by Craig Heidenreich

Last month it was International Refugee Week. Such occasions offer a good opportunity to search our hearts about how we respond to people in this predicament.

Before joining the LCANZ staff in 2020, I worked in refugee settlement, so this topic is close to my heart. I got to walk next to people forcibly displaced from their homes, trying to survive until they felt ‘safe’ again, and I got a taste of God’s incredible love for them.

The statistics can be overwhelming – 80 million displaced, millions seeking asylum – but to God, every person is precious and has a name.

We can feel uncomfortable when we encounter others in crisis, but we can also be people of compassion.


Let me tell you a story about my friend Mwajemi.

I first met her about 10 years ago when she and her family arrived from the Congo. They had been in a refugee camp in Burundi, and if you can imagine something tough, double it and you would be closer to the circumstances they endured.

Mwajemi and Riziki arrived with five children, little English and no money. Somehow we became friends and asked them to share their first Christmas in Australia with us.

Recently we were at their home to celebrate the graduation of their daughter when Mwajemi decided to tell the many other Congolese people present about the impact our welcome had on her back then. It was quite humbling.

She recalled that Christmas Day at our home and said: ‘I saw a beautiful table laid out with food and thought to myself – there must be some other important guests coming today, but finally when no-one else arrived, I realised it was for us.’

It was a happy day, and we ate well and played games with the children. Later that afternoon my wife Beverley suggested that Mwajemi ‘escape’ with her to our bedroom so they could sit on the bed and have a ‘girl talk’.

Mwajemi said, ‘This was the first time a “mtu mweupe” (white person) let me lay my head on their pillow’. That brought a tear to my eye.


The whole family are now community leaders in Adelaide, employed helping other arrivals and we admire them greatly, but she graciously wanted to point back to a day when her heart began to be restored.

We felt so humbled that God does his thing and gives us the privilege to join in – flowing with him makes life worth living.

Do we have a space at our table, or a place for a head to rest? It might just change someone’s life.

Craig Heidenreich is the LCANZ’s Cross-Cultural Ministry Facilitator.

This story first appeared in the LCANZ’s Cross-Cultural Ministry Department eNews, which is sent regularly to supporters of this important local mission work. You can subscribe to this and other regular bulletins at

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