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!
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.