August 2017 Update
Five months ago, Doylestown Presbyterian Church joined hands with Blooming Glen Mennonite and Doylestown United Methodist Church to welcome a young refugee family from Eritrea (Africa) to our community. We are thankful for many prayers, financial contributions, and hundreds of service hours dedicated to helping Aranshi and her young son Menkem resettle into their new lives in the United States.
There have been many successes these past few months – finding affordable and safe housing, securing employment at Impact Thrift Store for Aranshi, registering Menkem for preschool, Aranshi beginning ESL, mom and son engaging in a family literacy program together, learning to navigate life in a town (crossing the street), financial literacy (shopping), receiving medical care....life in the U.S. has involved much adjustment and growth for this young family. Even everyday tasks, such as buckling a seatbelt or using a library card, have been new and no small feat. There have also been moments of pure, simple joy – learning to swim, riding bikes, Menkem riding on a tractor, the discovery of enjoying ice cream from an ice cream shop on a hot afternoon – and then the additional joy when it was discovered that ice cream could be purchased, in large quantities, at the grocery store and stored at home!
Along the way, there have been obstacles that have led to growing opportunities as well. Cross-cultural scheduling, without the aid of regular translators, presented challenges. Differing concepts of time and flexibility required consistent and regular communication, while adding to the mix an active toddler with needs and ideas of his own. We wouldn't have had it any other way, though, and it has been clear that God has been with us all along, helping us all to grow and serve Him and one another.
In fact, it hasn't been hard to find God everywhere in this process. Aranshi's ESL teachers have been a blessing to her. Eritrean friends from the local Orthodox community have translated for us, supported Aranshi with meals and friendship, and helped orient her at her new job and to a new culture. Congregants from all three of the sponsoring churches have stepped up to provide transportation, teach English, host playdates, provide assistance with child care, laundry, and grocery shopping, as well as helped to fill out medical and legal paperwork and provided the support required to ensure that she found employment. Inter-church relationships have grown, and a tri-church partnership has been established, with hopes that future refugees will resettle here as well. Truly, this is the work we are called to do.
Last month, a new door opened for Aranshi and Menkem. With the help of social media, Aranshi re-established connections with old Eritrean friends who have resettled around the United States. Aranshi has always expressed a desire to raise Menkem in an area with a large Eritrean community, and last month she announced that she hoped to move to Harrisonburg, Virginia to join friends. This announcement resulted in a flurry of activity – phone calls, research, and connecting with refugee organizations in Harrisonburg to very quickly assess whatever services may be available to her upon arrival. All of these connections indicated that Harrisonburg was a good fit for secondary migration, and Aranshi and Menkem moved to their new home at the end of August. The city has over 200 Eritrean refugees (including 50 Eritrean children in the school system), employment possibilities for newcomers, thriving ESL programs, and many support programs for refugees and immigrants. This is a promising place of hope for Aranshi, and our three churches sent her on to the next leg of her journey with love and support.
We thank all of you who have offered your support and prayers through this often unpredictable process. We ask that you continue to pray for refugee resettlement, for Aranshi and Menkem, and for refugees around the world waiting for places of safety.