Simulation: How It Feels to Be a Refugee

I met the lovely Kristy Carr–Senior Hub and Affinity Network Manager for the Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU)–over dinner at a Thai restaurant before the 2017 Reaching the Nations conference.

As we enjoyed our Pad Thai, she began telling me about WMU’s current 4-year focus on refugees, and the first project related to that focus: a simulation designed to help the American church empathize with refugees by understanding their experiences before they arrived in America.

Since then, I’ve followed WMU’s on this refugee emphasis under Kristy’s leadership, and recently followed up with her to hear more about the simulation project. This is an excellent resource for church and organizational leaders to use!

Jessica Udall: What was the inspiration behind Seeking Refuge: A Refugee Simulation?

Kristy Carr: It was somewhat birthed from my experience of going through a simulation sponsored by Doctor Without Borders. Following that experience, I shared with our refugee task force that we should consider creating a simulation so that folks can experience what it is like for a refugee in a refugee camp or a detention center.

JU: Why should church leaders consider running a refugee simulation? Why not just preach a sermon about refugees or link to an article for people to read on social media?

KC: While preaching a sermon on refugees is very helpful, it is not until you provide an experience, such as a simulation, that people will truly experience what it is like for refugees.

JU: What has been the response of people you’ve walked through the refugee simulation? What difference has it made in their perspectives/lives?

The one comment that we have heard over and over is: “This simulation has humanized refugees for me. I never even thought of the plight of refugees before going through this experience.”


Kristy shared this testimonial with me from Allie, who went through the simulation:

Today I took part in a refugee simulation. I went intending to observe the activity to see if/how we could recreate the simulation with groups in Hawaii to bring awareness to social justice issues. What happened instead broke me down to tears and opened my heart to a huge group of displaced people that used to barely cross my lips in prayer when I saw the news.

I showed up all bubbly to the first table but that all changed when they took all my belongings and tossed them in a trash bag. They gave me a # and herded me to station after station where people asked me embarrassing health questions, had me fill out what I thought were liability forms, spoke different languages, and all through this disorienting experience, I kept thinking this isn’t real (although it felt like it)…But sadly, this is the reality for so many refugees who are trying to escape homes to find new homes.

The sadness of possibly never returning to your home and being treated less than kindly by your new host home in detention centers and refugee camps came to new life for me in this simulation and yet, I realize it is nothing compared to the real life of refugees.

Praying now about how to use this experience to help others put a real, human face on this otherwise anonymous “refugee” that some of us fear, dislike or don’t even think about. Honestly, I have had all of those feelings over the past year, but I’m so grateful for experiences like today that inform me and expose me to facts and truths and soften my heart to our fellow human beings.

When you download the simulation directions, you’ll gain everything you need to plan a simulation for your own church or organization: detailed instructions, supplies lists, and practical suggestions are well organized and simple to follow and make the event doable for organizers.

Thank you Kristy and Allie for sharing about this creatively designed, helpful free resource!

Click here to gain access to Seeking Refuge: A Refugee Simulation!


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