Security and Department of State. It’s much easier for them to enter as a visitor on a student or work visa. We admit 70 million visitors a year, and only 70,000 refugees per year.”

She cites a recent op-ed piece that argues that admitting refugees will actually make the U.S. safer. “If we refuse we play into the ISIS narrative that the West hates Muslims. We become a recruitment tool for them.”

What if Refugees are the Answer to Our Prayers?

Instead, Hatch suggests that Christians should have a different perspective. “We must recognize that we are citizens of another kingdom.” A kingdom that seeks the advance of the gospel. A kingdom in which refugees could be seen as assets rather than liabilities.

“God has brought people in our backyard who are hungry to know Him, who have a foot in two cultures, who are trying to figure out who they are, who are ripe for the gospel,” said Hatch. And the ripple effect from changed lives will be felt back in their homeland. “God uses the movement of people for His purposes—to bring them closer to those who will help them understand the gospel.”

What is her hope for the PCA? “That we would extend the love of Christ to every one who comes into our path in a way that would cause them to ask, ‘What makes you and your church care so much for my family?’”

 

4 Responses to Refugee Ministry in an Age of Terror

  1. Brad wos says:

    Love to talk with pat! We were Mtw missionaries in South Africa for 15 years and now in St. Louis leading sports chaplains network. We use sport as a bridge in 20 cities accross the usa to disciple the nations here in he Usa. In St. Louis we have 600 refugees and immgrans we host in weekly soccer leagues. We are members at twin oaks PcA in St. Louis for 25 years.

  2. Marc A Champagne says:

    Thanks for the voice of wisdom, Pat.