What’s Up with the Refugee Response Committee?
Yes, there is a Refugee Response Committee. And, well, we’re still trying to figure out what’s up.
In response to a growing concern on the local level about developing a Christ-like response to the worldwide refugee crisis, a group from Newberg Friends met on November 8, 2015, in a discernment gathering. The vision was to brainstorm and discern regarding how Newberg Friends and others might respond to the refugee crisis with both immediate and long-term actions, including the possibility of assisting in local refugee resettlement.
The group has since met twice (December 13 and January 10) and has grown to include Friends from North Valley, Tigard, and Mercy Corp. The next meeting is scheduled for February 21 at 5 p.m. in Barclay A, and anyone interested is welcome to attend.
From the beginning there has been interest in exploring the possibility of supporting the resettlement of at least one refugee family in our community, but we have learned there are major logistical challenges to doing that. Because Catholic Charities, Lutheran Family Services, and Ecumenical Ministries of Portland are the federally-designated and funded agencies for coordinating the placement of refugees in the Portland area, it is crucial that families be placed in close enough proximity to these agencies to be able to access critical services, classes, and appointments on a regular basis. However, these agencies are seeking family sponsors, so we are continuing to explore opportunities to partner with them. Lutheran Family Services will hold a Pastors Summit on January 27; Gregg Koskela and Elizabeth Sherwood will attend.
In the meantime, several short-term responses have been carried out or are in process. Some of these include:
• Paula Hampton and about 5 women, age 11-89 sewed 7 bags for hygiene kits and filled them for distribution in refugee camps by Mennonite Central Committee.
• Shawn McConaughey has agreed to be point person to get the word out to NWYM churches about the Refugee Response Committee.
• Rachelle Staley, Erica Brand, and Sandra Fish coordinated the collection of refugee emergency kit items for Medical Teams International, then took a group of youth there to experience the Real Life exhibit and to pack refugee emergency kits.
• The Sherwood family (Newberg and New England branches) made refugee relief a joint family Christmas project, putting together eight adult emergency kits and eight infant kits for Medical Teams International and delivering them to the MTI headquarters in Tigard.
• Gregg took part in a Rumie Hackathon organized by Twila Tschan, held at NFC on December 23, to develop lesson plans for learning tablets. This group uses crowd sourcing to gather and curate educational resources for refugees. Access the website HERE. Beth LaForce plans to involve George Fox education majors in helping to support this project on a more ongoing basis.
• Michelle Akins has connected with Catholic Charities to see what outfitting an apartment for a refugee family entails.
• Tigard Friends Church has discussed the possibility of helping a refugee family through partnering with other churches such as Newberg Friends.
Clearly, we have energy and interest, and we are still trying to figure out what’s up and what’s the best way forward. Some things, like taking on a family partnership, will involve a serious, sustainable long-term commitment. Other things, like refugee kits, are easier.
What would you like Newberg Friends to do? Would you like to help us figure it out? See you February 21 at 5 p.m. in Barclay A!