Photo: Paul Jeffrey/ACT Alliance
Disciples Churches Respond to Refugee Crisis
In recent weeks, many congregations have been working to welcome Afghans to their local communities. Across the country, Disciples have been setting up apartments, collecting food and stocking kitchens, and helping enroll children in school—just a few of the details that need to be taken into account when a family starts life in a new country and culture.
Week of Compassion has long been committed to supporting the needs of resettled families. Now, there is a growing urgency to create pathways for newly arrived refugees to integrate into their new communities. With the high number of families who have been evacuated due to the collapse of the Afghan government, local and federal agencies alone don’t have the capacity to support that volume of people arriving in the U.S. in a short amount of time.
At a recent meeting, the Week of Compassion Board of Stewards reaffirmed the priority of refugee work and made the decision to invest more resources in supporting local congregations as they welcome new neighbors. In the weeks and months ahead, Week of Compassion will develop and expand its capacity and resources to provide tangible support for churches as they engage with their local resettlement offices and respond to local needs.
Rev. Jake Caldwell, Chair of the Week of Compassion Board of Stewards, shares “As political unrest continues to fuel the global refugee crisis, the Week of Compassion Board of Stewards recognized resettlement as a missional priority for the church. Therefore, it’s important for this ministry to deploy the gifts of our faithful donors to equip our congregations to be the hands of Christ, welcoming those who have been displaced from their homes.”
Week of Compassion will continue to provide congregational support grants to encourage and strengthen Disciples churches in welcoming Afghans. These grants can be used for congregational ministries that help with food assistance, rent, or other needs as they emerge. Building on that model, Week of Compassion will expand staff support and invest other resources for the specific purpose of supporting congregations and partners at the local level in the work of resettlement.
Disciples have a long history of walking alongside communities in times of turmoil and uncertainty. Now, as before, Disciples are called to provide the ministry of hospitality to those seeking refuge and a new beginning.
Week of Compassion’s Executive Director Rev. Vy Nguyen says, “My dad was one of the translators for the U.S. during the Vietnam war in the 1960s, and he had to flee after the fall of Saigon. As I have shared before, the church welcomed us back then, along with thousands of other refugees. At this moment, just as the church welcomed refugees then, we need to work with partners to make sure that those fleeing Afghanistan and other countries have a safe place to call home.”
Churches from Texas to Tennessee, from Florida all the way through the Midwest to the west coast, are preparing to welcome Afghan families. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, churches are embracing neighbors in new ways. The need is great—and in a time when people have been separated in so many ways, Disciples want to make sure that families can unite for good. Week of Compassion is prepared to offer support for the journey, strengthening congregations for the work of welcome and the ministry of hospitality.
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