After months of discernment, 27 members (including a few friends) of Clemmons Presbyterian gathered in January for training from World Relief in order to form Good Neighbor Teams to welcome refugee families to Forsyth County. World Relief is the agency in our area which receives funding both from the government and private sources to assist in refugee resettlement. The folks from CPC received training which typically results in being matched with a family within about two weeks, doing everything from setting up a home or apartment to greeting at the airport and then partnering with World Relief and the family for at least 6 months, providing friendship and relationships. Since a team is limited in size to 15 people, we divided into two teams, and were eager to greet a new family. Then on the same weekend as our training, an executive order put a halt to refugee resettlement. Fortunately a family from Pakistan was already in the process of coming, so one team went into immediate action. Soon after that World Relief paired our second team with a family from Eritrea which had arrived in January but had no Good Neighbor Team supporting them. Because of some health concerns it was late March before the team was able actually to meet the family.
The team working with the family from Pakistan was headed by Penny Welty and enjoyed the excitement of setting up a house in a matter of days, furnishing it with furniture and other supplies from both CPC members and World Relief. They then welcomed the family at the airport providing a first meal prepared by a native of Pakistan. In the following weeks team members developed close relationships as they assisted in everything from learning bus routes to securing identification cards, making connections with area services and beginning class studies. Connecting with health care was crucial and while there were many challenges, it was all eased somewhat by the fact that English was spoken and understood. Team members helped set up a garden and learned to enjoy (and cook!) Pakistani food. After several months of working with this family, the opportunity to reconnect with old friends from home, who lived in California, presented itself. This brought the family the assurance of employment as well as a place to live. While a disappointment to our team which had come to love these folks and think of them as family, it was a perfect opportunity for our new friends------so our team saw them off to California!
The team working with the family from Eritrea has had a wonderful year! The Tewelde family consists of three children (now ages 2, 7 and 9), their parents and an adult male cousin. They arrived speaking virtually no English. World Relief requires that their family’s housing be on a bus line, but the bus route was changed the month they moved in so that transportation became an immediate challenge. The family lives in the Easton community of Winston-Salem. A mistake in the way their information was entered by our own border patrol meant that their Social Security cards were long delayed. Once that was straightened out, both men were almost immediately employed in May. They both pay for rides with co-workers. At the end of the year, one of the men who had been working in a temporary relationship in High Point, was made a regular employee with full benefits. The other has enjoyed baking for Salem Baking (Dewey’s) which has been especially enjoyable in the Christmas season.
Team members have provided transportation for the mom two days per week, to and from English classes at Easton elementary where the older boys attend school. She has blossomed as she has been able better to communicate. Team members have also provided transportation and assistance with health care and area services. This has been challenging but a true joy! We are also helping them to find better housing in a better location and anticipate a move in the early summer.
Sarah Hoyle chaired the team until August when Felicia took over. Currently four team members (Mary Jane Jackson, Jane Brookshire and Gloria Harris) are having weekly (if not daily) contact with the family who have become like family to us. Others in the congregation have been “on call” for all sorts of tasks. The financial support from World Relief ended in June. Our congregation included our Good Neighbor team in its Pentecost Offering which helped in providing some summer activities for the children. The Mission committee further included them in our Angel Tree program providing gifts for the children as well as the adults. And then the church also made a gift to the family to cover utilities for a short while. In a true act of God---the family had almost run out of oil for their heat just as the frigid cold of the end of the year/New Year arrived. The bill for oil is almost exactly the amount CPC provided.
Our church family has the continuing opportunity to meet this family, offering your support, encouragement and love, on Wednesday evenings when we bring them to join in our Wednesday meals and programming. The two older boys are being tutored during this time (by Elizabeth Morris and Julie Holmes) while the adults also receive tutoring in English (Barbara Hurdle). We could use assistance with transportation for this time. They are Orthodox Christian and while they have not been able to come to our church very often, they call it “our church.”
Monthly blog updates can be found on the CPC web-site. “Our family” is truly grateful for all that Clemmons Presbyterian has done for and with them and are so happy to be in the United States where they are safe, have enough to eat, are being educated, have work, and are loved!
Thank you for your support. The gifts of members and friends at CPC through their regular offerings help support John on the Mission field and that he will be visiting with us on the spring.
Check out the latest news of John.
Tewelde Family Update
On Saturday morning as I took the two older boys to get their flu shots, I was amazed once again at how much they have grown and changed in the last couple of months. They chattered in English our whole time together about everything from the beauty of the fall leaves (this is all new to them) to the traffic on Business 40. My attempts at explaining what frozen yogurt is (Z likes strawberry and A prefers chocolate) were more successful than explanations about moving clocks an hour Saturday night. The first question was "Why?" and then "what is going to happen Saturday night?" I knew we were on the right track when Z asked if the bus would come at 6 or 7 on Monday. Everyone was relieved and happy when I told them just to call me if they thought they had missed the bus!
We have three volunteers for tutoring the children and the adults on Wednesdays evenings at the church----so starting November 15, the family will be there regularly for supper, tutoring and children’s choir. Please take this opportunity to get to know them. Just saying hello and introducing yourself is great, and we’ll try to leave room at the table so you can sit with us too. The last time they were able to come, many of you did this and it helped them feel comfortable. Besides that, those of us who have come to love them and call them part of our families would like more of you to share this joy in new relationships!
All the adults continue to thrive. We have spent a good deal of time lately with doctor’s appointments but are on the right track with all that. The men continue to work hard at their jobs and are known by their employers as good and dependable workers. The mom has continued to thrive in her English classes and has made new friends. Her confidence in trying out English is truly remarkable. She is doing very well and is obviously happy in the process.
As I sit here writing on Saturday, I have thought of all the interactions our team has had with the family just this last week alone and I know that over 35 hours of contact has been made…just last week. That’s a lot! And we do it purely out of love. There was nothing but smiles as four of our team met for lunch this week. I had laughed with the dad one day that all the appointments had just led to more appointments but we were on the way to “getting it fixed”. And then laughed with the adult cousin that we had been all over town and still didn’t know what was wrong---but we had medicine and another appointment! Then at the end of the week after another long day of frustrating appointments the mom said, “too much, too much, back and forth, back and forth.” I said to her, “W…., it is a lot, but it’s OK. We love you. We want things to be even better. You are our family.” I then named my own children and family and then named each of them. With a big smile she said, “Yes, Mama Felicia, big family. Like Africa! Big, big family. I am very happy. Very happy here! Winston-Salem is good. Very happy!” And with tears in my eyes I told her I am very happy too.
Come meet these folks. You will love them too!
Refugee Family Update
October 2, 2017
With the start of school the English skills of our Eritrean friends are growing by leaps and bounds! Abraham, the quieter one who is now in 1st grade, is suddenly chattering away. Both older boys have become good at riding the bicycle----and another bike has been donated so they both have their own. Wudase, the mom, is now in English class at the boys’ school (Easton elementary) on Tuesday and Thursday mornings and the report from the caregiver at the school is that she is the star of the class! That may be because everyone in the class except Wudase speaks Spanish so that pushes everyone with their English. Wudase thinks it’s as funny as we do that she is going to be tri-lingual since she’s picking up Spanish words as well. Her English, though is suddenly blossoming and she’s very happy in the class.
Natinal, who just turned two stays at the school with the caregiver during class. I haven’t heard him speaking Spanish yet but his verbal skills are exceptional for a two-year-old……”Stop”, “sit down”, “no”, “hello”, “bye”---of course those words flow easily. The first time I heard him whining, “mine, mine” I thought he was being a typical two-year-old----and then I learned that is the Tigrinyan word for “water!”
The men continue to work hard at their jobs. Debesay has been working since the Spring for a company that is now operating out of High Point. He sews mattress covers. Sewing was a skill he brought with him from Eritrea though he had not used electric equipment. Now that he’s finished a period of training, he has gotten a raise and is very proud of his work. But it’s hard work as he is standing all day. Gobezai continues to work for Salem Baking (Dewey’s)-----making Moravian cakes and cookies which we all know and love! The whole family (including us!) likes that he gets to bring home products.
Some folks at CPC have recently said they are available to help with such things as transportation. And that’s good! We are taking Wudase to and from her English on Tuesdays and Thursdays and so far are able to handle it but we need folks to call if we hit a snag. Also, we would like to be able to bring them to church occasionally----on Sunday morning or even Wednesdays—and it takes two cars. If you’d like to be available to help with that, please contact the church office and they can let us know.
Please continue to remember this family in your prayers!
Felicia Stewart Hoyle
Justin Blizard – Senior
My name is Justin Blizard and I am a senior at West Forsyth High School. This is my seventh year in Gooth as well as my fourth year visiting the Montreat Youth Conference. Out of all the years I have gone, this has been the most meaningful for me.
For those who do not know much about the conference, we go as a Youth Group and do things such as rock hopping, hiking, visiting Black Mountain, and sharing meals together. Outside of this we go into these small groups made up of kids across the conference who come from all around the country. Here we discuss what we learned in keynote speaker sessions and worship and life in general.
This conference was the most meaningful for a multitude of reasons. The conference’s theme was “A Missing Peace” with peace not spelled like piece. With this we talked about the importance of understanding how everyone comes from different backgrounds and has a different identity. From this idea we spoke how it is important to keep this in mind as we interact with others within our world, for the most important concept to live in one’s own life is God’s love.
Samantha Ingraham – Freshman
Hi, my name is Samantha Ingraham. I'm a ninth grader at West Forsyth High School and this summer I went on the middle school mission trip and conference at Massanetta in Massanetta Springs, VA. On the trip we did two days of mission work and the other four days were for the conference.
We did two mission projects. The first one was sorting and packing clothes for Equipping the Saints, who support mission work around the world. The second one was packing sweet potatoes for the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank.
After that we had the Massanetta conference where middle schoolers from North Carolina, Virginia, and surrounding areas come to join together and learn about Christ. At Massanetta we played games, went down a water slide, and did the best hair don'ts ever (for those of you who don't know, hair don'ts are the most ridiculous hairstyles you could see on a person).
I also learned some important things on the trip. The theme of the conference was “Alltogethernow” and I learned that we should all join and live together in Christ despite our differences and backgrounds. I think that is very important and that we should always remember to live that way.
“Are we sponsoring a refugee family?”
My first thought when I was asked this question by a CPC member recently was that the communication about our family must not be getting to everyone-------so please be sure to share this blog update! But then the answer to the question is “yes, but not in the way you may be thinking.” The resettling of refugees is a very different process in 2017 from what it was a couple of decades ago. These days, when an individual or family is given permission by the U.S. government to come to the U.S. as a refugee, they are usually coming through a refugee camp somewhere in the world where they have been waiting for years. It is an involved process with extensive security checks. The U.S. government sets yearly quotas for the numbers of refugees who may enter. In January the President halved the number that was previously in place. That number was reached this summer so new refugees are not coming in. (“Immigrants” and “Asylum Seekers” are different categories from “Refugees”.)
Refugee resettlement is handled through various organizations across the country (I think there are 6 national groups, primarily faith-based) who manage the government funding and the initial resettlement program. The group working in this geographical area is “World Relief” so this is the group with which we partner. In January, over two dozen folks from our church received training to volunteer through World Relief. We ended up forming two groups. One group helped a newly arrived Pakistani family who has since moved to California. The other group was connected to a family from Eritrea (north of Ethiopia). The primary function of our teams has been to form relationships with the families. You can read previous blog posts to see how this has played out. You can follow the links that are on this page.
Now that our Eritrean family has reached the end of their assistance time with World Relief (6 months), we continue as friends with them, bound together by a mutual love, like family. They do not have a car so we often help with appointments and transportation. Their English is improving tremendously, but they still need help with things like calling the landlord for a necessary repair, follow-up with the doctor and getting set up for the start of school.
Just last week we used funds from our CPC Pentecost Offering to purchase school supplies and a bicycle for the boys. We did the purchasing after getting their immunizations completed and they were so excited! A couple of days later I took the boys and mom to their elementary school Open House, then suggested we go back over the supply lists and get their backpacks ready. The boys quickly brought their backpacks out of their closet and showed me they had already done it. Everything was ready on Thursday for Monday morning. Wow!
And then the bicycle-----the two older boys had apparently tried out a bike at the home of another refugee family and were eager to have one. They (boys and parents) insisted that they only needed one. We would have been happy to purchase two since the boys aren’t the same size but respected their wishes and bought one with training wheels, along with a helmet! What joy! (And we can purchase a second bike later.)
We had previously said that we would use the Pentecost Offering funds for summer programs for the boys, but these became available at no charge. Then we said we would buy new shoes (that fit!) but then those became available at no charge as well. And they are all outfitted in clothes too. We are then holding the funds to use as needed. I explained that while “Mama Felicia” had the joy of buying and giving the school supplies and bicycle, these were from Clemmons Presbyterian----and they say “Thank you very much!” with huge smiles and happy hearts.
The Tewelde family has now been in the U.S. for six months! While we have only known them for about three months, this means that the support they have received through World Relief (and the federal government) is coming to an end. The two men in the family now have regular jobs which is definitely cause for celebration! Since they still qualify for community services, they have just enough income to make it on their own. That said, our relationships with them are absolutely vital.
The men pay their co-workers, fellow refugees, for rides to and from work each day. The boys ride the bus to school during the school year, and the family rides the bus to the grocery store and to appointments downtown (World Relief office). Members of our team drive them to doctors’ appointments, and help with scheduling and follow-up. These appointments are difficult enough if your English and understanding of “the system” are good, but simply impossible for our refugee friends alone. We have also provided transportation each morning and afternoon for the boys to go to the YMCA enrichment program at their school, where they also receive breakfast and lunch! They are having a great time at day-camp and their English skills continue to grow by leaps and bounds. We’ve helped the family sort through banking and paying bills. Imagine doing that without transportation, without a computer, and with limited English language skills!
Vacation Bible School has been a real joy this week! This was the family’s first visit to our church, and they have instantly felt welcome. Thank you CPC! The older two boys have participated in classes and “the baby” (he’s almost 2) has played in the nursery with Carolyn. Meanwhile we (Felicia and Sarah) have been teaching English classes with the adults. The men haven’t been able to come every night because of work, but the mom, who has been unable to attend English classes previously, is really soaking it up. We’ve been learning together! English is not simple. The adults’ education in Eritrea was limited, varying from 3-9 years of schooling, but the boys received about 4 years of school in their refugee camp in Ethiopia.
We also learned that they know a lot about the American way of celebrating Christmas because they had seen some American television. We can’t wait to show them the Tanglewood lights! We drew Inessa (who with her family came here as a refugee over 20 years ago) into the room and were able to talk about the Russian Orthodox and Ethiopian Orthodox celebration of Christmas. We know we have a lot we can learn from these friends!
Thanks to your contributions through the Peacemaking Offering, we are going to buy the children new shoes (not hand-me-downs, and ones that fit) and we will see that they are well-outfitted for the start of school.
The family will be at the Dash baseball game with us, and later, as we are able to provide transportation, you may see them at other events. Don’t hesitate to introduce yourself and express your welcome to them. Smiles and handshakes are great expressions of the love of Christ, and our welcoming hearts!
This week’s update on our family from Pakistan is unexpected yet exciting news nonetheless! Penny Welty writes:
It is with very mixed feelings that I share with you the Ayub family has made a decision to move to California to be near family friends from Pakistan. Since their arrival, their long term goal has been to relocate to California so that the girls could all pursue careers in homeopathic medicine and be close to friends from Malaysia that immigrated to California a year or so ago. Recently they reconnected with some old family friends from Pakistan that they had lost touch with for many years. This family now lives in Bakersfield, CA. They have offered for the Ayub’s to come in July and house sit for them (rent free) for 3-4 months as they are traveling home to Pakistan to be with family there. This family runs a salon and while they are away, the Ayubs will run the salon and have the opportunity to collect all the profits during that time. They have spent these past few weeks trying to discern the best future for their family and have decided this is an opportunity for them they should not pass up. They will be close to people who have a shared history with them and whom they consider family. And they will be able to enjoy a similar climate to Pakistan in a town that has a strong Pakistani community.
The Ayubs will be leaving on June 27th. Binish and Mahwish will learn the family business and what needs to be done for the home while their friends are away. Munzza will be caring for some children that their friends take care of with the help of Ali. Maria will continue to work on her GED. They are hopeful that they can save some money during this rent-free period and secure permanent jobs and move on toward fulfilling their goals as there is good opportunity for work for all the family once they relocate. Most importantly, they hope to be able to continue working to get the children’s father/Munzza’s husband to join them in CA from Pakistan where he has been for the last 7 years due to health issues.
World Relief (with our help) has been able to assist and guide the family through many of the important initial steps in acclimating this family to their new country, helping them adjust and find a welcoming home in the U.S. Their records are being transferred to a World Relief office in California which will remain in contact with them and offer guidance.
The entire family is so very grateful for the support that CPC has provided and while they are excited about this new opportunity, they are all sad to leave the friendships they have made here. This family has touched the lives of our Good Neighbor Team members in powerful ways and it will be hard to say goodbye. Munzza, Mahwish, Binish, Ali and Maria will be missed. Please continue to lift them all up in prayer as they make yet another journey to another new place.
Some of my favorite memories growing up in Winston-Salem involve trips to the Children's Museum. Climbing through magic carpets, playing dress up, cooking gourmet meals in the plastic kitchen, the Museum seemed magic to my 8-year-old imagination. When I found out last week that the Children's Museum (now called Kaleideum) was hosting an evening of free admission to refugee children, I knew we had to get the kids there no matter what!
Friday afternoon, Diane and I loaded the family in our cars and headed downtown. We were the first group there, so after being greeted warmly by an employee at the door, I realized...these kids had run of the whole museum! I don't know who was more excited. The magic carpets I climbed on as a kid were right by the door, so while one boy was thrilled to climb and tumble through the structure, the older one tugged my sleeve to explore the library. I've got the scars on my elbows to prove that no one was shy to climb through the giant hanging nets outside! The adults and kids alike had fun practicing their English in the alphabet zoo, though the baby was more interested in dancing to the beat of the hammer coming from the giant letter H! As more refugee children arrived, the parents chatted and the kids played dress-up together no matter their language barriers. I can't thank the people of Kaleideum enough for opening their space to this community. They have created free passes for any refugee family to go to Sci Works or the Children's museum for free. I'm constantly in awe of how welcoming the people of Winston are to these families. The kids were so mopey to leave, but I know there will be many more summer adventures at Kaleideum!
Written by: Sarah Hoyle
In the fall and winter a calling heard by a few church members evolved into authorization by our Session to call together people interested in supporting refugees in our community. With what could best be described as a mighty working of the Holy Spirit, around 27 people responded and received training (including background checks) to partner with World Relief, a local and national nonprofit that works with the government to ensure refugees are comfortably settled and connected to supportive community networks. The overwhelming volunteer support meant that we could work with not one, but two refugee families. After an initial pause as government changes occurred, both teams were assigned families and a whirlwind of action began.
This link to a video published in November of 2015 explains the vetting process for refugees which our two families have been through: https://youtu.be/aQUIxQ6TFZc . The World Relief/HighPoint.org web-site also contains a lot of information about this wonderful, faith-based organization and what they do. World Relief handles most initial settlement following federal guidelines using both federal and private funds.
The role of our Good Neighbor teams is to support this process, primarily as builders of relationships. We have the incredible privilege of being the literal hands, feet, smile---and often “wheels” of Christ, offering welcome to the stranger and being the good neighbor to those Christ has brought to us. Both families live in Winston-Salem as World Relief guidelines include their living on bus routes for ease of transportation. Each family receives financial assistance (federal and private) for a few months upon entry which covers housing and basic needs. They are to be financially independent within six months of arrival which means that quick employment is a basic need…..and World Relief helps facilitate that. English lessons are also a requirement for those who are not proficient---unless health or employment makes that not possible.
The Ayub family is originally from Pakistan and is comprised of a mother with her 4 adult children. They arrived in Winston Salem on March 2nd from Malaysia where they had been living as refugees for the past 6 years. As is often the case, our team learned of their impending arrival only one week in advance of their coming with the changing government rulings adding to everyone’s stress. World Relief and our team worked quickly to set up a house they rent, arranging for them to have a stocked refrigerator and a home cooked Pakistani meal to welcome them. Several of our team had the very joy-filled responsibility of welcoming the family at PTI airport the evening of their arrival and providing transportation for them to their new home. There was an immediate connection of warmth and love that night between the family and the team that has continued to grow over the weeks since.
Many of our church members got to meet the Ayub family when they visited during the Cantata last month. All of the family really enjoyed the music and other elements of our worship. Several women in the family wore head scarves in accordance with their Muslim faith. They were very happy to have the opportunity to meet members of the congregation and to personally express their gratitude for the love and support they have received from our church family.
The Tewelde family arrived in January but did not have a Good Neighbor Team until they were assigned to us in late February. Some delays prevented our meeting them until mid-March----and we were immediately in love with this family of six. There is a husband and wife and three little boys (ages 20 months, 6 years and 9 years) along with a young adult male cousin. They are from Eritrea (formerly part of Ethiopia) and lived in an Ethiopian refugee camp for four years before being granted permission to come to the U.S. A simple clerical error by Homeland Security and Border Patrol resulted in an almost 3-month delay of the Social Security cards of the two men. Two of our team members (and a wonderful worker at the Social Security office) were finally able to figure out the problem. World Relief was quickly able to manage the correction and help both men find employment almost immediately after the arrival of their cards.
None of the family spoke English on coming to the U.S. but they are all quick and interested learners with even the baby speaking up in English to everyone’s laughter and delight! Learning English by Sesame Street is a legitimate and wonderful thing! Everyone gathers around Dr. Seuss which makes no sense when you get into it---but is a lot of fun.
The Tweldes are Orthodox Christian (Ethiopian), and we are eager to connect them with the Ethiopian and Eritrean community in High Point. We also hope to have them visit our church soon. With three children (in car seats) and three adults, transportation of the whole family is a challenge.
We want to tell you stories of these wonderful people who have been through so much in their
lives---but we also want to respect their privacy. As World Relief has told us, their stories, are THEIR stories to tell---but we are so happy to share in this part of their stories now, and we will continue to help you get to know them too. Please join us in praying that they will continue to find a welcome here and that we can know how best to help this place become their home.
Welcome to a new way for the Clemmons Presbyterian Church Mission committee to report and inform our church family (and anyone else who links in) about our mission outreach. This blog has various parts representing our various ministries and begins with what we hope will be regular updates on our refugee families.