As a church community we’ve been helping offer a warm welcome and support to asylum seekers and refugees ever since the first group arrived in a local hotel over five years ago.

Much that we offered was very practical, from donating warm clothes and suitable footwear to helping them access local services such as buses and shops. Some people questioned why our church was getting so involved in helping these foreigners” who were mostly from an Islamic background and had little or no knowledge of Christianity. But I would refer them to Jesus’ words in Matthew 25: Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”

I also discovered a letter written by a Lebanese pastor to the European church in which he said: History will one day witness that God in His wisdom has sent to you the hungry to give them food, the thirsty to give them a drink, the stranger to take in, and the naked to clothe. How will you respond? Some of them will take advantage of you for sure, but others will fall in love with your God.”

"History will one day witness that God in His wisdom has sent to us the stranger to take in. How will we respond?"

Many turn up at our church because they’re also seeking spiritual direction and are hungry to discover more about the Christian faith. To help them integrate into church life, we’ve been learning some Farsi worship songs and translating parts of the service. We’ve been so encouraged – some of them have now become followers of Jesus!

Seeing off isolation one stitch at a time
But sadly, we realised many (particularly the women) were becoming isolated during lockdown because they were scared of leaving their homes and weren’t sure of all the social distancing rules. So, under the leadership of two of our Iranian church members, we started a wellbeing project – a sewing workshop for asylum seekers where they could learn how to make their own clothes using a sewing machine, but more importantly, somewhere they could gather as community and build relationships.

Those workshops proved so popular that we’re now running another two and even have a waiting list of women wanting to join the course. Several women have now gone on to start their own businesses using their new-found sewing skills.

A warm welcome for new arrivals
We were all terribly shocked by the distressing news of the boat that capsized in the English Channel drowning dozens of asylum seekers, including children. Around that same time, our local council called asking us for help: around 350 asylum seekers had arrived in Stockport and were being accommodated in a local hotel.

The situation in the hotel was chaotic. Many needed warm clothing, footwear and other basic necessities. We decided to offer the Farsi-speaking families the opportunity to have a lift to our church every Friday. There we could cook them a Persian meal and they could enjoy fellowship together. Several of the women who were on the sewing course kindly volunteered to cook for the asylum seekers.

"Our local council called us for help when 350 asylum seekers arrived – we offered food and fellowship."

As we emerge from the pandemic, we’re considering how to extend support to the asylum seeker and refugee community:

  • by offering further opportunities to gather together to learn English;
  • by using drama to help them with their mental wellbeing; and
  • by offering advice and support as they try to establish themselves as citizens in a foreign land.

As that letter said, history will one day witness that God in His wisdom has sent to us the stranger to take in – let’s keep sharing the love of our God.

Stories of Hope 2: Explore the series

This story is part of a six-part series of stories of hope. Click through to more stories in the series below, where Christians share how God has called them to show His love:

Hope for the harvest

Hope for the harvest

Our hope has grown as we’ve sown seeds of the gospel in places we never thought possible
The Journey Church, Manchester The Journey Church, Manchester
Hope for the hungry

Hope for the hungry

As we partnered in faith, God was able to use our small service and multiply it...
Asian Concern Asian Concern