February 14th Special Collection

Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association Sustainability Fund and the Unitarian Universalist Living Tradition Fund

As Rev. Rachel begins her sabbatical, we invite the congregation to extend its care for Unitarian Universalist religious professionals and church staff beyond our congregation. The UUMA sustainability fund supports UU ministers in need of therapy, spiritual direction, retreats, and time-off during this extremely challenging season. The Living Tradition Fund supports clergy, other religious professionals, and church staff in times of crisis with emergency grants and with grants to repay student debt.

You can learn more about these funds at https://www.uuma.org/donations/fund.asp?id=20145 and https://www.uua.org/giving/areas-support/funds/living-tradition

Committee Reports:

  • Lincoln School – We have a new volunteer who will be providing tutoring online. For information If you are interested in volunteering, please contact Jeme Baker at jemaileen@yahoo.com.
  • Center for Transformation – Rick Johnson reported that mentors and mentees are staying connected via zoom and continuing to hold group meetings over zoom as well.

An Update on the Altyara Family

Nearly five years ago a team of People’s Church members signed up to help resettle a Syrian refugee family in Kalamazoo. We became the second church in our community to partner with Bethany Christian Services, a regional non-profit organization that has been resettling refugees from all over the world in Southwest Michigan. Our team of over 30 People’s Church members and community volunteers who heard about our undertaking and joined our team, co-sponsored the Altyara family. We knew the family of seven – Mom, Fatema, Dad, Kahled, Oldest son, Adham, second son, Molham, third son, Moyyad, and twins, Abdullah and Omar, would arrive with very little possessions. As co-sponsors we were tasked with finding a home for the family to live in, (at a rent that would be affordable), set up the house with all of the furnishings and items needed to have a functional household. No one in the family spoke any English. We recruited volunteer translators, made arrangements for the family to receive ESL (English as a second language) classes, set up health appointments so the family could receive required vaccinations, helped to get the boys enrolled in school and many other necessary tasks to successfully resettle the family.

Fast forward to today:
As the family approaches five years of residency, they are going to be eligible to become citizens of the United States in the fall. They have purchased a home. Dad, Khaled has been employed by Schupan & Sons for 3 ½ years. Mom, Fatema and all of their sons have learned English. Adham, is currently a student at KVCC and continues to work towards a GED or its equivalent. Molham, initially was allowed to attend high school for one year before he aged out of eligibility, and then earned his GED in his second year here. Upon arriving in the summer of 2016, he almost immediately got a job working for a local Middle Eastern restaurant. He briefly co-owned a sandwich shop near WMU’s campus and is currently working in food service at Bronson Hospital. Moyyad graduated from Kalamazoo Central High School in 2020. He enthusiastically played on his high school’s soccer team. Moyyad has just finished his first semester at WMU and received excellent grades. The twins, Omar and Abdullah who were placed in 5th grade in 2016 when they arrived are now freshmen in high school at Loy Norrix, though they have yet to actually attend classes there as school has only been virtual.

The success of this family, having lost everything when they fled from the Syrian Civil War, is nothing short of amazing. While they initially received only 3 months of case work services from Bethany, and SNAP assistance for a year or so, and cash assistance for less than a year, they were able to thrive with the help from our People’s Church team and hard work on their part and the great support from our state, through Michigan Works and Medicaid, and other important state services. We celebrate their success and hopefully will be able to have an in-person celebration when they become new Americans this fall.

ISAAC Update

In December, many of us enjoyed the annual ISAAC gratitude breakfast – this time without breakfast, but with plenty of inspiration. Each year, Dr. Charlae invites a diverse handful of ISAAC supporters to present a brief statement, explaining why they joined and continue to support ISAAC. As usual, they were all inspiring. We are thankful to former KDPS Captain Stacy Randolph Ledbetter and former KVCC and WMU Basketball Coach Dick Shilts for allowing us to share some of their statements with you here:

These excerpts from Captain Stacey:

My awareness of ISAAC came by virtue of me being a member of the Galilee Baptist Church, at the time under the Rev. J. Louis Felton, a founding member of ISAAC.

ISAAC has impacted me and my work, formerly in public safety, and currently as a consultant and trainer and through TRHT Kalamazoo because “we” are a diverse group of people on so many levels who are committed to making our community an equitable place to live.

I encourage one and all in this community to give of your time and a love offering or continuous monetary commitment – if you are able – because connecting with ISAAC is working toward building a Beloved Community.

In the book Stamped:  Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds, Dr. Ibram X. Kendi shared the following Introduction:  “There will come a time when we will love humanity, when we will gain the courage to fight for an equitable society for our beloved humanity, knowing, intelligently, that when we fight for humanity, we are fighting for ourselves.  There will come a time.  Maybe, just maybe, that time is now.”

I submit to you ISAAC Family, friends, and guests, that the time is definitely now for the equity work we are committed to, and that needs to be done, whatever it takes. 

                And these excerpts from Coach Shilts:

After reading over 40 books and having deep discussions with friends and family, I was encouraged to attend a 2 ½ day ERRACE seminar with several other church members. It was at this event that I began to understand what people meant when they talked about “systemic or institutional racism,” and how that concept was different from individual racism. It was both uncomfortable and enlightening. I began to see ways I had either consciously or subconsciously avoided talking about this topic.

A 5-day trip South with a friend, visiting the Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, the Dexter Ave King Memorial Baptist Church in Montgomery, Kelly Ingram Park, the Civil Rights Institute and 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, all gave me a closer glimpse into what I had previously looked at from afar.

Somewhere during this transformative period in my life, Dr. Davis spoke from the pulpit at my home church, the FUMC on Bronson Park. I knew Charlae. I coached her in basketball camp. She played basketball with one of my daughters at KCHS. I knew her dad and mom. She was a top, if not the top, student-athlete at KC. And she now had a Ph.D. and was inviting me to join with her in building a more Beloved Community! I felt honored, and I couldn’t resist!

ISAAC members are open-minded and want not only to gather information but also to act upon that information to make things better for all of us. My friends in ISAAC have teachable hearts and genuinely want to be on the right side of history.

People in ISAAC challenge me to do more, but they also assure me that they will walk with me as I try. ISAAC has changed me by encouraging me to look within, before looking without. ISAAC has helped me turn anger into loving persistence, a sense of urgency into patient perseverance, and hate into hope, a work that I know I will be engaged in until I take my final breath.

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