Welcoming the Stranger: Bishop Janice Riggle Huie Rallying Good Samaritans to Help Refugees through Advent Offering
This fundraising campaign will support both the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and The United Methodist Church of Germany where congregations are extending extravagant hospitality with meager resources.
Around Thanksgiving, Bishop Huie heard heartwarming—and alarming -- news from German Bishop Rosemarie Wenner of how United Methodist churches there are helping refugees with resettlement, but expecting the needs to outweigh the resources in coming weeks. Germany alone is expecting to receive and resettle over a million migrants. “It is a great sign for the connection in mission that our conferences support each other in the ministry with refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq,” notes Bishop Wenner. “We have established a fund to support local congregations in their work with migrants and would be grateful for any support the Texas Annual Conference might provide.”
According to Bishop Wenner, one of her Berlin area churches opened its doors in recent weeks to provide a café to feed refugees and a friendly environment for children to play and learn. “In the north area, one of our churches has invited refugees to freely use the facility kitchen, and members join with them at tables which reflects deep Christian values as these families seek a home for their spiritual needs as well as physical needs.” Additionally, she appointed an Iranian pastor to a small congregation near Nuremberg to start worship services in Arabic, and he is expanding his ministry via SKYPE.
A Personal Invitation
“Worldwide,” adds Bishop Huie, “there are more refugees today than at any other time since World War II, and every refugee assistance organization is stretched to the limit. My heart is heavy as I pray for the thousands of refugee families making their way from Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, Lebanon and Somalia to a new life in Germany or another country in the European Union. We also expect that some of these families will be granted asylum in the United States and settled in the Houston area.”
She adds, “As always, the United Methodist Church is at work in this situation, and I want to invite you to help these refugees—those still in process in a migration camp, those already in Germany being assisted by sister United Methodist congregations, and those still in war zones frightened and praying for peace.”
First and foremost, Bishop Huie is asking the Texas Conference to pray for the refugees and sister churches abroad. “Secondly,” she adds, “I pray you will give generously for these sisters and brothers. Half of your gift will go directly to UMCOR’s $2.1 million goal to provide humanitarian help for refugee families all over the world as they make their way out of danger. The other half will be sent via the connection to the United Methodist Church in Germany.”
Additional Opportunities to Make an Immediate and Personal Impact
According to Ali Alsudani, Interfaith Ministries of Greater Houston has extensive expertise and a successful track record in refugee work. Interfaith Ministries helped resettle over 1,200 refugees in 2014 and over 1,400 so far this year, with 93% being self-sufficient within their first six months.
“The Texas Annual Conference is working with Interfaith Ministries to provide training to congregations and individuals who are willing to help sponsor refugee families by underwriting some of their basic resettlement expenses and helping them transition to their new culture,” adds Rev. Diane McGehee, Missional Excellence Center Director for the TAC. “We are confident that the churches of the Texas Annual Conference will respond with extravagant generosity to this relief effort as they have in the past and that we will lead the way in compassionate ministry for these families.”
Congregations and individuals or families interested in receiving this training in 2016 should contact the Center for Missional Excellence at firstname.lastname@example.org. They will be notified about training dates and additional information. Those wishing to underwrite resettlement expenses by sponsoring a family can learn how to fund this Interfaith Ministry at: www.imgh.org.
“Under the UMCOR and Global Ministries banner, the UMC’s response to this crisis is being guided by four principles:” shares Diane, “1.) the right to stay and flourish in one’s own country of origin; 2). safe passage for those with no viable alternative but to leave; 3.) welcoming and belonging as core principles of our faith; a process wherein migrants, refugees and receiving communities work together to meet needs of new arrivals; and 4.) support for the returned to help them reintegrate with dignity into their home countries after deportation as persons made in the image of God.” She adds, “I know they can and will use all of the money we can raise. They have already expressed gratitude for our generous conference in advance.”