“We agreed to sponsor ‘a’ family
Who arrived as ‘the’ family
And is now ‘our’ family.”
A message from our president, the Rev. David Bennett
These words describe the “journey of the heart” for members of Central Moravian Church who have joined with four other local faith communities in resettling a Syrian refugee family. Inspired by troubling newscast covering the exodus of Syrian refugees from the Middle East, a number of members attended a seminar sponsored by Lutheran Children and Family Services in Allentown, PA. Attended by other Bethlehem faith communities, a partnership resulted from those who wished to reach out in a more tangible way. Utilizing volunteers from Central Moravian, Universalist Unitarian, Trinity Episcopal, Life in Christ, and Gateway congregations, the Bethlehem Interfaith Resettlement Committee (BIRC) was born in November of 2015.
By the following January, funds were raised to support the resettlement effort and all agreed it was time to step out in faith and sponsor a refugee family. Reporting on the work of BIRC, Jim Whildin of Central Moravian Church states, “We were allowed to choose size of family, religion, ethnicity, country of origin, and healthiness, but we agreed unanimously that we would accept ‘a’ family next on the list.” Already by February they were alerted that “the” family – a Syrian Sunni Muslim family of six – would be arriving in only about 3 weeks time. In short order it was official….”a” family was becoming “the” family.
As Jim would later report to the Central congregation in a Mission Moment, “A lot of work – fast work – needed to be done! The plan was to move furniture into a new apartment on March 5th, clean and stock the cabinets and refrigerator March 6th, and welcome “the” family which by then had become “our” family on March 7th. But by March 2nd we still had no apartment! The power of prayer is amazing! Pastor Lynnette had asked for prayers in finding living accommodations for “our” family, and those prayers were answered March 3rd! Just in the nick of time!
“Our” family arrived exhausted after their almost 2 day trip from Istanbul and we greeted them with flags and balloons, happy smiles and applause! No one in “our” family speaks English, so there was a lot of pantomiming!”
It became evident quickly that welcoming “their” family was the easiest part. For after the initial settling-in days, the onslaught of immediate needs takes place. Jim explains, “Usually we spend the first 20 years of our lives getting social security cards, identity cards, inoculations, eye tests, hearing tests, dentist visits, school enrollment and the like. “Our” family needed all of these things as soon as they arrived….We scheduled the appointments and drivers took the family members to all these appointments – and many ongoing appointments and follow-up visits are still occurring….Each appointment means something in addition is needed. Registering for school means that the children need uniforms (required by the Allentown School District); doctors’ appointments mean prescriptions; shopping means finding a Halal butcher; washing clothes means a washing machine, then a clothesline.”
Yet, ironically, it was exactly the very struggles of hospitality — the endless running to appointments….the difficult language barrier which led to comical attempts at charades….the complexities of paperwork and bureaucracy which created this new “journey of the heart.” “A” Syrian Refugee family…became “the” family standing in our midst….and is now “our” family who is known and loved…. “Our” family became Kattab Almawas, the father, Dibe Salim, the mother, Ahmad, the eldest and very precocious 10 year old, Ghannam, shyer but equally precocious 9 year old, Mohamad, the very active 5 year old, emulating his older brothers, and the lively Fatima, the 2 year old daughter.…they all love soccer, prefer pizza to kebabs, and enjoy burping contests! They all know the English word for ketchup, chips, and pizza!”
Jim would later reflect to me, “In the past we have often spoken of the phrases ‘but when did we see you hungry or thirsty or naked? When did we see you sick or in prison and we visited you?’…This project has opened our eyes to the importance of those passages.”
Kattab, the father, would say it another way through a translator…“I was afraid, but now I see you are friends and we are safe!”
Youth and Young Adult Mission Mob
Youth and Young Adults Ages 16 to 30, put your faith into action during the 2016 Eastern District Synod. Join with the 2016 Eastern District Synod Delegates for a day of hands on mission, serving the poor, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and the imprisoned in the Lehigh Valley. Since we are starting early in the morning on June 23rd, housing for the MISSION MOB will be provided by Advent Moravian Church in Bethlehem, PA.
MISSION MOB participants are welcome to arrive at Advent Moravian anytime after 9PM Wednesday, June 22nd. We will spend Thursday, June 23rd serving others and sharing in small groups, in worship, and in fellowship before heading back to Advent Moravian church for a little Midnight Madness. All MISSION MOB participants are invited to return home no later than Friday morning, June 24th. While in Bethlehem, meals and transportation will be provided.
For more information or to sign up for the MISSION MOB, text your name, age, and home congregation to: Cynthia Rader Geyer @ 484-554-0102 or send email to Cynthia@mcnp.org
Pennsylvania Shalom Conference
Pennsylvania’s first ever “Shalom Conference” will be held on September 24-25, Saturday 6:00 pm-Sunday 4:00 pm, at The Hartman Center, a UCC retreat center on 5725 Old US Hwy. 322 in Milroy, PA 17063. The Pennsylvania Council of Churches is hosting this event in hopes of building a statewide network of peacemakers that will make peacemaking less lonely. Registration of $125.00 includes accommodations and food. For further details and registration information: www.pachurches.org.or email@example.com or 717-545-4761
Hope Conference Center Publishes Cookbook
Hope Conference & Renewal Center has just published the Camp Hope Cookbook, featuring classic camp meals and camper favorites. Chef Kim Samsel, the Cook/Executive Chef at the camp since 2012, tells how to cook simple but delicious meals on a budget. She has adapted the recipes in a size suitable for a family, rather than for an entire camp. The book consists of 24 pages with 40 recipes, ranging from her popular Grove Style Chicken to easy Fried Ice Cream, with recipes for every meal. She also includes useful “Kitchen Tips,” as well as specialty recipes for vegetarian, gluten-free, and crowd-size cooking.
The cookbook costs $5, and is available this summer at the camp store, or by mail from the Hope Center office. If ordering by mail, please add $1 postage for the first book ordered, and add 50¢ for each additional book ordered (make checks payable to Hope Conference Center). Orders by mail can be sent to Hope Conference Center, PO Box 165, Hope, NJ 07844.
Schedule of Events
- May 6-7, 2016: Confirmation Retreat at Hope Center
- June 22-25, 2016: Eastern District Synod at Moravian College, Bethlehem, PA.
- July 23-29, 2017: Moravian Music Festival in Winston Salem, NC
Churches celebrating May Anniversaries
- May 6 – 1860 – West Side, Bethlehem, PA
- May 17 – 1863 – Palmyra, Cinnaminson, NJ
- May 22 – 1966 – Redeemer, Philadelphia, PA
- May 25 – 1986 – Faith of the Nation’s Capital, Washington, DC
- May 3, 1728 – Beginning of Losungen (Daily Texts) in Herrnhut, Germany.
Moravian Ministries Foundation
Money and ministry. Our churches are able to do more when they have more resources, but faith and finances aren’t always easy to talk about. A pastor once told us, “Talking about money doesn’t mean you lack faith.” We all know Jesus talked about money. A lot. So why can it be hard for us to do so in our congregations?
Another pastor shared, “Things changed when we focused on what God was calling us to do, not on how much money we had.” Her church discovered they were able to fund the ministry they felt God leading them to do, even though the dollar amount associated with it was overwhelming. They had faith and God provided.
How does your church talk about money and ministry? How can the Moravian Ministries Foundation help? Our Grace, Generosity and Gratitude service assists congregations with changing their conversations about faith and finances. To learn more about it, visit www.mmfa.info/grace or call Chi-Chi Messick, MMFA Vice President, at 888-722-7923.
- Charles Harewood will be consecrated a presbyter on July 10, 4:00 pm at First Moravian in NY. Bishop Clennon will officiate.
- Brother Daniel Michael Miller will graduate from seminary May 14, 2016 and will be ordained on June 4, 2016 in Wisconsin. He will be installed as pastor to Edgeboro on June 26, 2016.
- The Rev. Kathlyn Ferguson Nealand will be installed as interim pastor at Castleton Hill on July 3, 2016