Generosity – Refugee Resettlement

Ellen Graden   -  

It is my privilege to share with you the work of the Refugee Resettlement Committee, just one of the many outreach groups supported, in part, by your gifts to White Memorial. When the committee was formed in 2017, we chose familiar words from Matthew as our guiding scripture, believing that our church had the will and the resources to support a newly-arrived refugee family.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me.

Yes, we could do that. We could be generous.

In 2018, we welcomed a family of five from the Congo, a family that had been housed in a refugee camp in Tanzania for more than 10 years. We supported them in astounding ways for about a year, including through the birth of a baby, until they eventually resettled out of state.

Then in 2021, when Afghan refugees began arriving in the Raleigh area, we knew once again our church could respond to this need. And we did! Church members donated everything needed to furnish a three-bedroom apartment for four women and a 12-year-old boy—three separate families, really. Members of this church give generously of their money–yes, but just as importantly they give generously of their time and their compassion: driving them to all sorts of appointments, sending the middle-schooler to summer camp and taekwondo, giving English lessons, helping them with asylum applications, drivers’ permits, driving lessons, and now even cars. And we celebrated birthdays, the latest just a few weeks ago with birthday cards, a cake and presents. The story behind this story is that our friend doesn’t know when her birthday is. She came with three different documents, showing three different dates of birth, even different years of birth. We chose the one she thought might be the most accurate and then we had a party. The next day we received the following email from her, one which brought tears to our eyes:

I am very grateful to all of you dear ones and I am very happy that I found the best and kindest family here. I will never forget these difficult days when each one of you did everything you could to make Mehdi and me happy. We lived in a country where we didn’t even know the exact date of our birth. Every man who worked in the office would write the date of birth for us. My father had recorded it in his notebook, maybe it is accurate, but today you celebrated the same date for me here and you made me very happy. I was reminded that we too can be happy, be independent, and have a date of birth. Thank you to all of you and I will remember this memorable night until the last moment of my life and I pray for everyone’s rights. I love you all, my kind family.

Yes, we have been generous, but the receipt of this letter tells us that anything that we have given has come back to us multiplied many times over. That’s how generosity works.

If this kind of outreach speaks to your heart, we welcome your involvement and contributions. Let Associate Pastor for Outreach Gloria Johnson know of your interest. You will find joy and gratitude through this important and very satisfying work.

Ellen Graden