Pictured above- refugees fleeing Syria during their civil war.
When I lived in Tampa I worked extensively with refugee populations. Refugee is a status that may be granted to people who have been persecuted on account of race, religion, nationality, and/or membership in a particular social group or political opinion. A refugee is a person or a family that has to flee their home and country– often without much notice.
For example, many Syrians had to flee from Syria during the civil war that erupted in 2011 and still continues to this day. Many Syrians walked great distances, sometimes hundreds of miles, in order to reach safety. Sometimes this safety was found with relatives living elsewhere. Often safety came in the form of a refugee camp.
A refugee camp is a place for refugees to live when they have no where else to go. At these camps, refugees may apply for official refugee status with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). If granted, they may request approval to immigrate to a safer country.
Each year thousands of refugees apply to come to America in order to start a new life. Refugees undergo multiple rounds of background checks and interviews by the State Department and Homeland Security. After an extended period of time, a small handful of refugees are granted permission to immigrate to the United States.
Upon arrival, refugees are provided services for the first 90 days in the country. After this time, refugees are expected to be able to provide the finances for rent, food, clothing, and other basic needs. Many refugees are still learning English during these first 90 days. Others are dealing with the physical or emotional stresses that result from fleeing one’s country. For these reasons, many end up working at a job outside of their skill set. For example, a refugee may have been a doctor in their home country but end up working as a dishwasher simply because they had to find a job quickly to support their family.
At this point you may be wondering, “What’s with the long history of refugees?”
Unity’s session has voted to allow a refugee family to live in the church manse for one year rent-free. This year long period will allow the family time to learn English and begin assimilating into our culture. This gift of time will provide a greater likelihood for the adults to attain a job based upon their skill set.
The foreigners residing among you must be treated as native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God. – Leviticus 19:34
The dream of housing a refugee family originated within the work of our Compassion, Peace and Justice Team. This team meets once a month on the fourth Thursday. If you’d like to join in their work you can e-mail Sam Sipes at email@example.com. This proposal then went before Unity’s Mission Team and then ultimately Unity’s session.
A Family Support Committee (FSC) made up of Unity members will be responsible for coordinating and assisting the family with needs to ensure a successful assimilation into their new home. We will make you aware of opportunities to help when they become available.
Our first step is getting the manse ready to house a family. Gail Satterthwaite has volunteered to lead the task of getting the manse ready. Gail and Sam Sipes have put together a list of needs. This list includes furniture and household items. I have attached a list of needs below. If you can provide something from this list please e-mail a photo and a brief description to firstname.lastname@example.org. The list also includes tasks that need to be completed before the manse is available for residency. If you are willing to help with cleaning and other household tasks, please send an email to the same address.
Travel is limited right now due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, it may be awhile before a family is able to be housed by Unity. We will update you as soon as we hear more. We are partnering with the Carolina Refugee Resettlement Agency for this project. You can learn more at https://carolinarefugee.org/.
You’ll be hearing more about this opportunity in the months ahead. In the meantime, please be in prayer for refugees around the world as well as the specific family that Unity will house.
This Sunday we continue our summer series on relationships. We will study how to be a good neighbor.
“See” you on Sunday!