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The Art of Waiting: Lessons from City of Refuge


Do you hate waiting for things?

I do.

We live in a cultural moment where instant gratification has become the expectation, the norm. It’s brutal to wait 30 minutes to get your food at a restaurant—are they understaffed, bad at their jobs, or just ill-equipped to serve this many people at once?

It’s one reason why you probably love Mexican food. Chips and salsa on your table within minutes of sitting down. Instant gratification.  

In two years at City of Refuge, I’ve been on a continually changing learning curve about the refugee resettlement process. Despite the different narratives of how people ended up as refugees, there are striking similarities. They all left their home countries because staying likely meant arrest, torture, or death. And they’ve all had to wait.

A People in Waiting

Wait for the right time to flee. Wait in transitional places for a permanent home (refugee camp, army base, bordering country). Wait for applications to be reviewed. Wait until you’re eligible to work. Wait for word from your family who are still living in unsafe places. Wait to be reunited.

The waiting never ends.

As I watch these new friends of mine wait, I also watch them flourish. They have a lot to teach us about waiting.

Right now, you’re in the thick of Advent, being inundated with thoughts about waiting. The already, but not yet. The heavy reminder that, yes, you have been saved…but, no, your hope is not fully realized yet.

We, too, are people in waiting. Waiting on the promise of Christ’s return, the Kingdom of God fully restored.

So, how do we wait well? Here are three things I’ve learned from my refugee friends:

1. Remember.

Waiting is hard. Exhausting. Discouraging, even. Sometimes, it’s easier to try to forget what you’re waiting for. But when what you are waiting for becomes central, it motivates and drives you.

If you are a refugee waiting to be reunited with your family, you are persistent in doing whatever you can to bring this to fruition. You work hard to make sure you can financially support them when they arrive, or to have the funds for them to travel here. You visit the immigration office often. You pray. You prepare by learning the new way of life so that you can teach others. But you never forget what you are waiting for.  

When you lose sight of the promises yet to come, what motivates you can begin to shift. When followers of Jesus lose sight of what they are waiting for, values are too quickly molded by the everchanging waves of society.

There’s a steady refrain throughout the Bible to Remember.

Remember who God is, what he has done, what he is doing — remember the gospel, remember the promise you are waiting for.

When we are people who remember, it changes everything about how we live (and wait). 

2. Embrace change.

In every segment of a refugee’s journey, they are asked to adapt and overcome. Do this, do that, learn this, learn that. In most cases, they must adjust in order to survive. New language, new societal norms, new food, new everything.

They become lifelong learners, dancing between cultures as they embrace the new while keeping important aspects of the old. 

When you approach your faith as lifelong learners, longing to know more of God—change happens. You begin to reflect, more and more, the image of the Triune God. You adapt to a different language, a different set of values, a new way of life.

You learn your own dance, living in a broken world but secure because you know Jesus and because you’re being changed by him. 

3. Find your people.

Community is a critical part of the refugee experience. Those who have it thrive. Those who do not struggle. As families and individuals get resettled all over the country, many of them eventually work their way toward extended family or friends they met while in refugee camps.  

Because when you have others around you who know your culture, your language, your food… something beautiful is cultivated.

Community has always been a critical component of the church. It is vital for believers to find each other, to connect, to have that shared culture, history, language—a shared way of life and common values, despite our differences.

You need people while you wait. People who remind you of what you are waiting for. People who stand with you when it’s hard, celebrate with you in the joys, and love you through pain.

This Advent

So, while you’re waiting, remember what you are waiting for, embrace the change that comes when you press into knowing God more fully, and find people who will remind you and learn alongside you.

And if you need help waiting? Come hang out with us at City of Refuge. Your perspective on the world and what matters will change drastically.


In a rest-starved culture, the holidays offer us a unique opportunity to practice Advent—to spotlight God’s arrival into our lives—particularly at home with our neighbors. Build community and love your neighbors well this Christmas with these tips from Elizabeth McKinney.