Last night I attended my son’s concert at a local elementary school in Kansas City, Kansas. It was a tribute to the United States, and the kids closed with the song, “This land is your land”. This school is about 90% ELL (English Language Learners). It has a pretty diverse student population; with students from various Central and South American countries, and a rising number of students that are refugees from Southeast Asian countries. Last night’s concert was a sea of students from various places; all wearing red, white, and blue and representing what is great about America, our ability to welcome the stranger. This land is my land, this land is your land, and this land must be Our land.
“Refugees are succeeding in the United States, and their success is the country's too: people with different skills and talents working together to create a better community. Learning about refugees, welcoming them, and perhaps even extending a hand to help them resettle and adjust, is a way to strengthen ties between neighbors and build a safer, happier home for all.”
Cultural Orientation Resource Center (COR)
Our final installment for this series on Refugee Resettlement is about ways we can welcome the refugee; ways that we can help them, stand for them and with them, and ways that we can pray for them.
"For the first 90 days, resettlement agencies work with state and local governments and community organizations to help new arrivals settle into their communities. Refugees are introduced to their local health care system. Although they have had thorough check-ups before entering the U.S., they receive additional examinations by medical professionals in their new communities. Learning English is an essential step to becoming self-sufficient. Agencies help assist refugees to enroll in English courses at their local offices or help families find classes nearby. Newly arrived refugees have endured years of trauma and hardship; that emotional burden does not lift once they’re in the U.S. Agencies, service providers and local communities work together to help survivors of violence and human trafficking receive the support and care they need in order to recover. Parents are informed about schooling options and caseworkers help to enroll children in school. Aid agencies help ensure each child has a backpack, notebooks and other supplies for their first day. Refugees receive stipends to cover their first three months in the U.S., but they are encouraged to find work quickly—and most do. Agencies reach out to local employers, some run by former refugees or other immigrants, to find job opportunities for them. Refugees can also receive support in putting together their resume and preparing for job interviews. Once they acclimate to their new environment, refugees often thrive and contribute to their communities, building their careers, purchasing homes, gaining citizenship."
International Rescue Committee (IRC)
In 2007, Mission Adelante saw a need in our community, and rose to the challenge to try and meet that need. A group of refugees from Bhutan were being resettled in Kansas City, Kansas. That was the beginning of our Bhutanese ministry; ESL classes for adults, kids programming for the children. Our Bhutanese ministry has grown and changed as the needs of the Bhutanese community have changed. We still offer ESL classes and kids programming; but in the past nine years we have added Bhutanese Leaders in Training (LIT), Bhutanese youth group, Citizenship classes, and house church for Bhutanese refugees.
Here are a few things that refugees face after they are resettled in the United States after the initial 90 days.
- Gaining Permanent Residency - Refugees can apply for Permanent Resident Alien (PRA) status (commonly known as a “green card”) after they have been in the United States for one year.
- Becoming a Citizen - Refugees can apply for U.S. citizenship after residing in the United States for five years. Many resettlement organizations have citizenship programs that assist, guide, and encourage refugees through the naturalization process.
- Building a New Life - Refugees spend many years overcoming past trauma, locating family members, adjusting to American culture, building careers, raising families, finding their first dream home, and creating a new life for themselves in the United States.
International Rescue Committee (IRC)
So we have talked about why refugees flee their homeland, what they have to go through to be chosen and processed for resettlement in the United States, and how refugees contribute to our community. Now is the time to act…
First, read more about refugees from trusted, Christian sources like:
- Hopeprint is an organization that works with resettled refugees in Syracuse, New York. www.myhopeprint.org
- World Relief is an organization that resettles refugees around the country. www.worldrelief.org
- We Welcome Refugees is an organization that offers information about the refugee crisis and offers ideas about ways to become active in speaking up for refugees. www.wewelcomerefugees.com
Second, read the Bible to see what it has to say about refugees. Many of our heroes of the faith were displaced from their homeland for one reason or another.
- The Israelites
“On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” Luke 10:25-37
Third, pray for refugees; here and abroad.
"THE WORLD IS FACING THE WORST HUMANITARIAN CRISIS OF OUR TIME….WHAT WILL WE DO? 8.7 million Syrians are predicted to be displaced within the country in 2016, and 4.8 million have sought refuge in other countries since 2011. The UNHCR’s latest figures show the crisis is getting worse. Families are moving not to simply better their lives, but to literally save their lives. And at a time when the west is reeling in fear and anti-refugee rhetoric is ruling the headlines, we as the Church have a responsibility to respond. We cannot sit blindly by as people die, flee for their lives, search for homes, or live in an existence many of us cannot even comprehend. We cannot let the generations to come look back on this time in history and wonder how we sat back and did nothing. We must engage, and we must act."
We Welcome Refugees
Pray for refugees being resettled within the United States (& other countries). While only about 1,500 refugees from Syria were admitted to the U.S. in the past year, that number is expected to rise significantly in the years to come. Many refugee resettlement organizations are urging the U.S. government to accept as many as 100,000 Syrian refugees in the coming year. Pray for coordinated efforts between local churches, non-profit organizations, and governmental entities such that refugees from Syria and beyond would be welcomed and integrated into the fabric of the United States.
Finally, if God is leading you to go deeper; consider finding ways to engage with refugees:
Whether we want to or not, we as Christ-followers must engage in the refugee crisis; whether they come from Bhutan, Burma (Myanmar), Iraq, Somalia, Congo, Eritrea, Iran, or Syria. We cannot turn our backs on people who just like us were created in the Image of God, but unlike us were not born in a land of freedom and opportunity. Instead refugees have had to flee their homeland because of war, disaster, unlivable conditions, and nightmarish circumstances that have brought them to the United States. Mission Adelante is honored to call refugees our friends and neighbors; we welcome them, we help them, we pray for them. There are many opportunities, not only in Kansas City, Kansas, but around our state and country to welcome the stranger. Sometimes it’s as easy as a smile or a wave to someone new; sometimes it is a bigger leap of faith like volunteering to help a refugee learn English or helping a refugee family navigate their way around in their new land.
My life personally has been enriched by our friendship with refugee families from Burma (Myanmar), I have one very dear friend from Burma who is like a sister to me. We meet together about once a week, sharing life and Burmese coffee, her family is my family, and my family likewise. I help her with English, she shares stories about growing up in Burma. Our sons' go to school together and are best friends. We share in the ups and downs of each other's lives. I cannot imagine my life without this precious sister in my life. My kids are a part of the Bhutanese kids programs; I volunteer with some of the cutest Bhutanese preschoolers on Tuesday nights. I also have the privilege of driving some of the Bhutanese kids from school to Mission Adelante for LIT; I love the questions and stories I hear from these kids. I love hearing about their day at school, I love that my own kids get to experience life with kids from other places. My family has been blessed, not because we are helping our refugee friends learn about U.S. culture and language; we are blessed because they are teaching us so much about their culture, their traditions, and their lives as outsiders in the United States.
“Now, now, is the time for the Church to be the Church. In the past, the Church may have been defined by what the Church is against — but, in this defining moment in history, may the Church be clearly defined by what it is for — and the Church has always been for the stranger, the sojourner, and the welcoming arms of the Savior. How can we not move heaven and earth to let the broken in – when heaven moved and came to earth to let us in?” Ann Voskamp
You can read author Ann Voskamp’s full blog post and hear about how she, her family, and her community helped welcome a refugee family from Syria.
- Please pray with us for Adelante Thrift to be able to breakthrough financially and be able to impact our community in more profound ways.
- Join us in prayer for the Lord to draw people who would be willing to volunteer and serve at Adelante Thrift on a regular basis.
- It’s not winter yet, but it’s getting cold. Please donate your winter coats, clothes and accessories to Adelante Thrift and they will help keep someone else warm during this cold season. Donations are accepted Monday - Saturday, 10:00 am - 5:00 pm at Adelante Thrift, 3720 State Ave Kansas City, Kansas 66102.
- Adelante Thrift is looking for High Impact Volunteers to fill the following positions:
- Volunteer Team Coordinator
- Donation Sorting Associate
- Pricing Associate
- Stocking Associate
- Racking Associate
Visit www.adelantethrift.com for more details
- Observation Nights: Have you ever wondered what goes on at Mission Adelante during a typical program night? Bhutanese Observation Night - November 8; 6:30 - 8:30 pm. Latino Observation Nights - November 10; 6:30 - 8:30 pm.