Last Tuesday, seven women from Country Club Christian Church met, as they do many Tuesday mornings, in our church parking lot to make the 20-minute trip to Northeast Kansas City. We are a few members of the volunteer team from our congregation that partners with Della Lamb Social Services, a refugee resettlement agency, to ready houses for refugee families. As it happened, the family of seven scheduled to arrive the next day would be the first Syrian refugee family to arrive in the United States as part of the surge program to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees in the United States in the next few months.
As we do for each refugee family, we cleaned the kitchen and the bathrooms; washed and put away all of the dishes, flatware and pots and pans; made beds and generally readied the house for the family’s arrival. When we had finished, the director of Della Lamb shared that she had met with resistance from some other churches about sponsoring Muslim families from Syria.
I wish I could say I was astonished to hear that; sadly I was not. Believing that to be true followers of Christ we have an unequivocal obligation to welcome the stranger and be a neighbor to all, we quickly said that Country Club Christian Church would sponsor this family and provide ongoing needed support. As Christians, we can do no less.
My husband and I were proud to be among the group of Christians and Muslims gathered to welcome the family when they arrived at the airport the following evening. But really, we weren’t Christians and Muslims; we were fellow Kansas Citians gathered to greet a lovely and loved family to our community. We were simply children of God, gathered to welcome other children of God who were in need of our love and support. Jesus never said it would be easy to follow him, and sometimes it is not. But last Wednesday evening it was the easiest thing in the world to greet this Syrian refugee family who left their destroyed hometown of Homs in Syria, spent three years in Jordan as refugees, and had finally come to be part of our community in Kansas City, Missouri.
Whatever reasons others may have had for saying no, I know this without a doubt: I am proud to be part of a congregation that believes that Jesus commands us to be neighbors and welcoming to others, regardless of whether they look the way we look or believe the same things we believe. That’s what Jesus did, and that’s what I believe we must do.
There are many ways to help in the refugee resettlement program: collecting clothing, school supplies, household supplies and furniture, preparing homes, supporting resettlement agencies monetarily, tutoring after school, teaching English as a second language, to name a few. Whether or not your congregation has an opportunity to participate in a “hands-on” way in a resettlement program, you can at the very least educate members of your congregation and others about the plight of refugees, about the difference between immigrants and refugees and about the process required to become a refugee and to be resettled in the United States. Education in this area is critical to dispel scary myths being circulated about who refugees are, how they get here and what happens when they arrive. We owe it to ourselves and to our communities to know accurate facts about this issue.
Find a refugee resettlement agency in your area – http://www.bit.ly/RefugeeResettlementSites
Learn more about the resettlement process – https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2015/11/20/infographic-screening-process-refugee-entry-united-states
Learn more about the ongoing crisis in Syria - http://www.globalministries.org/syria_crisis
Participate in the Middle East Initiative - http://www.globalministries.org/meinitiative
Nancy Lear is a member of Country Club Christian Church in Kansas City, and is a member of the Division of Overseas Ministries and Global Ministries boards.