A Blessed Christmas to you, my friends!
As I ponder what these last few days before the Nativity might have meant for Mary and Joseph, I can’t help but see the connection between their journey to Bethlehem and flight to Egypt with the travels of so many refugee families searching for a new, safe home. I remember well, despite all the years that have passed, the strong desire I had to create a “nest” for my new baby toward the end of my pregnancies. I loved the attention I got from my OB/GYN doctor and all my friends who were eager to offer their support. I know that Mary didn’t have a baby registry set up with Amazon and likely there were no baby showers providing all her newborn’s needs but I can imagine that she was longing for a safe, warm and clean bed and the local midwife’s attentions when her time came. Joseph, as a carpenter, very likely didn’t have much experience with the women’s work of labor and delivery. And then, just when the new family might have felt a bit secure, God reveals the danger that they are in should they remain in Bethlehem so off they flee to a new, safe home where they will be strangers, refugees in this new land. In so many human ways, they were on their own in this endeavor much like the refugees who are longing to come to a country of safety but where everything will be new to them – new languages, new customs, a whole new life.
As I consider these thoughts and what I want to write to you this week, I feel I owe you an apology. Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM) has been posting weekly videos during Advent and I haven’t shared them with you – not for lack of desire but out of a lack of attention. I am so sorry. This week’s video message is given by the Rev. Canon E. Mark Stevenson, Director of EMM:
Canon Mark reminds us:
When we reach out to help a refugee, we experience God’s promise of peace for the world. When we walk alongside a family that has run from death we cannot help but bathe in divine grace. When we bring a child to this land of hope we come to know the depth of our faith. When we give a refugee a new place of belonging, God’s will is fulfilled.
The other three videos can be found here – https://vimeo.com/emmrefugees. Even though I am late getting these to you, the good news is that it’s not too late to share in the work of supporting refugee resettlement. There is still so much to do!
If you’re like me, you’ve been watching with some concern as our President-Elect names those who will make up his cabinet and advisors. For me, many of these individuals do not seem to share the same perspective on issues that I hold dear. We all have heard the rhetoric about immigration, sanctuary cities and refugee resettlement. Now is the time we have to speak the truth to our family, our friends, and our community – including our wider, social media community. EMM sent an email this week that reminded me of the urgency:
In the aftermath of the election, it has become even more important to communicate the powerful and amazing ways refugees enhance and strengthen our communities.
We encourage you to utilize this messaging toolkit from
Welcoming Refugees designed to help those who work with or on behalf of recent refugees deliver strong messages that will encourage both community leaders and policy makers to take action on behalf of refugees in their area.
Key components of this Reframing Refugees Toolkit include:
- The Power of Reframing
- Assessment of Your Audience
- Winning Message Themes
- Storytelling Tools
- Examples and Samples
- Tools and Resources
Here’s the link to the Toolkit – http://files.constantcontact.com/14dca6bf401/b697ef62-897c-402f-87b3-d3d4239cb611.pdf
In previous blogs, I shared the vetting process for refugees yet, despite that, I still hear from those who believe that refugees can merely get on a plane and come without significant background checks. As we know, this is not the case but clearly we still need to inform others. And, as EMM points out, the specifics of our involvement has changed since the election. We know the details of the resettlement process so we can continue to share the story on social media as we try to refute the false news that has seemed so prevalent lately. Each of us has a wide circle of friends. Imagine if each of our friends shared the story with their circle of friends.
Are you still wondering what else you can do to support refugees? EMM posted an article this morning that tells the story of what one group has done motivated by all the tragic news and heartbreaking images coming from the siege of Aleppo. The parents of Near North Montessori School in Chicago is trying to raise $8000 to help a refugee family settle in their city:
“There’s such a feeling of people wanting to help right now,” Shawn Michael, whose four children attend Near North Montessori, told me. “It’s impossible to watch the news and not feel like you have to take some kind of action.”
The parents are working with RefugeeOne, a resettlement organization founded in 1982 to assist refugees become independent and self-supporting members of their communities. You can read the full story of these parents’ efforts here – http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/stevens/ct-chicago-families-sponsoring-refugees-balancing-1219-20161219-column.html
And you can find more information about RefugeeOne here – http://www.refugeeone.org/
What is more representative of this holy season than to help find a safe home for a displaced family? Others are working on similar projects and you can read about these on EMM’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/EMMRefugees/?fref=ts. Tell us your stories, too!
I live in Hillsdale. Sometimes I feel as though I have no opportunity to get involved in this important work because I live so far from the communities in which resettlement is happening. When these feelings come, I remember that I do have a voice – and a blog – and a computer on which I can write letters to those who have the power to make changes allowing us to welcome more refugee families. You also have resources. Let’s work together so that these families find that there is a warm welcome and “a room in the inn” for them, especially at Christmas.
Let us pray –
Compassionate God, make your loving presence felt to refugees and migrants, torn from home, family and everything familiar. Warm, especially, the hearts of the young, the old, and the most vulnerable among them. Help them know that you accompany them as you accompanied Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in their exile to Egypt. Lead refugees and migrants to a new home and a new hope, as you led the Holy Family to their new home in Nazareth. Open our hearts to receive them as our sisters and brothers in whose face we see your son, Jesus. Amen.
Wishing you joy for Christmas and a New Year of peace.
~The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee