Stepping up to serve as a Remote Placement Community Partner (RPCP) required time, talent, teamwork, and some start-up funds, to prepare for a family’s arrival. Yet these investments also led to rewards for Murray Ecumenical Partners and the congregations that they represented.
What makes the work of welcome rewarding?
Since the new family was initially lodged in a house owned by the Presbyterian church, across the street from the Episcopal church, it was easy for members of those two congregations to witness the impact of their welcome and support. As Pastor Brittany observed,
When you donate canned goods or write a check for a charity, you don’t see the beneficiaries. But in this case, we see the children playing in the yard, with balls and toys that some of our members thought to give them. People are getting to exercise their abilities in ways they didn’t expect, and there is renewed energy in our congregation. We are watching this family create a new life here – in a place that we love. That’s powerful.
The experience of sponsoring newcomers can also impact community partners in unexpected ways. “Beyond the food they’ve given us, it’s the experience of being fed, being invited to their family gatherings and expected to show up to birthday parties. We get to experience their hospitality,” Pastor Brittany marveled. “We also experience the humility that comes when you don’t know someone’s language and you have to trust that you’ll be able to communicate somehow.”
As a welcome gift, one of the sponsoring churches hired a local photographer to take photographs of the family in their new environment.
What are some key takeaways from this experience?
There is much that Brittany Sutherland wishes Americans understood about refugee resettlement:
I’d like for people to see what it’s like at these family reunions, see the look on their face when they enter their new house. I want them to hear how eager they are to work and to contribute to this community. I want them to sit at a meal, not understand a single word, and have to communicate with gestures… I wish they could see how human it is, how completely normal the experience is!
There is indeed much to learn from the experience of welcoming refugees. While RPCP teams are expected to guide newcomers through the practicalities of becoming economically self-sufficient, their role is also ultimately to be present to their common humanity and open to mutual discovery. It’s a transformative experience for all involved.
As Pastor Brittany and her team are realizing, three months pass quickly, but even in that short time, there’s room for meaningful growth:
The language barriers, the cultural barriers are not really a problem. We just don’t want to forget something they need. We are trying to help this family, they are relying on us, and the 90- day mark is coming soon.
We are already anticipating that we will need to provide some support beyond the 90 days, but we hope it will be more emotional support, like if they get in a bind, or they have a question, helping them figure out where to get information. Because we are building these relationships, these friendships. They are already planning the next birthday party, and they expect us to be there! And we hope that that kind of thing will continue beyond the 90 days.
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Interested in welcoming a refugee family to your community? Learn more and take EMM’s Welcome Assessment here.