A dramatic headline or stirring soundbite on the evening news can never do justice to the arduous path that a refugee family must travel enroute to a safe, new home. After spending what can sometimes be a decade or more in a refugee camp, a family must be vetted and approved for resettlement by the UN High Commission for Refugees; travel to an unfamiliar country under the auspices of that nation’s government; and be matched with a local agency that provides case management as well as immediate material support.
Yet despite this often years-long journey, a typical agency commitment to a refugee family lasts just six months.
Driven by a calling to “love him (the stranger) as yourself, as you were strangers” (Leviticus 19:34) and a belief that refugee support must be consistent and long-term, Tenth’s Refugee Outreach Team has been partnering with the Asukulu family since their arrival in Philadelphia in the fall of 2016.
After fleeing the war-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo in Central Africa and living in Tanzanian and Malawian refugee camps for 16 years, the Asukulus traveled to the United States and were assigned to Bethany Christian Services (BCS) for resettlement. BCS staff provided initial case management as well as financial and legal support for the family. BCS approached Tenth to provide volunteer assistance with some of the other resettlement needs for this family.
Early on, Tenth volunteers partnered with the Asukulus to help meet their most urgent needs, including a job connection for the mother, who is single-parenting. In addition, Tenth volunteers worked to help move the six children from a difficult public school environment and place them in City School and local Catholic elementary schools.
The Refugee Outreach Team is committed to continuing this partnership with the Askulus until the youngest child–currently in 5th grade–graduates from high school. Most recently, the team has hosted the family for in-home dinners, BBQs, and game nights; taken trips to the shore; gifted a pair of roller skates to the daughter; and secured spots for two of the sons in Camp Sankanac this summer. Underpinning these activities is a call to spiritually nurture the family through Bible studies, prayer times, and encouragement to come to church.
Prayers for this ministry are deeply appreciated–particularly for the mother’s full-time employment and goals of financial independence as well as for ongoing opportunities for the team to spiritually minister to the Asukulus.
If you would like to join the team as a volunteer, please contact Mim Tilton or Enrique Leal. Also, the Refugee Outreach effort can be supported through the December Project of the Month.
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Alix Gerz. © 2024 Tenth Presbyterian Church. Website: tenth.org