Photo: Paul Jeffrey/ACT Alliance
Be The Neighbor
introducing a new partner
Week of Compassion, alongside our partners and local churches, has been actively engaged in refugee work since our beginning nearly 80 years ago. Over the years, especially in the last two decades, the refugee landscape has changed dramatically. Increasing numbers of refugees and the millions of people displaced around the world continue to call us to respond.
Social services have decreased over the years, making the transition for refugees even more challenging. We recognize the evolving landscape and continue to change our work to provide hope and healing to vulnerable populations. More importantly, we are not doing this alone. We have seen many of our partners creatively adapt to best serve and meet the needs of refugee populations today.
Connect Ministries and Reach Beyond Mission are two Disciples-led ministries that have empowered service-learning trips focused on many areas of community need—including immigration concerns and refugee response—and how churches can be involved. This summer, Week of Compassion sponsored two young adult interns to serve with Connect Ministries in Fort Worth, Texas, helping to coordinate the summer’s mission engagements.
Rev. Alan Dicken, Associate Director for Immigrant and Refugee Response with Week of Compassion, met with groups throughout the summer and visited sites in Fort Worth and Austin. He joined visiting groups as they served on a farm run by and for refugees, volunteered at resettlement agencies, spoke with community leaders, and learned from refugees directly.
Just last week (September 15), Connect Ministries and Reach Beyond Mission merged to launch Be The Neighbor, a justice-based service-learning trip ministry empowering youth and adults to put faith into action through service and justice in ways that are relational, sustainable and dignity-affirming. Be the Neighbor trips include direct service, relational ministry, immersion experiences, and education.
Alongside many others, Week of Compassion is excited to be a partner with this new ministry, and eager to see the ways churches will be involved not only on their trips, but also as they carry all they learn and experience home to their own communities. Refugee response is an increasing focus in communities nationwide, and churches that are prepared with a theological foundation and practical resources are vital partners in the work. Rev. Allison Lanza, co-Executive Director of Be The Neighbor, is enthusiastic about the partnership, and the ongoing wider reach these immersion experiences provide: “Personal engagement is powerful, and these connections continue past the one-week experience. Through the relationship with Week of Compassion, participating churches continue to find support in their commitment to welcome their neighbors in their own community!”
Alan Dicken reflects on the Be The Neighbor experience.
The church is constantly finding new and creative ways to respond to refugees in our communities. Every time we take the opportunity to be the neighbor, partnering to alleviate suffering throughout the world, we see God’s people transform suffering into hope.
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