Photo: Paul Jeffrey/ACT Alliance
reflections on recent conversations
Recently, Rev. Alan Dicken, Week of Compassion's Associate for Immigrant and Refugee Response, spent a week in the Ohio Region, bringing together congregations and resettlement partners to make connections about the ongoing work and future possibilities in caring for new neighbors in their communities. Churches asked questions, shared insights, and discovered ways to partner for the good of those around them, offering welcome and hospitality in ways large and small.
Alan offered brief reflections and photos from each stop of the Refugee Response Tour:
What a joy it was to join Disciples leaders from all over Ohio in October! Ohio was a wonderful host, with fruitful gatherings where resettlement offices and church leaders from all over the state were able to develop new relationships. Together, we were able to learn more about what is happening with refugees in the world and how congregations and the whole region can be involved in faithful refugee response.
In Akron, First Christian Church Stow hosted the International Institute of Akron who shared about the need for home set-up supplies and the ways congregations can take up collections for refugee families who are being resettled weekly in the Akron area.
Disciples Christian Church, which has a rich history of refugee support, connected other Disciples churches in the Cleveland area to the United States Committee of Refugee and Immigration (USCRI) Cleveland offices. Three USCRI representatives came to speak with over a dozen of Disciples leaders regarding the needs for newcomers who come to call Cleveland home.
First Christian Church Wauseon shared space for a rich conversation about the situation facing refugee populations and how congregations can be actively involved in helping to support the needs in Toledo, Columbus, and remotely in more rural northwest Ohio towns.
The resettlement offices in Dayton, through Catholic Charities Miami Valley, opened their doors to Disciples in the area to learn more about transportation volunteers, conversation partners, and ways that volunteers can connect with refugees even for an hour or two per week.
Heartfelt Tidbits hosted Cincinnati area clergy and shared their unique opportunities to come alongside refugees in community gardens, school support, and in connection to neighborhood programs around the city. Disciples clergy gathered together for a district dinner and we heard more about support programs in the city.
Chauncy Christian Church of the Hocking Valley Parish welcomed leaders from around the Athens and Jackson area for delicious donuts and dialogue about refugees who come to Ohio University - and discovered how close Columbus is for direct service projects and setting up houses for refugees who land in central Ohio.
Community Refugee and Immigration Services (CRIS) in Columbus offered a tour of their facilities and engaged Columbus area clergy in conversation regarding their volunteer coordination programs and how churches can serve as welcome teams. St. Andrews Christian Church leaders shared how their involvement as a CRIS Welcome Team has blessed their church and community immensely as they’ve worked with an Afghan family over the past year.
Although each site had vastly different conversations, each resettlement office had different needs for volunteers, and each church had different levels of volunteer capacity and engagement, each place had the same Spirit at work. Regardless of where a refugee comes from, what their background is, or where in Ohio they might be, there are chances for Ohio Disciples to be welcoming communities of support. Together, we learned that no matter how large or small, urban or rural a church may be, any Ohio Disciple can make a huge impact by being part of a welcoming refugee response.
As congregations consider how to faithfully and effectively engage in new refugee support or continue existing ministries, Week of Compassion is honored to join in conversation, education, and action to support refugees throughout Ohio. Thank you for hosting me, and thank you for joining in this vital region-wide commitment of support for refugees.
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