Making Neighbors out of Strangers
~ Minister of Outreach Patrick Meagher
When the spirit moves, you should move with the spirit! A year and a half ago, as our Mary’s Place shelter was winding down, John Forseth of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service came to discuss issues facing refugees. One moment I recall from the moving presentation was John tearing up unexpectedly discussing the impact of the new administration’s policies on children of refugee families.
“We need to be involved in this ministry!” was the response I heard directly from more than a few of you. I don’t ignore those moments! I also don’t ignore when our sign-up list for further involvement gathers 30-40 names. When Vicar Pam came to us a year ago, she listened to God and decided to make the development of a refugee leadership team her internship project. What a gift to us! The leadership team consists of church members Peggy Martin, Luci Baker-Johnson, Darrell Kirk, Linda Thorson, Alice Rowe, and myself.
Pam also invited Sam Altis from Lutheran Community Services Northwest for another adult forum to share about the Circle of Welcome program. LIRS contracts with LCSNW to settle refugees, and LCSNW developed the Circle of Welcome program to equip churches to participate in the process. In a nutshell, churches agree to be “hands on” with a refugee family, and with the support and guidance of LCSNW walk with them through every aspect of transition from arrival to self-sufficiency.
As a leadership team, we took time to explore this option and consider if it was right for PRLC. We came to a consensus that Circle of Welcome represented further confirmation of God’s gentle nudging in this direction. After saying yes, we scheduled a Circle of Welcome training for our volunteers. I felt further confirmation when 16 PRLC people devoted most of a Saturday in September to attend this training, and with 6 others trained at different locations we have a great group of people ready to get started!
In my time here, I’ve seen a beautiful progression of front lines ministry unfold. First, we hosted Tent City 3 twice, then 6 years of participation in the Mary’s Place shelter program, and now we are ready to be a Circle of Welcome to a family new to our country. All these programs are significant for the tangible love we give out, but also for the ways they form us as individuals and as a community of Christ in the world. Strangers become neighbors, and our hearts fill with the love that flows back and forth. It’s not too late to be involved! Please contact Coordinator Peggy Martin to get in the loop.