There is no denying that when it comes to refugee care, the current climate is tense and the future uncertain. It is definitely important to stay engaged big picture and help make sure that our community remain welcoming to refugees. And at the same time, it is also hugely important to stay faithful to our call to serve in ways that may seem small. Today, be encouraged by one of our brothers who is doing Kingdom work in daily ways:
Paul Ongna (known simply as Pablo to many) stepped up immediately almost a year ago when we met our dear friends, the Mayoms. Then kindergartner, Kalamal, needed rides to and from school every day. Kalamal did not speak any English yet, and was understandably nervous about school in an unknown country. Paul drove Kalamal back and forth to school every day for over a month until other drivers were in place. Nearly a year later, Paul still drives Kalamal home from school at least once or twice a week.
From the first day Paul and Kalamal met, all of us around saw a bond form. Kalamal would ask others about Paul, and a classic huge smile appears on Kalamal’s face anytime Paul steps into his line of sight. It was not until recently that we learned a deeper reason behind their connection. From the very first day Paul met Kalamal, Paul would pray with Kalamal in his car before dropping him off at school. At first Kalamal didn’t know English, and Paul didn’t know if the Mayoms were even Christian; still they prayed. After a time, Paul started asking Kalamal, “what do we need to do, Kalamal?” “Pray!” Kalamal would answer. Sometimes a small candy would follow the prayer, which may have assisted in Kalamal’s enthusiasm for the prayers :). Paul began to encourage Kalamal to pray as well. Like many small children, he was hesitant. But thanks to their relationship and Paul’s disarming spirit, Kalamal would attempt to pray himself.
This routine has been running for about a year whenever Paul picks up Kalamal from school. Kalamal is now fluent in English and thriving in school and extracurricular activities. He is a bright, exuberant, and kind little boy. Recently, Kalamal hopped in the back of Paul’s car and initiated, “Paul, we need to pray!!!”
Who knows precisely the effect that Paul’s faithfulness in prayer with Kalamal has had on his little life. We may not find that out on this side of heaven. The Bob Talbert quote comes to mind, Teaching kids to count is fine, but teaching them what counts is best. And the holy words from Proverbs 22:6, Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. May that be a prayer of ours, that when Kalamal is old, he does not depart from the way shown to him by Paul. As author Sarah Bessey says, Thanks be to God who moves mountains. And thanks be to God for the men and women who pick up the stones one after another, after another, until the mountain moves.
At the end of February, the Mayom family will hit their first anniversary of being here in the US. We are so grateful we have had the privilege of getting to know these friends! Below are some of the ways our community can engage:
Hebrew Ulpan Success: On Saturday 21 January, Josephine led about 20 of us in a Hebrew Lesson, or Ulpan. Josephine is a natural in front of a crowd, and everyone involved had a great and silly time. If you missed the Ulpan, stay tuned, because a multi-week series may be coming soon!
High School Exams: Josephine and Jado completed their first semester of exams. Jado passed his history class and Josephine did very well.
Driving: Flora passed her road sign test and Josephine is starting driver’s education. Both Flora and Josephine are ready to start practicing driving. We are so proud of them for moving towards this goal.
Driving Practice: Flora and Josephine need driving practice, first in parking lots, and then on the road.
Taxes: Flora and Bruno will need assistance filing their taxes.
Government Paperwork: The Mayoms will soon be able to start working on their Green Card application. The Mayoms could use the assistance of some detail-oriented people in completing this paperwork.
Prayers: In many ways, the Mayoms are flourishing here in Holland. Please continue to pray for their family unity and love, their confidence and independence, and continued relationship growth in the community.
Please contact Kat Schulte with any questions, email@example.com
Christmas time in Refugee Care
This Christmas season as we remember the Middle Eastern refugee who brought salvation to the world, we are reminded of how integral to our call as believers it is to care for the refugees among us.
When the alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”
— Leviticus 19:33-34 and 24:22
“Thus has the Lord of hosts said, ‘Dispense true justice and practice kindness and compassion each to his brother; and do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.’
— Zechariah 7:9-10
Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.
— Hebrews 13:1-2
One of the biggest items on our hearts right now is the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo. In this season where we celebrate the anticipation of the coming Christ, our hearts ache for Christ to redeem this tragedy.
The below articles have been helpful in providing ways we can support and act in this seemingly helpless situation. Please review the sites below and consider how you can engage. And please continue to pray for the precious children of God who are trapped in the middle of this war:
The World Changing Art of not being a Sham this Christmas
We Welcome Refugees
We continue to be blessed by knowing the Mayom family. As we enter into Christmas, we want to ensure that they feel at home here for their first Christmas in Holland. If you would like to be a part of providing gifts or community during the Christmas break from school, please contact Kat Schulte at 616.430.9541 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
How Can I Help?
Refugee Update 3/30/16
On Saturday, March 16th, a crew gathered once again in Pillar's basement to listen to a few stories: the story of our sister Rebecca Deng as she recounted her experience as a refugee from South Sudan, and the stories of a neighboring congregation, Faith CRC, as they've experienced refugee resettlement over the past decades.
Stories like these are those which remind us that we are part of a larger story, one that God has been and is working to accomplish in our world. And we are invited to be a part of that story of redemption. We have the opportunity to participate--and here's what you need to know right now.
Kat Schulte has been approved into the role of Director of Refugee Care at Pillar Church. Kat has emerged as one with a particular passion for and skillset in this mission. She will be leading and teaching us, as she herself is learning, what it means to be a congregation that not only "welcomes in the stranger" (Matt. 25) but also loves and empowers along the way.
Kat is in the process of organizing efforts to support a refugee family who God has brought into our midst--the Mayom family. If you want to know right now how you can be involved in their lives, email Kat: email@example.com or text: 616-430-9541.
Stay tuned to this page for more information coming soon.
Refugee Update 1/16/16
Pillar is in a process of continuing to discern where God is leading us in the way that we might be proactive in the worldwide refugee crisis. We've had the second of a number of planned meetings to open up the discussion around our action and what it might look like for us as Pillar Church and as representatives of the Church at large.
Saturday morning, about 40 Pillar members and friends met again in the basement to continue the conversation on the worldwide refugee crisis. We invited Deb Hoekwater, who is on staff at Bethany Christian Services, to help us gain a better understanding of the specifics of the process of refugee co-sponsorship.
After some learning and good discussion, we finished the morning together with a time of prayer. Those present were encouraged to consider the skillsets that they have been particularly given and gifted by God for the sake of his glory, and to prayerfully consider if they may be called to serve in this unique way in our city and in our world.
As we look forward, please pray for God to use each of us in the way God knows best.There are opportunities for volunteering, being on a more dedicated task-force, and for a larger role in the leadership of this opportunity. All are needed, and so please pray that hearts might be shifted in this direction and that God provides the workers who are needed.
See below for a few of the resources Deb shared with the group on Saturday. Some of this information may help in further understanding the refugee process and the needs of the situation should we embark on it. More information may be uploaded as it becomes available. Or, to learn more about Bethany Christian Services and what they do with refugee resettlement, check out this link: https://www.bethany.org/other-services/refugee-services/resettlement
Our next step as a church will be committing to the different roles that are available for this process. As someone steps into place to lead the process as we pray will happen, we can move forward as a church as well as start connecting to and learning from other churches who are in this with us. A hope is that in a next meeting to come, we can hear more from those who are in the good world already and that we can start planning for those steps.
The handouts from the last meeting are included below. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know if you would like to be involved. Blessings!
Previous Refugee Crisis Updates
Pillar's congregation has been discerning and praying about how to respond to the worldwide refugee crisis. We are currently in the process of learning about the potential of co-sponsoring a refugee family with Bethany Christian Services. We are keeping our hearts and minds open to this possibility.
Over the course of a few months, we are meeting and learning together in a series of conversations. On December 12th, we met for a time of "Discovering" what it means to be a refugee. Kris VanEngen and Kate Kooyman from the CRC's Office of Social Justice joined us and presented information on this topic and helped answer questions.
One helpful tool Kris and Kate shared with us that day was a Power Point they created on the subject of Refugee Resettlement. If you're interested in taking a look at this document, see the following google docs link: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1kF4h-ZY3ZNRFAwoczuFjHhnNegMDIBF4syj5NOsm9i4/edit?usp=sharing
Our next conversation, called "Dreaming", is taking place on Saturday, January 16, at 10am, with Deb Hoekwater, who works for Bethany Christian Services. She will give us a general overview on what it would look like for Pillar to co-sponsor a refugee family with Bethany.
A hope moving forward from here will be to have a further conversation or two. More information will be coming soon, but this may include hearing from laypeople in the West Michigan area who have been already involved with refugee resettlement, and even conversations with refugees who have gone through this process already and who have found a home in the US.
Stay tuned. Please keep your own heart and mind open to what God might be stirring in you, during this time of discernment.