Sponsor Refugees? We Can Do That!

church members welcome refugeesOne of the joys of a new MNA ministry is finding out what PCA churches are currently doing in this type of ministry, encouraging them, and sharing their experiences with others who are considering such ministry.

Motivated by the love of Christ as they heard about the worldwide refugee crisis, members of Trinity Park PCA in Morrisville NC reached out to the Durham NC office of World Relief about two years ago, to inquire about co-sponsoring a refugee family.

A team of about twenty members (from the church of about 160) met and formed sub-committees to gather and organize furnishings for the apartment, welcome the family at the airport, help them get settled, and provide ongoing friendship and support – such as transportation to medical appointments, tutoring in English, and help in connecting with needed services. For several members of the team – now adult professionals – the needs of refugees were especially compelling, because they remembered their own experiences coming to the US as refugee children, one from Vietnam and one from the former Soviet Union.

The church rallied around this opportunity to – as one member described – “put hands and feet on the Gospel” with their first refugee family, the family of a former interpreter who had worked with US forces in Afghanistan for many years. Although the interpreter himself spoke English well, his wife did not, and she and the children needed much love and attention. Within a few months, the husband had a job at a local factory, and they were able to purchase a car.

Soon Trinity Park received a new family – this one from Syria.  The husband in the family had been shot 5 times during the civil war there, and his wife had been severely injured in a bomb attack that killed her father.  Before they were accepted for resettlement to the US, the family had spent more than two years in a refugee camp in Jordan where food and medical care for themselves and their small children was extremely meager. This family has radiated tremendous gratitude to those from Trinity Park who have been coming alongside them in authentic friendship.

Not only has the Syrian family begun to flourish, but there have been other unexpected blessings. When a church member initially sent out a message at her workplace that her church would be helping a Syrian family and would welcome donations of winter clothing, one co-worker who responded was a Syrian Muslim. Puzzled and impressed by the church’s commitment, and remembering the recent struggle of his own relatives to reach safety in Germany, he agreed to help interpret. He has done much more, teaching the father to drive, taking the family to the ethnic food markets for familiar foods, and enlisting the help of others in the Muslim community to come alongside Trinity Park in welcoming this family and other families being resettled by World Relief.

Trinity Park never anticipated that their responding with the love of Christ to one refugee family would bear witness and build bridges to the larger Muslim community in the Durham area, but God is at work, and He is “able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think”! And Trinity Park’s already diverse congregation had an even more diverse church picnic this year!

Visiting refugee families in their apartments in Durham has opened the eyes of members of the congregation to the tremendous needs of refugees and native-born alike who live just half an hour from their suburban enclave of Morrisville, and the Lord is using these experiences to deepen their spiritual lives and compassion. Pastor Corey Jackson frequently alludes to and encourages refugee ministry in his sermons.  Furthermore, as others in the community have observed the powerful ability of Christian love to cross cultural barriers, they have been attracted to come and check out the worship community at Trinity Park, so membership is continuing to grow.

Recently the congregation had the joy of helping a Congolese family – separated for many years – to reunite. And when I asked a “Good Neighbor Team” member if the church was planning to continue to co-sponsor refugee families, the answer was “Absolutely! – It’s become part of our DNA – part of our identity as a body of believers.”

If you or your church would like information about how you might explore ministry to refugees – or to other immigrants or to international students – contact Pat Hatch at phatch@pcanet.org And please check out our ministry Facebook page.

Also, check out our Resources page for more helpful information.