“Resettling” is not easy for refugees, even when local groups elect to support them with various kinds of assistance. But it sure beats living in a refugee camp for 17 years, as the family did whom we are co-sponsoring.
They are originally from the Congo and arrived in the U.S. via Tanzania on October 3, 2016. Their immigration was processed through RefugeeOne, a large resettlement agency in Chicago. That organization is always looking for co-sponsors like us, the recently formed Lake County Resettlement Group. Started by North Suburban Mennonite Church, this group is now a partnership of four congregations and civic-minded individuals. We hope to expand the group as more people express interest.
We are assisting “our” family with rent payments, furniture, household equipment and supplies, and regular mentoring and tutoring visits. Both parents work nights at $10/hour; all 5 children are in school. None of them spoke English on arrival, and they are still struggling. We are finding them very eager to learn and we in turn struggle to begin teaching them the language, our way of life, and how to get along here with very little experience and money.
It turns out to be a most enjoyable and rewarding process! On a recent Saturday I was one of the first three people to tutor the children and, incidentally, the dad. It was fun! We know now to bring more picture books and a variety of games, and to exercise our imagination for seizing natural learning opportunities around the house and beyond.
“Welcoming the stranger” is something Jesus reminded us to do. It takes on greater significance when it’s a long-term commitment. It also results in greater joy when it reaches across denominations and builds a variety of new relationships.