Welcoming the Stranger – Part 1
At Grace, we continue to find ways to assist and encourage our new refugee neighbors who come to Wichita under the auspices of the International Rescue Committee, IRC.
- This winter some of the warm coats you may have donated to Economy Corner could be helping keep a new neighbor from Africa warm.
- At Christmas time, many generous Wichitans bought gifts for individual refugee families.
- Grace’s Economy Corner team partnered with our refugee team to sponsor a family, providing them a set of lovely china dishes and gifts for each child.
- Then, some of Grace’s refugee team members joined more volunteers from other churches and groups to wrap the gifts.
- Several IRC offices became wrapping centers full of enthusiastic youth and adults who wrapped each family’s gifts – lots of warm hats and gloves, art supplies, games, toys and more, in bright papers – and tucked them back into individual family bags for delivery later.
– Carolyn Benefiel
Welcoming the Stranger – Part 2
Several days later more volunteers gathered at the IRC office and toted the packages lining the hallways to their cars and made a caravan to a large apartment complex. A staff person accompanying each group knocked on the door to announce who it was and then the presents had been deposited in the family’s living room. Usually other family members would appear to see what was happening. Several children were assisting in these deliveries, and though there were obvious language barriers, they quickly found ways to communicate. When a five-year old in one group spontaneously surprised the resident mom with a giant bear hug, she quickly grabbed her phone and directed her children to pose on the porch with the gift-bearing children.
Welcoming the Stranger – Part 3
My first day of volunteering at IRC was August 18, 2016. On that day, I drove a Congolese mama and her two young children to finish their health screenings.
Since that time, I have transported people to the social security office to apply for their green cards, to elementary schools to enroll their children, and to doctor appointments
I have interacted with people from the Congo, Sudan, Eritrea, Iraq, Syria and more. I have heard many foreign languages, but I somehow managed to communicate at least the basics.
Today, I helped with an English class where students learned to answer questions like, “How are you feeling?” “Are you sick?” and “Where are you from?”
On every occasion, I am filled with awe at these incredible people who are starting their lives over in Wichita, Kansas. People of every skin color, nationality, and religion come together in one place with the goal of arriving from “Harm to Home” (IRC’s motto). It is my firm conviction that the least we can do, as Christians and residents of Wichita, is help welcome them to their new home.
-Erin Mae LewisShare