Hope for San Diego’s Work Among Refugees and Immigrants
By Jessica Udall

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in the Mission to North America Refugee and Immigrant Ministry October Newsletter

What comes to your mind when you think about San Diego?

Sunny skies? Gorgeous beaches? Affluent neighborhoods? These things certainly do characterize the California metropolis, but there is a darker side to the city as well.

Victims of sex trafficking. The homeless. Foster children. Refugees. These populations are also part of San Diego’s reality, and Hope for San Diego is faithfully working to make sure they do not go unnoticed.

Following the model of Hope for New York ( founded by Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC), Hope for San Diego was initiated by Redeemer PCA San Diego and seeks “renewal of the city from a social perspective, meeting the needs of the most vulnerable, and engaging the community to invest in and care for the underserved populations.”

Hope for San Diego functions as a clearinghouse of grants and volunteers to address the needs of refugees, immigrants and other vulnerable people in several areas of San Diego. They have familiarized themselves with area ministries, and they channel the pooled funds and volunteers from Redeemer San Diego and several other churches to the most strategic opportunities to share the love of Christ with those in need of practical help and the hope of the Gospel.

These opportunities include after-school mentoring and tutoring programs for students, as well as Good Neighbor teams of seven to eight families, who commit to walking alongside a refugee family—not only for the initial resettlement period, but also for long-term friendship and care, in areas of ongoing needs, such as job counseling, education, medical care, housing, transportation, and recreation.

“We focus on holistic care of individuals and families so that we see systemic change, not just physical relief for crisis situations,” says Susie Fikse, the Executive Director of Hope for San Diego.

“We can be isolated as a middle to upper class church in sunny San Diego,” continues Fikse, but being involved in something like the church’s yearly Day of Service, in which volunteers spend a day serving with one of Hope for San Diego’s affiliate ministries, “can be a spark for people to consider ‘How does God want to use me to address some of these issues?’”

Fikse also relates that Hope for San Diego’s care of and concern for vulnerable populations and their clear presence at Redeemer San Diego is something that draws in newcomers—even unbelievers and skeptics. Making the truth of the Gospel visible through tangible caring for those whom others ignore gets the attention of people who may have previously given up on the church!

Involvement in Hope for San Diego has had lasting effects in the lives of volunteers from Redeemer. “Many of our church members have never been to ‘closed’ countries—and otherwise would not have an opportunity to build relationships with, and seek to make disciples of, persons who are from those parts of the world. But through our refugee ministry, this is happening!” says Hunter Benson, the Mercy and Missions Pastor at Redeemer San Diego who also serves as Hope for San Diego’s Board Chair.

Benson shares that their Good Neighbor teams recently had the experience of seeing one of the refugees they serve put his faith in Christ: “Our church family who had been a part of loving this refugee family for many months, was needless to say, full of joy! And God strengthened their faith deeply by seeing God work so powerfully.”

If people from your church would like to recreate aspects of Hope for San Diego’s ministry in your city, Fikse recommends asking what the specific needs are in the your community, and, “What are the assets (social power, money, time, etc.) that the church brings to the table that can be strategically deployed on behalf of the vulnerable?”

For more information about Hope for San Diego, visit hopeforsd.org.

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