Memorial Drive UMC Members Experience the Joy of Helping Two Families with Resettlement in Houston
Born in Vietnam, Memorial Drive UMC member Rick Ngo and family bounced between several refugee camps in the mid 1970s before a small church in Panora, Iowa sponsored them and helped them resettle in the United States. “Thankfully, the members of that tiny church gave us an apartment, helped my dad find a job, and got my siblings enrolled in school,” he recalls. Rick’s wife Nicole recalls four churches that sponsored her family as they resettled to the United States. “With the refugee crisis in the headlines in recent months, God put it on our hearts to tell our personal story in our church and on video, and to help take the fear out of this incredible ministry opportunity here in the States,” adds Nicole.
As a member of the YMCA of Greater Houston’s board for the International Services Center, Rick learned of the urgent needs of a family from Syria and one from Afghanistan as they resettled in Houston. Rev. Daniel Irving, Lead Pastor for The Journey Worship Community at Memorial Drive UMC knew that the church would jump at the opportunity to reach out with hospitality and serve God by loving our newest neighbors. Shares Daniel, “ The refugee crisis was in the headlines, but it took on a personal tone as Rick and Nicole shared their story with our congregation. It put a familiar face on what seemed to be a foreign story. So it was wonderful to see our congregation respond to these refugee families who truly are our neighbors. In doing so, I hear the echo of Jesus' words, when I was a stranger, you welcomed me. I'm proud to serve such a generous and Christ-like congregation.”
Explains Nicole, “People and families leave for various reasons, but typically they flee war torn countries, leaving everything behind and risking everything to escape. We shared the needs of our Syrian and Afghanistan families with our congregation prior to Christmas and thus began a very special relationship with them that continues.”
Members are collaborating with the YMCA International Services to provide home and personal necessities for both families, even visiting these newest residents of Houston to learn more about their story. “Several of us visited the families and brought our children and it was a wonderful experience,” adds Nicole. “They have very basic apartments and furniture but invited us all in to visit. They graciously served us coffee and juice as we took time to get to know one another. The family from Afghanistan speaks English quite well so our kids were able to ask the father about their home country and a brief history of how they came to the US.” Nicole still recalls the faces of the Syrian family, particularly one of the five boys. “The fifth grader does not know anyone in Houston and was so happy to see us and interact with children his age,” she shares. “These families are experiencing a sense of poverty. They have truly lost everything from their belongings to their community and friends and even their relationship with God and self in some cases.”
Brooke Daniel brought her family along for the visit as well. Notes Brooke, “My husband and I feel it is important to involve our two children in opportunities like this that remind us what God wants us to do for others. We have often adopted local families but this was different because we spent an hour with each of these families learning about a new culture, and they were each so very grateful to meet us.” She adds, “When we got back in the car, my daughter told us her heart felt very full. As a family we are excited to learn what else we can do to help these families have a happy transition to Houston.”
Memorial Drive UMC members are seeking other churches and training to expand their resettlement ministry as a next step. “The heart of our church is open, we just need to know how to best help, but I know it will be more about relationships than things. Perhaps we can offer tutoring and help families with budgeting. At the end of the day, our families will be seeking to heal these losses by befriending these new Houstonians and show them the love of Christ.”