With a renewed sense of urgency to care for those fleeing danger in their homelands, a handful of churches in the Kansas City area are teaming together with one another and partnering with Della Lamb Community Services to welcome our new neighbors with a loving embrace.
Both the Old and New Testaments are filled with commands for God’s people to welcome foreigners, supply for the needs of the stranger, and be a light to all peoples.
Though making headlines again after a few years out of the spotlight, the global refugee crisis has been ongoing for decades. By the end of 2020, there were over 82.4 million forcibly displaced persons worldwide. Adding millions of Afghani persons to that total in 2021, with newly created systems for welcoming many into the USA, has re-heightened the sense of awareness and responsibility many Americans in general –- and Christians in particular –- feel to help these fellow children of God.
Questions and opportunities around the diocese began frantically circulating with this summer’s news of forcibly displaced Afghani families seeking refuge around the globe, and the USA acknowledging that it would take a higher-than-usual portion of parolees (a refugee resettlement term often misunderstood, given its use in the American penal system). As with any crisis response, grassroots efforts developed, partnerships with different agencies were made by different parishes or groups of parishes, and collaborative efforts took creative shapes, such as the renovation of the office space at St. Anne’s, Lee’s Summit, to make a home for a refugee family. Offering what individual churches, groups of churches, and even deaneries could offer, various responses to a new wave in the refugee crisis began taking shape from the start.
The words urgency and rush often go in tandem, but the various faces of a sustained, multi-generational, global crisis need each of those words to find their meanings. The global refugee crisis requires a constant sense of urgency with periods of rushing to accomplish big feats. All efforts, fast and slow, are necessary for engaging in the welcoming work of refugee resettlement. That is the beauty of various churches and collaborative groups across the Diocese partnering with different agencies and supporting different programs, as doing so ensures we can be the sustained hands and feet of Christ in serving our new neighbors both in the immediacy of their arrival and in the ongoing needs in their adjustment to new locales.
Redeemer, St. Augustine’s, Good Shepherd, and Grace and Holy Trinity in Kansas City, as well as St. Luke’s in Excelsior Springs, are collaborating together in partnership with Della Lamb Community Services, one of two, federally approved refugee resettlement affiliates active in Kansas City, Missouri, to support refugee families. Two initiatives are underway: donation drives at each church and the creation of a co-sponsorship team to be actively engaged in the daily lives of a refugee family.
A Co-Sponsorship Team is a group of roughly 15-25 volunteers from the collaborating churches with a variety of skills who commit to journey with a refugee family for up to six months.
With greater-than-typical numbers of refugee families arriving in Kansas City and exponential frequency of arrivals expected long into 2022, the donation drives are sign-up-based lists of items that, collectively, create a welcome kit for an assumed family of four. These welcome kits go far beyond toiletries and batteries (though, of course, include those items), but also include furniture, such as mattresses and chairs, linens, cookware, and more – enough to have a move-in ready apartment available at a moment’s notice for the immediate arrival of a new family. Each church is hoping to collect the majority of the required items to hold until ready to be employed.
A Co-Sponsorship Team is a group of roughly 15-25 volunteers from the collaborating churches with a variety of skills who commit to journey with a refugee family for up to six months. The work begins with setting up a new home, welcoming at the airport, driving to appointments, helping enroll kids in activities, and befriending these new neighbors as they adjust to life in an entirely unfamiliar place. While it might be all-hands-on-deck initially, the average commitment per person is only a few hours per month. The “Co” in Co-Sponsorship means this team partners with Della Lamb to see that all the family’s needs are met. Della coordinates completion of legal forms, language learning, and more technical, case-worker-specific support.
Persons interested in volunteering for the co-sponsorship team from any church in the diocese are welcome
If you or your church would like to join this effort, visit Redeemer Refugee page for more information, and contact the Rev. Isaac Petty, firstname.lastname@example.org. Persons interested in volunteering for the co-sponsorship team from any church in the diocese are welcome to complete the interest form on the website. You may also donate items to fill vacancies on any collaborating church’s donation drive list by reaching out to their designated contact person as listed on the website.
Additionally, Della Lamb is in desperate need of twin- and full-sized mattresses. Per Federal mandate, these mattresses must be new. To donate mattresses individually or through collective donations toward purchasing, please contact the Rev. Isaac Petty.
Both the Old and New Testaments are filled with commands for God’s people to welcome foreigners, supply for the needs of the stranger, and be a light to all peoples. Even toddler Jesus was a refugee (see chapter 2 of St. Matthew’s Gospel). That same Jesus reminds us that loving our neighbors, while passionately loving God, is the essence of God’s way of life for those who strive to live into the Creator’s ordering for creation. As such, all are welcome to join this effort to serve as the hands and feet of Christ in serving our new neighbors.
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- 12-03-2021. Typo in Fr. Isaac’s name corrected, appologies Fr. Isaac. The article byline text was originally omitted, It is now included.