UMCOR / Our Work / Immigration and Refugees / Refugee Ministry Office / Refugee Ministry Newsletter / Archives 2010

Refugee Ministry

July/August 2010

Refugee Resettlement Office in Sacramento “Opens its doors” to UMC’s

Robyn Papathakis 
Robyn of ODI and one of her wonderful interns.

“Learn How Your Church Family Can Make a Difference in the Lives of Refugees Making Their Home in Our Sacramento Community!” was the title and purpose of the April 14 church outreach event co-hosted by Church World Service refugee resettlement affiliate Opening Doors, Inc. (ODI) and UMCOR’s Refugee Ministry.

Representatives from more than 10 local congregations heard compelling presentations from leaders who said their lives were changed through their work with refugees. David Blicker, ODI executive director, shared the African principle of ubuntu—“a person is a person through (other) persons," and how it can be experienced in a meaningful way by welcoming newcomers.

A common theme stressed throughout the evening was the power of each individual—regardless of time availability, language skills, income, or age—to make a difference in the life of a refugee.

Participants of the Opening Doors Outreach Event.
Participants of the Opening Doors outreach event.

“Can you be a friend? Can you Teach? Play? Listen? Smile?” ODI Volunteer Coordinator Robyn Papathakis asked participants. “Then you and your church family can make a difference in the lives of refugees coming to make a new home in Sacramento!”

Staff members of UMCOR’s Refugee Ministry and Opening Doors, Inc., hope the workshop will be the first step toward establishing a vibrant, faith-based co-sponsorship program for refugees in Sacramento.

Check out the following links tolearn more about the work of Church World Service , UMCOR , and Opening Doors, Inc


Beyond Resettlement: UMCOR Refugee Ministry Abroad

Refugees Hit Hard by Chile Earthquake

Years of armed conflict have caused more than 3 million Colombians to flee their country, and many have resettled in Chile. UMCOR provided funds through the Refugee Response Advance #982540 to PROSIR, a project of the Methodist Church of Chile, the Chilean government, and FASIC, a Chilean ecumenical human rights organization, to help expand PROSIR’s micro-enterprise project and increase job opportunities for Colombian refugees.

The February 2010 earthquake in Chile caused a significant amount of damage. A significant group of migrants and refugees residing in the Chilean capital were among those affected by the quake. They are among the most vulnerable groups because in addition to the uncertainty surrounding their homes and jobs, they also are faced with the burden of social isolation, prior trauma, and xenophobia.

UMCOR has provided a grant to PROSIR for emergency direct services, including food, clothing, and housing assistance, to the most vulnerable individuals and families. The grant also helps refugees re-establishing the small businesses they had started through the micro-enterprise project.

Your generosity allows UMCOR to offer this assistance in Chile and to vulnerable refugees around the world. Support Chile Emergency, UMCOR Advance #3021178 and Refugee Response, UMCOR Advance #982540.

To read more about UMCOR’s response to the Chile Earthquake, click here.


Church Sponsorship Developer Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest, in Phoenix, AZ

By Rev. Donna Buckles  

Donna receives Spirit in Social Ministry award from Lutheran Social Services.
Donna receives Spirit in Social Ministry award from Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest.

Watching wonderful relationships being built between church sponsors and refugees is the most rewarding part of being a church sponsorship developer. Refugees rely on their sponsors to teach them how to navigate American culture. Church sponsors learn about the terrible situations people face in other countries and about the reality of life in a refugee camp. Cross-cultural learning on both sides is significant.

My years as a pastor doing mission education and leading mission trips, prepared me to work with refugees and to offer refugee education to church members. I tell the churches that they can experience cross-cultural ministry in their own backyard.

I am encouraged by the way church members continually want to be of help in resettlement. In the past three weeks, three churches told me, “We are ready to sponsor another family.” They find the experience of serving on a resettlement team to be inspiring and challenging and it offers them the opportunity to be the hands of Jesus.



*UMCOR Refugee Assistance Grant program: Each year UMCOR's Refugee Ministry makes grants available to organizations and congregation-based projects serving refugees, immigrants, detainees, and asylum seekers. The purpose of these grants is to build capacity, provide direct assistance, and encourage and honor the commitment of those who, in the biblical sense, welcome ‘the stranger’.

The deadline for proposals is: Monday, August 16, 2010, at 1200 pm EST. Grants are limited to a maximum of $5000, , with special consideration given to requests for smaller amounts. Funds donated to UMCOR’s New Hope for Newcomers Advance support the Refugee Assistance Grants program.

If you would like an application, or know of an organization that might be interested in applying for an UMCOR Refugee Assistance Grant, please contact us at or call 212-870-3888.

* Isaiah 58 National Solidarity Vigil and Fast for Arizona: Isaiah 58 reminds us that God calls us to prayer and fasting to "loose the bonds of injustice" and "let the oppressed go free." From June 6 to August 1, 2010, the Vigil will mobilize people of all faiths to pray 24 hours a day as a public witness protesting the Arizona law. Participants sign up to pray for a 30-minute slot and endorse a statement, critical of the legislation, directed to state and federal officials.

For more information, check the Interfaith Immigration Coalition’s website. To join the vigil and sign the petition, click here.

You’re the experts – we need to hear from you!

Thanks from the UMCOR Refugee Ministry Team