Next month, congregations in the diocese will receive in the mail a DVD that contains a new how-to video on refugee ministry titled “Welcoming the Stranger.” The production, completed just in time for World Refugee Day on June 20, is the result of a two-and-a-half year collaboration between the people of St. Peter’s, Eggertsville, their neighbors at St. Benedict Roman Catholic Church, and Journey’s End Refugee Services in Buffalo.
The goal, says Deacon Tom Tripp, is to inspire local congregations to get involved in refugee ministry. Depending on a congregation’s strengths, he says, lay leaders and clergy can reach out to local public schools with refugee students, adopt or sponsor a refugee family, or get involved in advocacy or volunteer work with a resettlement agency or refugee shelter.
The video, which was supported by a grant from Diocesan Council and with funds from St. Peter’s and St. Benedict, also grounds refugee ministry in the biblical imperative to “to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8) and to Jesus’ commandment to welcome the stranger (Matthew 25:35).
Tripp, who serves at St. Peter’s, first got involved in refugee ministry about 15 years ago when he began volunteering with a shelter for asylum seekers on Buffalo’s east side then known as Vive la Casa. But his interest in aiding refugees came much earlier.
“I served in Vietnam a long time ago,” Tripp says, “and when I saw all of the refugees storming the American embassy trying to get out safely, and then getting in boats, I thought, ‘We could have done better than that.’ It always stuck in my head I could help out with refugees, and that’s how I initially got the spark.”
Thanks to the fundraising efforts of Deacon Joanne Coury Frake, who also serves at St. Peter’s, Tripp says that the partners have remaining funds that will be used to support education about refugee issues, interpreters, and projects at congregations that decide to get involved. “The re-settling, mentoring, and befriending of refugees goes on,” he says.
To learn more about the Episcopal Church’s historic commitment to refugee resettlement, visit Episcopal Migration Ministries online. To advocate on behalf of refugees, visit the website of the Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations.