You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. I am the LORD your God. Leviticus 19:34
Loving the stranger; welcoming refugees. This month (February) it will mark two years since myself (Danika) and another co-worker started the program Bridges Colorado which reaches out to Afghan refugees in the Colorado Springs area. We have been so busy and done so much and unfortunately I have not been sharing and communicating as much as I should. This newsletter is a chance to catch you up and an invitation to join us on this journey. And it is my intention to be more regular about giving updates.
Here's a few things for you to know about our program.....
- Our mission is to Welcome, Connect, and Empower the Afghan refugee population as they transition to life in America.
- Our program is volunteer-driven and relationship-oriented. (We don't give handouts, but rather help connect the families to resources they need to thrive on their own).
- We have trained over 75 volunteers since we started. About 20 of those are committed to working with us on a regular, often weekly basis. Others have joined us for events, outings and helped with other activities.
- We are currently working with 22 Afghan families in the Colorado Springs area.
- We are communicating with a church's missions department in Denver about expanding the program to the Denver area with their cooperation.
- This year we saw 10 babies born to the families we work with.
- 5 new families arrived within the last year.
- We hosted a Thanksgiving dinner and a Christmas outreach event where churches donated food, gifts, time and a lot of love. I (Danika) was able to share a message on what the REAL reason is that we celebrate Christmas. (see photo above)
- Two families we work with were able to purchase their own home this year and others are in the process of that for this upcoming year.
- This year we had an Afghan family who initially arrived in another US city, through word of mouth heard about our program and the Afghan community here, saved up money and moved to Colorado Springs so that they could be a part of it.
- We have been recognized on a local, state and national level as providing services above and beyond for the Afghan refugee population.
What started out as two young women with a heart for Afghans, a small document about our vision and purpose has really grown over the last few years. We have found great favor with the Afghan families and even greater favor in our city. I had initially intended to get involved with the start-up of this program and then just leave it in God's hands as to what my involvement would look like next, especially as our family continues to grow. Now, I am so grateful that God has allowed me the opportunity to serve Afghans here in my own community in the USA and see this work expand.
Josiah joins me when we visit the families. The photo above is the youngest daughter of a woman who I teach English to once a week. Their daughter was born two months premature. When speaking with her after the birth the mother told me, "If I had been in Afghanistan, my daughter would have died and I probably would have too." I was able to share with her that God had a plan for her, that he was watching out for her family and that he loved them so much. Josiah loves going to their apartment to visit, especially because they love giving him lots of candy and sweets.
So, haven't you heard about the refugee ban?
Of course! I wanted to make sure to communicate with you the good news, before getting swept up in the news, the controversy and all the loads of information and misinformation about the suspension of the refugee program for 120 days. I know there are opinions all over the place about this and it is not my goal to start an argument or vent and rant in this forum. For us, it doesn't change the focus of what we do. We still are involved in the refugees' lives every week, there are plenty of things that keep us busy and on our toes and that will not change given the recent events.
However, I do have a word of advice to everyone....please, please, please make sure that you are informed on this issue. Find your information from solid, reputable sources. Speak with those working directly with refugee resettlement or refugees themselves. Especially make sure you are informed before blasting your opinions on social media. I also encourage you to make sure that the Bible informs your view on immigration more than the media informs you views. I also want to make myself available to dialogue about any of these things as I am informed from many different angles, am involved in refugees' lives (and have seen the other side of the immigration issue having lived and traveled in many nations that refugees are fleeing). All that to say, I do hope that we will continue to be a nation that welcomes refugees, and I will continue to be one who does so personally.
Update on our family
Roy has been quite busy with his work as a counselor at Springs Rescue Mission. This year he has taken on more responsibility having almost a full case load as well as taking on the role of "Intake Coordinator." This means that he meets and interviews everyone interested in the program and processes them when they are allowed in. He also oversees the volunteers for their program.
Additionally, he was offered the opportunity to teach a Sociology class at Nazarene Bible College once a week in the evening. He completes that at the end of February. Needless to say, he's been very busy but still, his favorite thing to do is come home and spend time with his family.
Josiah is growing all time and is a very active little boy. Mommy tries to make sure he gets enough time outside and also participating in play groups, taking advantage of toddler time at the library, and he is also loving the nursery at church every week. He loves to dance to music. He has picked up a lot of sign language words, but we are still waiting for his baby babble to turn into more discernable language. He is such a happy boy and brings so much joy to our lives. His biggest milestone is that he has started sleeping ALL THE WAY through the night. Mom and Dad are overjoyed.
Danika is of course spending her days chasing after a toddler, overseeing the refugee program and working from home. She is also taking time to read more and get outside as much as possible (and is so thankful for Colorado winters where we have 50 degree days in the middle of January). She has also joined a MOPS group and is building friendships with other moms as she has time. Motherhood has been a challenge, a joy and the biggest transition season of her life. She is realizing how much she needs other people and life-giving friendships in her life. Since becoming pregnant again, naps are a regular part of her daily routine.
We have been living in our new house for almost 7 months now and it truly has become our home. We are learning the joys and trials of being home owners already having experienced our first major toilet back up and having to replace some major appliances. We have some great neighbors and have been able to host a few friends and family who came and visited. We have a guest bedroom all ready for whoever wants to come and visit. (did we mention the sunny 50 degree days all you Minnesota peeps?!).
Thanks for keeping connected with us and please keep our ministries and our family in your prayers.