Thanksgiving: Celebrating Refugees

Preaching at Urbana First United Methodist Church and Good Shepherd Lutheran Church (Urbana) is a double blessing!  I got to meet lots of new people, including great pastors.  If you’re a member at one of those churches and this is your first time reading my blog, I’m so excited you’re here!  Scroll down for a bullet list of great information specifically about Illinois’ work with refugees.  Then, click around on the website for more info!

The First Thanksgiving was all about Americans welcoming Refugees.

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Remember the story?  Refugees fled England because of religious persecution, and when they arrived in America, the locals welcomed them with food and housing assistance, even though they had different languages, clothing, and religious beliefs.

Nearly 4 centuries later, we continue their tradition, but most of us just have a meal with the friends and family we already know and love.  (Except for this notable Grandma, who accidentally invited the wrong person to dinner, and then let him and his family come anyway!)

We got to celebrate Thanksgiving twice – once with my family in Michigan, and once with David’s family in Illinois.  Since I spend most of my time preaching about and working with refugees in Michigan, the Thanksgiving travel was a great chance to learn more about Illinois’ work with refugees, too.

Inter-faith Refugee work in Illinois

Normally, I get to do a sermon and an education hour about refugee work when I visit a church.  This time, I wasn’t able to do the Education hour at either church.  So, check out a 15 minute video summary of the Bible Study I normally lead here.  And, if you’re not sure about whether the 1/6 of 1% of all the world’s refugees who actually arrive in the US are “properly vetted”, check out this video explaining the process.

Visiting Illinois was a great reason to learn more about that state’s work with refugees.

  • According to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, last year Illinois took in about 2,600 refugees – about 2% of the Nation’s total.
  • Half of them were from Burma (previously known as Myanmar), in Southeast Asia.
  • One quarter of them were from Iraq, likely refugees because someone in their family supported the US military in their country (which made them a target).
  • The rest of the refugees placed in Illinois were from all over the world, mainly African countries, such as Ethiopia, Congo, and Sudan.
  • Almost none of the refugees which came to Illinois last year were from Syria.

Champaign/Urbana is home to an AMAZING local refugee agency called “East Central Illinois Refugee Mutual Assistance Center”  This agency is doing great work in the area – and they have been since 1980!  This center supports refugees from all over the world with translation, needed items, and social integration; locals volunteer their time and money to help refugees feel welcome.  If you live in the Urbana area, I hope you’re able to connect with them through donations or volunteering your time.

Remember, if you’d like to support national advocacy work, please consider checking out Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services – one of the largest, oldest refugee service groups in the US.

If your family is like ours, you might be trying to figure out your gift lists this weekend. We made the decision to forgo our sibling gift exchange this year, and instead pool our money to help others.  We will be donating items this week & will show you the pictures soon!

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No matter how you support refugees, your prayers, your public support and goodwill, and your education helps to welcome refugees here to the US.  Thank you for your support!

 

 

 

 

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