For nearly three decades, Minnesota native Tom Albinson has trekked the globe, helping refugees escape war, persecution and other strife in their homelands.

The Plymouth resident is being recognized for his work, appointed this week to be the ambassador for refugees and displaced people for a prominent Christian group, the World Evangelical Alliance.

"Refugees are not only people in need," said Albinson, 54. "They are also some of the most resilient and resourceful people in the world. They can make the world a better place."

From 1981 to 1992, Albinson helped refugees in Europe escape Communist regimes during the waning years of the Cold War. He went on to work with International Teams from 1992 to 2009, helping the faith-based group assist refugees in African countries.

In 2009, Albinson founded his own group, the Minnesota-based nonprofit International Association for Refugees, which assists local churches interested in helping refugees resettle in Minnesota.

Albinson said people often have misconceptions about refugees. But after meeting Ethiopians, Eritreans, Karen and other refugee groups in Minnesota, they think differently of them.

"It's just because they've met people who are lovely," Albinson said. "And open and hospitable and generous and struggling to make it here. And they start to hear [their] stories. So it kind of breaks down some of the fear."

As part of his new role as ambassador with the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) -- which represents more than 600 million evangelicals worldwide -- Albinson will serve as WEA representative to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

"Christianity, like other major religions in the world, places high value on caring for the orphan, the widow. ... What foreigner is most like the orphan and widow, if not the refugee? In that light, it makes sense that so many churches in the Twin Cities are actively seeking to welcome and assist refugees."

Rose French • 612-673-4352