Ways to Serve and Respond: Syrian Refugee Crisis
November 24, 2015
In recent days, I have watched neighboring bishops write letters challenging leaders to respond to the escalating Syrian refugee crisis. I am pleased that some Missouri mayoral leaders have been bold in their support of resettlement. And, I am ever more thankful for the number of local United Methodists Churches in Missouri who have been compelled to respond to the Syrian refugee crisis passionately and directly. These churches and their leaders have taken the scriptural commandments to love their neighbor as oneself seriously (Mark 12:31).
I believe each church should discern their own level of involvement in this effort. Several Missouri churches have strategic partnerships with refugee communities already, for example, Central UMC in Kansas City has built strong relationships with the Congolese community in northern Kansas City in the past couple of years. We believe local churches should continue those partnerships to which they are committed. For other churches, this is a great opportunity to form new relationships and partnerships. We look forward to seeing the ways local churches can show their hospitality to anyone new to their community. Rev. Steve Breon at Platte Woods UMC in northern Kansas City has pledged to help with this effort and is currently contacting other churches in our conference to let them know what his church is doing and hopes other churches will do the same. Rev. Daniel Hilty at First UMC of Jefferson City is also exploring ways their church can be supportive in this effort within their community.
If you are still searching for a way to help, you might consider thinking about your church’s unique call to this crisis. There are and will continue to be a variety of needs and ways to become involved in refugee resettlement in the coming weeks, months and even years.
- PASSIONATE WORSHIP. Consider being intentional about praying for refugee communities throughout the world in worship. How are your communal prayers reflecting the deep pain of the world? Mike Slaughter of Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church in Ohio recently created a video, "Beyond Bethlehem," about Syrian refugees in Beirut, Lebanon. I think you will find the video a powerful reminder of the hearts and souls behind the headlines. There are also free downloadable resources at Cokesbury if your church decides to explore this idea as a worship or learning series.
- RISK-TAKING MISSION. United Methodist congregations in Missouri called to a ministry of hospitality by resettling Syrian refugees in their communities should be in touch with Church World Service (CWS), one of the local or regional organizations certified as a refugee resettlement agency through the U.S. government. CWS is a long-time ecumenical partner of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). CWS has a network of its own and affiliate offices spread across the U.S. Contact information for the CWS main office is online.
- RADICAL HOSPITALITY. As an individual, you can add your name to keep Missouri a safe and welcoming place for refugee families from all nations by signing this petition. Or, check out the refugee communication resources from the Interfaith Immigration Coalition.
- EXTRAVAGANT GENEROSITY. If your church would like to direct funding toward this issue, there are a couple of options. The Missouri Annual Conference has set up a designated account to help gather money designed to assist refugee communities that settle in Missouri. You can send checks made payable to: Missouri Annual Conference (memo: Refugee 4413). The Office of Mission, Service and Justice will direct those monies to CWS affiliates working in Missouri to assist with refugee resettlement. Or, UMCOR has a general advance fund, Global Refugee/Migration Advance #3022144, that helps direct monies to immediate refugee needs all over the globe.
- If you have questions about the above options, you may contact the Office of Mission, Service, and Justice at (573) 441-1770 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?”
Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” Matthew 25:44-45
Please join me in continuing to pray for the victims of terror and oppression and for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Yours in Christ,
Missouri Annual Conference