Close to midnight on Thursday, November 16, members of RAFT (Refugee Assistance and Friendship Teams) welcomed a newly arrived refugee family to America. They are Congolese, and arrived via Tanzania after spending 20 years in a refugee camp. Their family name is Atondo, and they are eight in all, with children ranging in age from 1 to 18, all born in refugee camps.

Working with Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest, the group moved them into a fully furnished apartment and will move them to a bigger apartment after Thanksgiving. The RAFTers added a few new members, including Jill Yen and her two daughters, and Noah and Jennifer Plumb. Jill has donated toys and games to the children and is anxious to have game nights with them. She and her daughters helped with readying the apartment as well as transporting the family to their new home after meeting them at the airport. RAFT is so grateful for all its volunteers.

The family, with children age 1-18, could use the following items now, or at Christmas:

• Children’s books for children from 1 to 14
• Games of any kind
• A flat screen television
• A laptop computer
• A microwave oven
• Boys clothing for ages 7 and 10
• Girls clothing for ages 1, 13, 16 and 18. The older girls are all slender

If you would like to donate, please email Keith Sobraske or Karen Ouzts, RAFT Core Team Coordinators.

The team took another refugee under its wing, Gediwon Abay, from Eritrea earlier this year. Gediwon speaks Tigrinya/Amharic, his native languages, but he is also proficient in English and has a background in radio electronics and banking. The team worked hard to find him employment in the cell phone repair or drone industries, and he is currently a full-time employee for a mobile phone repair shop. Gediwon is a Christian, and attends a church near his home. The team provided clothing and household items, and even gave him driving lessons. His job is south of the airport, so riding a bike takes a long time. The group was determined to get him a car, and he now has that and a driver’s license! He is grateful for the faithfulness of RAFT and for their generosity. He is also grateful that his wife and two young children have arrived safely in Ethiopia and are registering with the UN High Commission on Refugees to be assigned to a refugee camp, and hopefully receive approval to join Gediwon in the future.

RAFT continues to look for ways to help their refugee families and promote friendship between our church family and their families. The two Syrian refugee families who arrived in July are doing well, though one has moved to subsidized housing and is in need of some assistance. Marcia and Jack Heller, RAFT members, are hosting a Syrian Supper Club with Ruba providing the meal to all guests. To donate and get a place at the table for this dinner on Sunday, December 3, visit the Facebook event or SignUp Genius. At this writing, 25 of the 50 spots had been filled already!

Adnan Radwan was interviewed by JP Coughlin earlier this year to show how giving to PVUMC missions and ministries make a difference to the lives of others. His interview shows how he has been blessed, but the RAFTers have been blessed as well as we see our collaborative efforts come to fruition and watch our new friendships blossom. Adnan’s message is one that resonates across the spectrum of politics and religion and shows who our neighbor is and and how we can love our neighbors and welcome the stranger as Jesus’ followers.

Watch the video here:


For more information about RAFT, or to participate or donate, please contact RAFT coordinators: Keith Sobraske or Karen Ouzts.

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