by Rev. Sharon S Littrell, Ph.D.
Recently we have all had our heart strings plucked by photos of refugees escaping Syria in life boats designed to hold dozens loaded to over-flowing with hundreds of men, women and children. The desire for freedom is so strong they are willing to risk death to reach countries where they are welcomed. We all look at those photos and speak out to help.
Members of the St. Paul's UCC congregation were among those wishing to help. At St. Paul's one woman pledged monthly financial support to help bring a family to Albuquerque. I am all for it. Her offer encouraged me think about how St. Paul's could support such a family for several years. Because I had seen the enormity of the work, I knew we need outside help and support to adopt a family. We needed more than just our small congregation, we needed all the UCCs in our area to join the effort.
We needed to know what would be involved. Reality is a tough blow to idealism. I have a friend who worked with Lutheran Brotherhood to settle families. Here is a synopsis of her job description: help find places for the refugee family to live and assume rent for the first year or so, locate sustainable jobs, insure health care and schools for children, arrange ESL classes and, occasionally, have a family live at her home for 12 to 18 months. It sounds daunting and is not something that a small congregation can do alone. With our sister UCCs, however, we could make the effort and expect success. We could offer the new life that a refugee family had struggled so hard to get. If we tried, we could make a huge difference.
The process to receive a family begins with Church World Service, the organization that UCC/DOC work with disasters. After several emails, they told me that agencies that could help are in Phoenix and Denver and we would need to work through them. I then contacted the other UCC congregations in Albuquerque to see if there was interest on their part; each expressed enthusiastic interest to be part of this effort. Since council approval is required in congregational churches, our next step is to obtain commitment from each congregational council in Albuquerque.
Going forward with this undertaking is where interdependence shows its strength: we know that none of us undertake this effort alone--together we can make a difference. In some ways, we have a feeling that this project will not get off the ground soon because United States has limited immigration and has stringent requirements for selecting families who will come to the states. It may take 12 to 18 months for our dream to host a family to come to fruition but through our early cooperation and communication, the groundwork is in place.
Image By Mstyslav Chernov (Own work)
[CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)],
via Wikimedia Commons