(RNS) — As a white evangelical Christian from a rural town in Georgia, I grew up around people who looked like me, thought like me and worshipped like me. The media I consumed typically depicted foreign-born people as the bad guys — criminals, terrorists, people to fear. Then, in 2013, after seminary, I moved with my wife to Clarkston, a community outside Atlanta that has welcomed thousands of refugees. It turned our world upside down in the best way possible.
Clarkston put us face-to-face with people from far-flung countries who had overcome traumatic displacement and were rebuilding their lives. They looked different from us and cherished different faiths, but their stories were fundamentally human. In showing me the world through their eyes, they freed me from my fear.
That freedom brought so many good things into my life. It allowed me to forge some of my closest friendships; today my best friends are people from Iraq, Afghanistan, Bhutan and Congo. It deepened my Christian faith, allowing me to catch a glimpse of God’s kingdom here on earth and better understand the story of Jesus, himself a refugee.