Emily Deyo
Student Writer

Who are your neighbors?

Charlene Lane, assistant professor of social work and criminal justice, knows who her neighbors are. Specifically, the Somalian Refugee Population, residing in Mechanicsburg, PA.

Lane’s passion for her community and its members came at a young age when she was growing up. Her passion developed because she was frequently involved in outreach. Growing up in a church, volunteering at a food pantry and watching her parents, influenced her sense of community.

She made her way to the Messiah community by “divine intervention.” God opened a door that she had not intended to ever walk through. Just before joining the Messiah College faculty, she was teaching social work at Shippensburg University for the past four years. The switch in paths made her more aware of the disconnection she perceived when she was not working in a faith community like Messiah.

Outside of Lane’s faith community, you can find her interacting with her Somalian neighbors. Her relationship with the Somalian community began after an event at Messiah where the refugees told their stories in a panel. She quickly exchanged contact information with the speaker, and would recall “the rest as history”.

Lane’s involvement with the Pennsylvania Center for Refugee & Immigration (PACRI) looks like mentoring four young Somali women. “I love my Muslim daughters, they taught me a lot,” said Lane. When Lane spends time mentoring these women she is creating a safe space for them to navigate life and receive guidance.

The most rewarding part of the mentorship, to Lane, is “having the ability to demonstrate God’s love to non-Christians”. She believes this is our call as Christians, to reach out to all of God’s people. She wants to work to dispel the negative beliefs surrounding Somalians, and people who are different than you in general. “Negative thoughts and beliefs hurt people.”

She shared more about how Christians can serve, and learn from the Somalian Refugees. “Don’t be afraid of what appears to be different, don’t rely solely on the media as a vehicle for forming your opinion. Value others beliefs and values and remember we are all made in the image and likeness of God.”


Updated on 11/20/18 at 2:53 p.m. — Lane was not raised in the Bronx.