Rachel Lonberg 2016 Stoll SmallDear Ones,

An amazing thing has happened. Just about a month ago, we welcomed a Syrian refugee family of 7 to Kalamazoo. They are well on their way to adjusting to our community, learning English, and getting connected to the resources they need to make a life here. I haven’t been very involved in this work, but what I have witnessed has been deeply inspiring.

As many of you remember, last September, I told the story of my experience in Syria, an experience of overwhelming hospitality, during a sermon. Some of you heard it, ran with it, figured out the complicated bureaucracies of refugee resettlement, and then thought “we can do this” and committed to being a co-sponsoring congregation. It felt like a risk to be stepping into this unknown role. With every step, we have found solid ground underneath us, supporting our way forward. When the family we are co-sponsoring arrived, dozens of People’s people (and so many others) have sprung into action – providing tutoring, repairing and furnishing their home, providing transportation, and helping in so many other ways. This is holy work, my people. This is why we do church – to bring more love into the world in ways we can’t do alone.

Last month, my words in this space were about the strength of weak ties and how being connected to all of you helped my husband find a new job. (Thanks to the Murrays for suggesting Brian to his new boss!) As People’s people have done this holy, welcoming work, the strength of weak ties has been reinforced. When Mary Tift, our housing coordinator volunteer, she shared that she was struggling to find a home that was big enough and affordable enough for the family. A friend or a friend-of-a-friend heard this and announced the need for housing during a mass at St. Thomas More Catholic Church. A parishioner there lived next to a home that might work. It is now where the family lives. It needed repairs so dozens of People’s people, people from St. Tom’s, and others worked to fix up the family’s new home. There are many other stories like this – a dental practice providing free care, anonymous donations coming to the church to support our work with this refugee family, the tutoring that happens every Saturday at the Kalamazoo Islamic Center. It has been inspiring for me to witness.

Whatever your participation in this effort, I hope you can be proud that, that, in a time when the loudest voices are too often voices of intolerance and hate, you are part of a church that is acting for love and justice in the world, building relationships across our community, and transforming the lives of one family.

See you in church,
Rev. Rachel

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