On Wednesday, February 6, 2019, five members of Paradise Valley United Methodist Church RAFT (Refugee Assistance and Friendship Teams) welcomed a newly arrived refugee family to America. The family had traveled from Tanzania via The Netherlands and Los Angeles, CA, before arriving at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. Originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, the family of 4 – mom, Jeanne; her teenage son and adult daughter, and her grandson, age 6 – were thrilled to be reunited with Jeanne’s son and other relatives and friends already living here. Her son and his friends met them at the gate, and after hugs and photos, he helped them gather their bags and took them to their new apartment, which had been lovingly set up by volunteers from The Welcome to America Project (https://www.wtap.org), another partner of Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest (http://www.lss-sw.org/refugeeservices/).
Joy, the caseworker from LSS, expressed gratitude toward the RAFTers and to volunteers from The Welcome to America Project. Working together, the groups were able to welcome these strangers who will soon become friends. RAFT plans a small celebration with the family in a few weeks and a larger celebration has been set for late March with all the refugees that the church has helped since 2016.
The party on Sunday, March 24, 12:30-2:30 pm, will be hosted by PVUMC at the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park, 7301 E. Indian Bend Road, Scottsdale, AZ 85250. Operated by the city of Scottsdale’s Parks & Recreation Department, the 30-acre park, located in the heart of Scottsdale, AZ, is the most unique park of its kind in the country. Take a ride on the Paradise & Pacific Railroad and the 1950-vintage Allan Herschell carousel. Visit a variety of shops and museums, play on our one-of-a-kind playgrounds, or just relax in the grass under a tree in one of Scottsdale’s most beautiful parks.
The church will post a SignUpGenius form soon to get your RSVPs and donations of food for the potluck.
Since 2016, the church has welcomed two Syrian families and three Congolese families. They will all be our guests at the party.
The team took another refugee under its wing, Gediwon [Gedeon] from Eritrea, about two years ago and recently celebrated with him at a local Ethiopian restaurant. He is gainfully employed and has just started a new job. Gedeon speaks Tigrinya/Amharic, his native languages, but he is also proficient in English and has a background in radio electronics and banking. Gedeon is a Christian and attends a church near his home. The team provided clothing and household items, and even gave him driving lessons. He is anxious for his wife and two young children to receive approval to join him in his new home.
RAFT continues to look for ways to help refugee families and promote friendship and still keeps in touch with the two Syrian refugee families who arrived in July 2016.
Adnan Radwan, one of the first refugees RAFT co-sponsored with LSS, was interviewed by JP Coughlin more than a year ago 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. Adnan’s message is one that resonates across the spectrum of politics and religion and shows who our neighbor is and how we can love our neighbors and welcome the stranger as Jesus’ followers.
Watch the video here: