Building Relationships

Table of Contents

Please read the following material for insights on building healthy, fruitful relationships with DASH residents.

Helping Fixing or Serving – 6 minute read


Helping, fixing and serving represent three different ways of seeing life. When you help, you see life as weak. When you fix, you see life as broken. When you serve, you see life as whole. Fixing and helping may be the work of the ego, and service the work of the soul.

Service rests on the premise that the nature of life is sacred, that life is a holy mystery which has an unknown purpose. When we serve, we know that we belong to life and to that purpose. From the perspective of service, we are all connected: All suffering is like my suffering and all joy is like my joy. The impulse to serve emerges naturally and inevitably from this way of seeing.

Serving is different from helping. Helping is not a relationship between equals. A helper may see others as weaker than they are, needier than they are, and people often feel this inequality. The danger in helping is that we may inadvertently take away from people more than we could ever give them; we may diminish their self-esteem, their sense of worth, integrity or even wholeness.

Our limitations serve; our wounds serve; even our darkness can serve.

When we help, we become aware of our own strength. But when we serve, we don’t serve with our strength; we serve with ourselves, and we draw from all of our experiences. Our limitations serve; our wounds serve; even our darkness can serve. My pain is the source of my compassion; my wounds are the key to my empathy.

Serving makes us aware of our wholeness and its power. The wholeness in us serves the wholeness in others and the wholeness in life. The wholeness in you is the same as the wholeness in me. Service is a relationship between equals: our service strengthens us as well as others. Fixing and helping are draining, and over time we may burn out, but service is renewing. When we serve, our work itself will renew us. In helping we may find a sense of satisfaction; in serving, we find a sense of gratitude.

Harry, an emergency physician, tells a story about discovering this. One evening on his shift in a busy emergency room, a woman was brought in about to give birth. When he examined her, Harry realized immediately that her obstetrician would not be able to get there in time and he was going to deliver this baby himself. Harry likes the technical challenge of delivering babies, and he was pleased. The team swung into action, one nurse hastily opening the instrument packs and two others standing at the foot of the table on either side of Harry, supporting the woman’s legs on their shoulders and murmuring reassurance. The baby was born almost immediately.

While the infant was still attached to her mother, Harry laid her along his left forearm. Holding the back of her head in his left hand, he took a suction bulb in his right and began to clear her mouth and nose of mucous. Suddenly, the baby opened her eyes and looked directly at him. In that instant, Harry stepped past all of his training and realized a very simple thing: that he was the first human being this baby girl had ever seen. He felt his heart go out to her in welcome from all people everywhere, and tears came to his eyes.

Harry has delivered hundreds of babies, and has always enjoyed the excitement of making rapid decisions and testing his own competency. But he says that he had never let himself experience the meaning of what he was doing before, or recognize what he was serving with his expertise. In that flash of recognition, he felt years of cynicism and fatigue fall away and remembered why he had chosen this work in the first place. All his hard work and personal sacrifice suddenly seemed to him to be worth it.

He feels now that, in a certain sense, this was the first baby he ever delivered. In the past he had been preoccupied with his expertise, assessing and responding to needs and dangers. He had been there many times as an expert, but never before as a human being. He wonders how many other such moments of connection to life he has missed. He suspects there have been many.

As Harry discovered, serving is different from fixing. In fixing, we see others as broken, and respond to this perception with our expertise. Fixers trust their own expertise but may not see the wholeness in another person or trust the integrity of the life in them. When we serve we see and trust that wholeness. We respond to it and collaborate with it. And when we see the wholeness in another, we strengthen it. They may then be able to see it for themselves for the first time.

One woman who served me profoundly is probably unaware of the difference she made in my life. In fact, I do not even know her last name and I am sure she has long forgotten mine.

At twenty-nine, because of Crohn’s Disease, much of my intestine was removed surgically and I was left with an ileostomy. A loop of bowel opens on my abdomen and an ingeniously designed plastic appliance which I remove and replace every few days covers it. Not an easy thing for a young woman to live with, and I was not at all sure that I would be able to do this. While this surgery had given me back much of my vitality, the appliance and the profound change in my body made me feel hopelessly different, permanently shut out of the world of femininity and elegance.

At the beginning, before I could change my appliance myself, it was changed for me by nurse specialists called enterostomal therapists. These white-coated experts were women my own age. They would enter my hospital room, put on an apron, a mask, and gloves, and then remove and replace my appliance. The task completed, they would strip off all their protective clothing. Then they would carefully wash their hands. This elaborate ritual made it harder for me. I felt shamed.

I suddenly felt a great wave of unsuspected strength come up from someplace deep in me, and I knew without the slightest doubt that I could do this.

One day a woman I had never met before came to do this task. It was late in the day and she was dressed not in a white coat but in a silk dress, heels, and stockings. She looked as if she was about to meet someone for dinner. In a friendly way, she told me her first name and asked if I wished to have my ileostomy changed. When I nodded, she pulled back my covers, produced a new appliance, and in the most simple and natural way imaginable removed my old one and replaced it, without putting on gloves. I remember watching her hands. She had washed them carefully before she touched me. They were soft and gentle and beautifully cared for. She was wearing a pale pink nail polish and her delicate rings were gold.

At first, I was stunned by this break in professional procedure. But as she laughed and spoke with me in the most ordinary and easy way, I suddenly felt a great wave of unsuspected strength come up from someplace deep in me, and I knew without the slightest doubt that I could do this. I could find a way. It was going to be alright.

I doubt that she ever knew what her willingness to touch me in such a natural way meant to me. In ten minutes she not only tended my body, but healed my wounds. What is most professional is not always what best serves and strengthens the wholeness in others. Fixing and helping create a distance between people, an experience of difference. We cannot serve at a distance. We can only serve that to which we are profoundly connected, that which we are willing to touch. Fixing and helping are strategies to repair life. We serve life not because it is broken but because it is holy.

Serving requires us to know that our humanity is more powerful than our expertise. In forty-five years of chronic illness, I have been helped by a great number of people and fixed by a great many others who did not recognize my wholeness. All that fixing and helping left me wounded in some important and fundamental ways. Only service heals.

Service is not an experience of strength or expertise; service is an experience of mystery, surrender, and awe. Helpers and fixers feel causal. Servers may experience from time to time a sense of being used by larger unknown forces. Those who serve have traded a sense of mastery for an experience of mystery, and in doing so have transformed their work and their lives into practice.

Encouragement on Building Relationships – 3 minute read


“All of this is from God, who through Christ, reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore , we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through Christ.” 2 Corinthians 5:18-20

As ambassadors for Christ, we are called to love and befriend the stranger, the broken-hearted, the poor–the asylum seeker.

But wait! I don’t feel equipped!

  • We have the Holy Spirit: Christ is called the “Wonderful Counselor,” and His Spirit lives in us. God’s Spirit can guide us, prompt us, and help us if we will listen. Additionally, we have the understanding that the Holy Spirit is working in the other person as well. 
  • God is with us: “Have I not commanded you be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or dismayed because the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9
  • He gives us wisdom: He also tells us that “If any of you lacks wisdom let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” – James 1:5
  • We have Scripture: Many times we don’t know what to say. Oftentimes, sharing a passage of scripture can be more helpful than our own words. “The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” – Hebrews 4:12
  • We have Leaders: God gave us the pastors and leaders of the church to “equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” – Ephesians 4:12. In times when we need extra guidance, our church elders (and of course the DASH leadership team) are there to answer questions. 
  • We have the Church: Every time you attend church, participate in a Bible study, or are exhorted by a fellow believer, you are being equipped for the “work of ministry!” Engaging with the Church helps you grow and enables your worldview and heart to be conformed to the image of Christ. 
  • We also have each other. Ministry should not be done in a bubble: Include others from your church family in the ministry you are doing. You need community, as do the asylum seekers that you serve. 
  • We have our own stories: Ministry is inviting others into what God is doing in our lives. If you have seen God show up in your life to bring healing, peace, love, joy, or forgiveness, then share your own stories, and listen to others too.

Discipleship 101 – 3 minute read


The Purpose of Discipleship:

Ephesians 4: 11-17: “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.”

  • Equipping others for ministry
  • Building up the body of Christ
  • Pursuing unity in faith 
  • Growing in our knowledge of Jesus and sound doctrine
  • Becoming mature men and women
  • Pursuing righteousness and Christ-likeness

Note: The person you are discipling is not a disciple of you; instead, you are each disciples of Christ. The hope is that through this relationship and the time you spend together, you will both move closer to all the objectives listed above. 

“Be imitators of me as I am of Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 11:1 

Qualities of a Good Discipler: 

  • Humble: The person you are meeting with has unique giftings within the body of Christ – identify these, learn from them, and encourage them. It’s okay to be asked questions and not know the answer. Look to Scripture and seek answers together. Try saying, “Hey I don’t know, how about next week we come back having each found a couple of verses on this topic and see what Scripture says and how we can interpret this.”
  • Bold: Proclaim Truth, correct false teachings, and rebuke when necessary
  • Vulnerable: Practice confession together, share areas you hope to grow in
  • Faithful: Pray together, pray for one another and your time together, abide in the Word of God.
  • Compassionate: Bear one another’s burdens; rejoice when they rejoice; mourn when they mourn.
  • Empowering: encourage the person you are meeting with to use the gifts they have been given to serve the Body of Christ and make disciples themselves. 

Practical Discipleship in Action

  1. Ask the person you are meeting with what topics/areas they would like to grow in or questions they have about their faith that they would like to learn more about. 
  2. Considering their response – select either a book of the Bible to read through together or a thematic book. Schedule time to regularly meet up, read, discuss. If it’s a book of the Bible: consider individually reading the passage throughout the week prior to meeting up to identify themes/questions you may have/or questions to ask the other person. Then read the passage together when you meet and ask questions such as: 
  • Is there anything you are confused about based on what we read? 
  • Can you summarize this passage in your own words for me? 
  • What stood out to you? 
  • What does this teach us about the character of God? 
  • What does this teach us about who we are in light of who God is? 
  • How can we be changed by this Word? 
  • What is the application?
  1. Start and end your time in prayer; be in prayer for one another throughout the week.
  2. Follow up with them throughout the week checking in on things you have been praying about or with a word of encouragement.
  3. Outside of the time you meet to intentionally grow in your knowledge of God – spend time together simply building a friendship. Do you have mutual hobbies? Running, crafting, cooking? Do this together!  Serve together, invite them places you are already going. Introduce them to your friends.
  4. It’s OK to just be friends and get to know your mentee for a while before you begin intentionally studying the word of God together. Discipleship is life on life and takes many forms.
  5. Plan your next meeting together each time you meet
  6. Do things together while first meeting rather than just getting together to talk: cook/volunteer/go for a walk.
  7. It may take months for this relationship to feel natural and comfortable; invest and persevere, it will be SO WORTH IT.

The Cultural Barrier – 2 minute read


Sometimes the fear of offending the other person, a focus on their differences, or just not knowing where to start or what to say can create barriers to building relationships cross-culturally.

  • Don’t fear. There is not a perfect way to start a conversation, or build a relationship with a newcomer, so don’t be so afraid. Just start! Often newcomers are longing for natives to reach out to them, so they are likely to embrace your efforts regardless of the conversation topic. 
  • Don’t be the hero. If your conversations are all about how you will help, serve, fix, or teach the other person, then it will never develop into healthy friendship. Sharing your own struggles and asking for their advice or prayers can show them that they are not a project to be kept at a distance, but rather a friend that you trust. Real friends share their lives, their stories, and their thoughts.
  • Love. “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-5. When people become offended, usually it is because the opposite markers of love are being expressed, (impatience, unkindness, envy, boasting, arrogance, insisting on one’s one way, resentment, etc.) If love is your disposition toward others they will feel it. When someone knows you love them, even if you accidentally say something culturally inappropriate your words likely be overlooked rather than taken as offensive. As scripture says, “Love covers a multitude of sins.”
  • Laughter. We have got to learn to laugh. African friends have told me, as if stating the weather, “You are looking very fat today.” I am sure that I have said equally “offensive” things to people from other cultures, like the time a witnessed a 5-year-old child from Nepal nurse his mother. If you laugh and embrace the humor in these scenarios, when you or the other person makes a cultural mistake, you may ultimately learn more about each other’s cultures as well as strengthen the friendship. 
  • Find common ground. This is so important, so allow me to spend some time here. I once heard that friendship is “standing shoulder to shoulder in awe of the same masterpiece.” In other words, look for something that you have in common, and start there. Do you both have small children? Do you both go to church? Do you have a friend in common? Focusing on what you have in common, especially when beginning a new friendship, will bring an atmosphere of peace and trust into the friendship.

We make peace by first discovering and discussing what we have in common with the other person, rather than having radar ears for what they say that is contrary. The worst conversation I can ever remember having, many years ago with someone from another culture included the phrase, “You are wrong” more than once. This phrase does not build bridges and can hurt relationships. 

The longest conversation of Jesus recorded in scripture is the one with the Samaritan woman at the well, someone from a different culture and religion from his own. Have you ever noticed how he is able to speak truth to her while still gaining a common ground by opening and closing his statements to her with the words, “You are right,” rather than “You are wrong.” Just as Jesus did here, there is a time and a place for exhortation and exploring differences in all healthy relationships, but learn to start and end with whatever underlying thread that you have in common. 

DASH Guide on How to Communication with Newcomers – 3 minute read


The Language Barrier

Have you ever felt frustrated by trying to communicate with a limited English speaker?

A few weeks ago a DASH volunteer approached me about how to communicate with a couple in the program that “didn’t speak any English.” So I called them over and held a full conversation with them. He was shocked by how much we were actually able to communicate.

By changing a few things about the way we speak to limited English speakers much frustration can be avoided and deeper relationships can be built. Here are the few practical tips I have picked up along the way, that I would love to share with you: 

  1. Speak slowly and clear. Speak very slowly, pronounce each word clearly, and separate each word. If you have ever tried to learn a language you know how difficult deciphering words can be when people are speaking quickly and words are slurred or run together.
  2. Choose your words. Imagine that you only knew 200 words. What words would those be? Stick to a very limited vocabulary. Sometimes this requires not using less than perfect grammar.
    1. Confusing: “I would like to invite you to join my family and I for a lasagna dinner this evening,”
    2. Clear: “You want to come to my home? I will cook food. Me, you, and my family, we can eat together today.”
  3. Be aware of phrases. Many phrases may not make sense or may have multiple meanings.
    1. Confusing: “It’s a pick of cake.”
    2. Clear: “It was easy.”
  4. Use body language. Extravagantly use hand gestures for every major word in the sentence, almost as if doing sign language or charades. For example, when saying I, point to yourself, and when saying go, motion outward, etc. Body language and emotional facial expressions can also communicate so much.
  5. Drop unnecessary verbiage. Consider the simplest way to communicate.
    1. Confusing: “In the light of the fact that…”
    2. Clear: “Because…”
  6. Keep each sentence short and clear. Separate each part of the message into a separate sentence or question. Even if the vocab is simple, if the sentence structure is messy or verbose then messages can be lost.
    1. Confusing: “Did you know that the father and son from Egypt we met at the event last week who were in hiding for a year, were finally arrived and were reunified this week with the mother and daughter?”
    2. Clear: “You know the event we went to last week? You know the mother and daughter from Egypt? You know how the father and son were hiding? This week they came to America. The family is now together.”
  7. Beware of verb tenses. For low-level English speakers, stick to the simple past, present, and future verb tenses.
    1. Confusing: “I would have been here earlier but my car has been having problems.”
    2. Clear: “I wanted to come earlier. But my car has problems.”
  8. Be specific when using future tense. Even pulling out a calendar or clock to point to the date and time can be helpful.
  9. Don’t yell. When struggling to communicate with limited English speakers, it is comical that our natural inclination is to speak louder, as if hearing were their problem.
  10. Confirm understanding. Repeat back to them, in your own words what they said to you. Do not just ask them if they understand what you said, because they will almost always say yes, rather, ask them questions about what you said, such as “So, what time will you be there?” Also, if you are unclear about what you heard, don’t be afraid to ask them to explain. When verbal communication still fails, use written communication.
  11. Text. Text is always recommended for communicating or confirming important logistics, such as addresses, phone numbers, etc. It can also be helpful when strong accents make understanding over the phone difficult.
  12. Write it out. Writing down, in simple language, what you intend to communicate can be helpful if the person can read some in English the person can read in another romance language, since many roots are similar or if the person can have someone who is bilingual read the message to them later.
  13. Use Google Translate. Though it is not always entirely accurate, it can be a very helpful tool, especially when trying to communicate abstract thoughts which pose greater difficulty. When using it, I try to get someone who is bilingual to check the translation afterwards. it is available as an app or through the internet. If all else fails or if details are critical…
  14. Ask for a translator by phone. Even if you don’t know anyone who is bilingual in their language and English, the chances are, they do. If you hope to build a relationship with a limited English speaker then asking them to call a bilingual friend should be a last resort reserved for conversations where accuracy is critical because if used too much it can sometimes create distance in the relationship or discourage the person in their pursuit of learning English.

Using these simple tricks will break down barriers to communication and allow the possibility for friendships to form even with limited English speakers. As Tiffanie, a former DASH Leader, once said, “It’s just language. When you look deeper, the person underneath might be surprisingly similar to you.”

Conversation Topics – 2 minute read

If you struggle with just not knowing what to talk about there are ample ideas below. 

Note: Rather than using “your country” or “your home” it is better to use the name of the country when discussing the place they are from, since they likely see America as their new home and country.  

Celebrations and Traditions. 

  • What holidays were most important in your country and why were they the most important? 
  • How did people celebrate these holidays?
  • How do they celebrate the birth of a child in your culture? What about birthdays?
  • How are engagements and weddings celebrated?
  • When does a child become an adult? Are there any traditions to celebrate this passage?


  • What is your favorite food?
  • Have you tried any new foods in America that you really like/really don’t like?
  • What food do you miss most?
  • What things do we eat/drink here that are strange to you? What things do people from your country eat/drink that are strange to Americans?


  • Have you made some friends in America?
  • How did you meet them? 
  • What do you like about them?
  • Tell me about your friends from your country?


  • In the past, were you ever married?
  • In the past, did you ever have children?
  • Do you have family that is still in your country?
  • Are you close to them?
  • Do you get to talk to them?
  • When you were a child, what was your family and home like?


  • Did you go to church/mosque in your county?
  • Did the people meet only once per week, or would groups also meet other times in the week?
  • How did the church help people in need?
  • What did you like about your church?
  • What did you not like?
  • Is prayer important to you?
  • How do you pray?
  • How do you hear God?
  • Did your parents teach you about God or did someone else teach you?
  • How is worship music and prayer the same/different in your country?
  • How is the Bible teaching the same/different in your country?


  • What was your school like as a child?
  • What did you like and not like about it?
  • How was it different or the same from the schools in America?
  • Do you hope to oneday go to college here, or are you finished with school?
  • What do you want to study?
  • Why did you decide to study that?


  • What jobs have you had?
  • When you have problems and you feel angry or fearful, what do you to calm down?
  • What was the best part of your life?
  • What are your hopes for the future?
  • Who is the best person you ever met?
  • What do you like to do in your free time?

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