Thursday, September 1, 2011

Start with empathy

If you spoke no English, had less than $100 in your pocket and no credit cards or credit history, had left anything you couldn’t carry behind, and were transported to our country, how long do you think it would take you to get established?

Imagine trying to figure out how to enroll your children in school, where the buses went, how to find a job, where to get furniture and basic needs. Imagine if your child became ill in the night, what would you do? Where would you go? Who would help you?

It’s almost unimaginable, isn’t it?

And yet, over 100 people arrive in our community every year and experience this very thing. Yes, it’s true, there are non-governmental agencies tasked with assisting them, but the agencies themselves are stretched to the breaking point and can’t even begin to answer all the questions people have or serve the full needs of each family.

That’s where the church has to step up. The Bible repeatedly tells us that we are to welcome the stranger in our midst. We must, by Divine decree, help our new neighbors in need. Shouldn’t our hearts desire be to help these new Americans because the love of Christ compels us to show mercy as we have been shown mercy?

Many of the refugees are moving into our neighborhood, just east of Zion. Why? Because of many of the apartment complexes in this neighborhood are owned by privately and the owners and managers are willing to work with the refugees and with their assisting agencies. Our neighborhood also has a vacancy rate high enough to allow people to move here.

You can imagine the effect on the local school? According to the principal, whom I met with last week, our local elementary has 100 new families this school year. 37% of the student body is now “English Language Learner” - meaning that English is not their native language and they need special help in learning English. Unfortunately, funds for assisting the school are not available from the district. We could just shrug our shoulders and say, “Oh, well. Another cut back.” Or, we could see this as an opportunity for the church to be the church and represent Jesus and come and redeem the whole situation by helping in any way we can.

How would we help? In whatever way we could. We’ll be publishing a list shortly of needed supplies. The school is also in desperate need of volunteers. Stay tuned.

We need you to continue doing what you’re doing. We need you to continue volunteering to drive the van and keep moving “at risk” children to school and back. We need you to keep donating your furniture and clothing to the clothes closet and furniture ministry.

We need beds. It’s a strange ask, I know, but we are currently in need of about 40 single beds. Entire families are sleeping on the floor and while it isn’t a life or death issue, it is an issue of dignity. I’m working with Slumberland to try and see if we could purchase new beds at a discount as our supply of “recycled beds” just can’t keep pace with our needs.

We are happy to announce that the garden plots we intend to be used by refugee families are moving closer to completion and should be ready next spring for cultivation.

We need families in the church to volunteer to be “mentor families” for new arriving refugee families. We know this is a big ask, but it needs to happen. Imagine getting together with another family who has learned English enough to communicate and sharing meals and faith and life together, and helping each other through all the ups and downs of life. We have member refugee families at Zion right now waiting for this opportunity. Please, prayerfully consider this opportunity and talk to Pastor John.

So which will it be? Will we step up and model for the world the love of Christ? Or will we be the priest or the Levite in the story Jesus told about the Good Samaritan, and just say we are too busy and walk on? I am confident in this church’s ability to respond to needs in our community.

Did you notice? I haven't even mentioned the incredible opportunity to share Christ with people? If you're into evangelism, you need to be getting behind this.

Thanks for reading. God bless. PJ

1 comment:

  1. PJ - for what it is worth, I love reading this blog entry and have done so over and over and have also shared with others in DM as well. God bless. CCG.