This week, I was moved by the following article that appeared in the Virginia Lutheran, entitled "Grace, Winchester Helps Syrian Refugees":
Six members of the Syrian refugee Alnajar family, sponsored by Grace, Winchester, since August, are helping in construction of a two-story Habitat house. They will move into their new home four years after escaping from Syria.
Emad Alnajar, his wife, Eman Kolkou, and their two sons and two daughters, left their native city of Homs, which no longer exists, in December 2012. Alnajar said they left because of bombings and "bodies in the streets." Their last night in Homs, once a city of 700,000 people, the family slept on their kitchen floor as protection from stray bullets coming through the walls, they told the Winchester Star. Alnajar, speaking in his native Arabic through an interpreter, said he wanted to leave because he was worried that his son would be kidnapped by a terrorist gang.
The family managed to get on a bus to Jordan where they applied for refugee status and began the long process of resettlement. Alnajar, a master craftsman, once owned his own shop and employed 10 people who made custom doors, decking and furniture from domestic and imported wood. That is gone but he said, "As long as my family is safe, I am happy." He found work quickly when they came to Winchester.
The family came to Grace through the Harrisonburg chapter of Church World Services, an international cooperative ministry of 37 Christian denominations. That chapter settled 245 refugees last year and helped 130 through the first quarter of 2017 but the chapter is not expected to settle more than another 20 or so this year because of the president's executive order limiting refugee entry into the U.S., according to the Star.
Members of Grace have helped the family in many ways. Kolkou said Emily Thomas has done more for her than any sibling. Joyce Ray said, "So many good people..We just felt like we're being called to action."
Matthew T. Peterson, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Winchester-Frederick-Clarke, said the Alnajars are "a wonderful family who fled the violence of war-torn Syria. Grace members have been helping them "get on their feet and welcoming them into our community." Peterson said, "We have always been blessed with diverse and multicultural partner families that are representative of the entire Winchester community."
"We just felt like we're being called to action." All God's people are called to respond to crises like the one in Syria. One place to start is on the Lutheran World Relief website: https://lwr.org/donate/syrian-refugee-crisis. If you click on this link, it will show how you and I can act to support refugees in Syria and other parts of the world. This is the link to the Lutheran Disaster Response page regarding Syria: http://www.elca.org/Our-Work/Relief-and-Development/Lutheran-Disaster-Response/Our-Impact/Middle-East-and-Europe-Refugee. Also, this is a link to the Church World Services website, of which the ELCA is a member body: https://cwsgloba l.org/ I recently watched a Netflix documentary, "White Helmets," about volunteer first responders in the worst bombed-out areas in Syria. Our government and military work every day to form our country's response to humanitiarian crises; you and I may not always agree on what those should be. But as the church, we can come together in solidarity and rescue of those in this world who are being slaughtered every day. The best place to start is with prayer: "We pray to you, almighty God, in this time of international crisis. You are our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble. Help us and guide our actions. Heal the hurt, console the bereaved and broken-hearted, protect the innocent and helpless, and deliver any who are in peril; for the sake of your great mercy in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
+We have open dates for Sunday servers at Zion. Fellowship hosts are needed for May 7 and 14 and a lector for May 28. Also, greeter(s) and flower volunteer opportunities are open for May. June and July have lots of blank spaces right now as well. You can volunteer by signing the Sunday Server sheets in the Fellowship Hall or contacting Rhonda Womble in the church office: 745-2096 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!
+Billy and I will have friends visiting this weekend and the first part of next week, so I will not have my regular office hours on Monday. Next Wednesday, I will be attending our conference pastors' meeting in Gladesboro all morning and will not be in the office that day. I will be available for appointments at other times during the week, so please let me know if you would like to set one up and I will be happy to meet you at the office or your home.
+Please keep Dolly Marshall in your prayers as she recovers from a recent hospital stay.
"For I am Lord your God, who upholds your hand, Who says to you, 'Do not fear, I will help you.'" - Isaiah 41:13