Refugee Response Ministry
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat…I was a stranger and you invited me in…Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.(Matthew 25)
Jesus begins life as a refugee, as his family flees from Bethlehem to escape danger and violence.His ministry proclaims the love and hospitality of God that knows no boundaries.St. Columba’s shares this good news of God’s love through our readiness to welcome and support vulnerable families who arrive in our country in times of crisis.
Forum: Afghan Refugee Sponsorship
On February 12th, we hosted a Forum to hear about the inspiring progress of the three Afghan refugee families sponsored by our church. Hear stories of the families' incredible journeys and how our volunteers have shared their time and gifts to assist them.
Ministry to migrants bussed from our southern border
Latest update on our refugee families:
Click to read: Our response to the current Afghan refugee crisis
In the tense days after the chaotic fall of the Afghan government to the Taliban in August 2021, people in our parish began to come together, recognizing a call to live God’s love by helping another arriving family to make a new beginning.Thousands of Afghan evacuees began to arrive at military bases in Virginia, many bringing only what they could carry.Leaders of our Refugee Response Ministry (Jim Losey, Keri Peister and Jean Ann Wright) have offered valuable guidance to the Episcopal Diocese of Washington as Bishop Marianne Budde called on churches to support the arriving families.
While preparing to sponsor a family for settlement in a neighborhood not far from us, in October the Refugee Response Ministry conducted a successful “coats on the corner” drive outside the church entrance, collecting hundreds of winter coats offered by parishioners and local residents for men, women and children from Afghanistan living in military housing in Virginia.In December the parish contributed much-needed clothing and supplies to refugee families housed in hotels in downtown Bethesda.
In January an informative and well-attended Sunday forum helped raise awareness about the global crisis affecting displaced people, the challenges facing Afghan evacuees, and the rich rewards of volunteer engagement.The Vestry, our church’s leadership council, expressed enthusiastic support for plans to prepare and raise funds to sponsor an arriving family.
The Refugee Response Ministry–now a group of more than 60 parishioners–has submitted an application with the State Department’s Sponsor Circle Program, launched in October 2021 to encourage organizations to provide direct resettlement support to Afghans in communities throughout the United States.
About five years after the arrival of the Khwaja family, we're now awaiting another Afghan family ready to begin their new life. We're excited and hope to share news soon about the family that St. Columba’s will sponsor. The congregation’sgenerous response to the fundraising drive makes us hopeful we now can sponsor two families.
Click to read: How to get involved in support of an arriving family
There are important ways you can help to extend God’s hospitality to a refugee family, ranging from sharing a few hours of your time to a deeper level of engagement.No matter what “skill set” you might bring, your kindness and welcoming spirit can make a world of difference in easing the transition for an anxious family seeking to make a home in a new and challenging environment. Below is a list of committees formed to carry out our mission, along with the names of those heading each activity. Please contact each committee chair directly to learn about upcoming volunteer opportunities.
Our Leadership Team–Keri Piester (Chair), Cami Caudill, Rev. David Griswold, Shelly Gehshan, Margie Trinity, Gardell Gefke, Alice Goodman, Emma Hersh, Jim Klein, Judy Klein, Ann Romig, Carolyne Starek and Catherine Sheehan Bruno–are eager to work with you to support the family we will sponsor.
You can also contribute financially to this effort by giving to the 2022 Annual Outreach Appeal for Ending Family Homelessness and Supporting Afghan Refugees. You can donate at www.columba.org/refugee. To those who have already given to the fund, we offer our deep thanks.
Click to read: RRM Committees for Sponsoring a Refugee Family, Chair(s) & Key Tasks
Welcome & Community Engagement - Chair Catherine Sheehan Bruno ([email protected])
- Organize a welcome meal(s)
- Brainstorm activities to connect family & parish
- Coordinate with St. C’s staff to communicate opportunities to connect with parish
- Help maintain Google Calendar for activities & events
Housing & Furnishings - Chair Emma Hersh ([email protected])
- Locate apartment and sign lease
- Collect and store furniture & new home furnishings
- Organize Move-In Day and Home Set-Up
- Assist family with safety (emergency kit) & maintenance (tool kit/cleaning supplies)
- Stock the family’s pantry upon their arrival
- Provide list of local grocery stores, including Halaal market, & assist w/ shopping first month, including use of Food Stamp card
- Assess clothing needs & provide assistance obtaining clothing needs (identify low cost stores, obtain specific clothing donations, and/or provide gift cards for clothing)
Finance - Chair Gardell Gefke ([email protected])
- Manage RRM budget
- Share budget with refugee family and explain their financial responsibilities
- Provide any needed financial assistance (opening a bank account, creating a budget, preparing taxes, etc.)
- Enroll family for public benefits (SNAP Food Stamps, Medicaid, etc.) & educate family about these programs
- Identify a medical provider for adults & kids as well as dental clinic
- Assess if there are any immediate medical &/or dental needs
- Assist with scheduling any needed care
Employment - Chair Alice Goodman ([email protected])
- Assess job experience & skills of adult family members
- Prepare a resume, if needed
- Help identify available jobs and assist with job applications
- Identify any job training opportunities
- Provide interview prep and follow-up
Communication - Chair Ann Romig ([email protected])
- Prepare monthly brief update on family in a story-telling format for RRM Ministry Group
- Work with St. C’s Communication Team to share updates via website & newsletter
- Take photos at events and activities
- Keep archive/record file of updates and photos
Education - Chair TBD, Carolyn Starek, Educational Advisor ([email protected])
- Enroll children in public school system
- Identify adult ESL classes for parents
- Support parents communication with school via email & parent-teacher conferences
- Provide tutoring/homework help for children, as needed
- Organize conversation opportunities with parishioners to improve English acquisition
- Ensure children have school supplies and technology
- Enroll in summer camp, if interested
Transportation - Chair TBD
- Provide drivers for family to appointments as needed
- Keep volunteers informed of driving needs via Google calendar & email
- Educate the family about public transportation - bus & metro
- Help the family obtain a metro/bus fare card
Term Expires Nov. 2024
Term Expires Nov. 2024