So, my life group is doing something that I think is pretty cool. We are partnering with a local church, Reformation Lutheran Church, that helps refugees in the country. They help these families become active and contributing members of society. Their ministry is called Lutheran Services Carolina's. The reason we are doing this as a life group is because we desire to actively serve the Kingdom and our community (that’s what life groups at our church do). We've been looking for a way to serve in our city. We hadn't been able to pinpoint a specific “mission” or group of people that we’ve felt lead to help. All of us live in different areas around town, are available at various times, nearly everyone works a full time job and most of us have kids. So this actually fits perfectly with our diversity and strengths as being a very spread out group.
And of course, we all hear the horror stories these refugees have had to go through and want to help them, even on the most basic human level, but didn’t know how or where to even start. Well, we found this to be the perfect starting point and the organization were partnering with has proved to be effective at integrating these families in our society. Our role is to be welcoming, offer guidance and serve these families. Here’s what it’s going to take to make that happen.
First, I wanted to start with a little background information about the families that are coming into the country. They have escaped terrible persecution and terrorist run countries. It's very important to realize that these individuals are NOT the terrorists, these people are the victims. A lot of the refugees come from male dominated societies, so the women will feel a lot of freedom and independence, and the men will most likely not appreciate that right away. Many of them are Christians or some form of mixed Christianity and other religions, so they do have a faith base. A lot of these refugee families have multiple kids, meaning they consist of 4-11 people. Some of the children have even lived their whole lives in refugee camps (8-20yrs). Which makes you wonder, what could make someone hold on for so long? The answer is: hope. These families are so resilient and determined, I have no doubt that they will help make America a stronger country. They will literally be living the American Dream.
When we first started looking into helping a refugee family, we were all somewhat concerned about our level of time involvement and financial strain. We didn't want to take on this commitment lightly, without being able to uphold our end of the responsibilities. Here are some of the things we will be helping our refugee family with.
Our involvement would be a 3-6 month commitment, although we anticipate being available for them longer. Months 1-3 being the challenging, because they have several government appointments that they are required to complete within 7 days of landing on US soil. They also have to have a fully furnished apartment, food, cultural/ESL class, health screening, school enrollments and be looking for jobs (although, not all in 7 days). And they have to do ALL of this in a new country where they most likely don’t speak any of the language. How terrifying and limiting, when you don’t have someone to show you the ropes. That’s where our team and partnership with Lutheran Services Carolina's comes in.
We get to meet our refugee family straight from the airport and get to take them to their new apartment, which is set up by the church. We get the joy of providing them with a fully functional house with food, clothing and furniture (we WILL be taking donations and I will get that info to those of you that are interested in helping out). Then we’ll be available to take them to their government appointments, and we all know how frustrating those can be. The church actually makes all of the initial appointments, we just need to arrange transportation and wait with them. Then it's time for medical appointments and getting them situated with any specific needs that arise. They will all be actively attending a cultural & ESL class, provided for by the church. The kids will have to be enrolled in school and the parents will be on the search for jobs. The church handles the job arrangements and schooling requirements, we would coordinate getting them there until they learn public transportation (which they will also be taught). If any financial needs arise, we would also gladly help fill in the gaps that the government subsidies wouldn't cover.
So, all in all, our “time” commitment is rather minimal (but crucial), and we don't really need to arrange any appointments because the church is already so efficient at that (thank goodness, because we would have no idea). Our main focus will be to get to know our family, help them acclimate to American life and love on them. Also, our group has 12+ members, so this major responsibility isn't just on any one person's shoulders and no one should be burned out. We all get to equally contribute to this amazing opportunity and build in the lives of this family.
Ideally, these families will be self-sufficient in 3-6mo. But honestly, what college student do you know that is self-sufficient 3-6mo after graduating? And they’ve been living in the states, probably, their entire life and know everything about our laws, social norms and culture! We’re not thinking our involvement will end here, nor would we want it to. We want this to be a lasting friendship that will continue to grow for years to come. Of course we're going to want to help them in every way possible, but they should be fairly independent and not need us as much. I suspect it will be harder for us to ease our involvement than them. We're also going to encourage them to make new friends and continue to celebrate their culture. We hope they will enjoy their time with our group, and want to be a part of our church community. Which we, of course, will gladly encourage!
By month 6, it is everyone's hope that they will be fully immersed in our society. The parents will have good paying jobs (at least $10-$12 an hour). Their kids will attend school here, and hopefully college. Ideally, we want them to be involved in local things and we will continue to invite them to anything our group is a part of. They will be as much a part of this community as anyone, and they will only have a short time to figure it out. We're praying that this unique opportunity will show God's love and humble & grow each of our lives as well. We're looking forward to this partnership and investing in the lives of refugee families!
If you'd like to know opportunities where you can help (or just want jump in with helping our family), please leave a comment below, contact me through my “contact” page or message me on any social media outlet. <3 Amanda