The Light of Friendship
For many, Christmas is filled with joy, laughter, and being surrounded by friends and family. But what happens if a home is thousands of miles away or a new home and new traditions are being started? In the St. Louis area, the District sponsored Christian Friends of New Americans’ mission is to shine the light of friendship to new immigrant and refugee families.
“The main Bible verse for our mission model is John 15:15– wanting to be a friend, because Jesus calls us a friend as well and he send us out to do the job that he, himself has been given by the Father,” explains Rev. Dr. Stanish Stanley, Executive Director at Christian Friends of New Americans, “That’s our mission model as well. We intend to be a friend to our new neighbors, to the stranger who is among us, so they can be welcomed and be shared with the love of Jesus.”
Christian Friends of New Americans serve people that come from many and varied countries. This means that not everyone they serve is Christian. For example, many of the women in their sewing class are Muslim Afgani refugees, and many of the children participating in their after school tutoring classes are unchurched. But relationships and connections are being built through the efforts of the volunteers of Christian Friends of New Americans.
Many of these volunteers are Lutherans from the surrounding area. “Like 98% [of volunteers] are from surrounding Lutheran congregations,” notes Pastor Stanley. Lutheran organizations, churches, and schools also give their time, talents, and treasure. During Christmas, churches will often donate presents for the much anticipated Children’s Party for the kids in the after school program. It’s a full evening of festivities: a nativity story to be acted out, a Christmas devotion to be shared, food is served, and presents are exchanged. There is another Christmas giveaway for families which includes items like toiletries, clothes, and blankets and normally reaches around 130-140 families.
“Through all this,” shares Rev. Stanley, “the intention is to share, of course, the spirit of Christmas, the spirit of God’s love in Christ Jesus. His Incarnation into the world. To be with people, to bless people. And we also try and highlight the fact that our volunteers are Christian people who just want to be a shining light of Christ for the nations.”
Pictured below: Students learning from volunteer tutors; Rev. Stanish Stanley (center)