“Oh, no! They sent me the wrong book,” I complained to my husband when A Better Country: Embracing the Refugees in our Midstarrived. “This must be the workbook.”
No. Not true. A minute later I realized that A Better Country is a workbook. Author Cindy M. Wu is not letting any readers get away without doing the work of thinking through their response–mentally, emotionally, and practically–to the current refugee crisis.
A few things that stood out to me from the book. First, Wu tells the story of a refugee named Mariane whose painful transition from war-torn homeland to unfamiliar new country left her feeling like she had “lost herself” (p. xiii).
Well put. This is somewhat the experience of anyone adjusting to a new culture, but the experience is likely particularly painful for refugees, many of whom have no option to go home in the foreseeable future. Part of the ministry of welcome is to create an atmosphere of belonging and becoming for folks who feel like they’ve lost themselves.
Wu also reminds us of the fact that “it would be a mistake to view refugees as a monolithic horde of faceless people. The word ‘refugee’ is not a label we should use to completely define someone….Followers of Jesus believe that, ultimately, refugees are people made in the image of God” (p. 10)
I learned something new on page 19: “Besides the commandment to love God, ‘welcome the stranger’ was the second most oft-repeated command in the Hebrew Scriptures.”
American Christians can relate to refugees on at least three counts:
- As Americans, unless we’re part of an indigenous people group, our ancestors were immigrants (p. 35).
- As Christians, we once were strangers (Ephesians 2:12).
- Also as Christians, we are called “sojourners” who are looking forward to “a better country, a heavenly one” (Hebrews 11:16) (p. 22-23).
I appreciate that Wu keeps a neutral, even-handed tone throughout the book, acknowledging and asking about legitimate concerns for US security and the economy. She simply presents facts and compels us not to look away. This is reality. What should we do? Nationally, personally? Then she invites us to think through our answers together.
This book contains great questions. I read the whole thing in an hour with time to spare, but still a few weeks later I’m mulling over things she asked. There is space within the book to write your answers.
I see this book as being a great option for a group to go through because of its format: short chapters with several helpful questions for reflection and discussion. Wu is a kind and sure-footed guide who is concerned not only for refugees themselves but also for our process as we wrestle with our role in engaging them.