USA (MNN) — There’s a small community of refugees that are adjusting to a new life through farming. While they struggle to learn the local language and customs, they find love and support at Hope Farms.
These refugees aren’t in Africa, Asia, or the Middle East. They live in West Michigan.
Alison Morgan of Bethany Christian Services fills us in: “Hope Farms is a program at Bethany Christian Services. We work with refugees, most of who have been in the United States for 5 years or less. And what we’ve been seeing over the years is a lot of these refugees come with extensive agricultural skills and background.”
Bethany has an extensive refugee program that fits well into their mission to serve children and families in need. They offer counseling for refugees who have come out of violent persecution. They also work with refugee resettlement and employment.
When these refugees arrive in the United States, they often have trouble transitioning the skills they have into a feasible means of income. Many of the refugees, if they can speak English, are placed into factories. It’s more difficult for those that are struggling to learn the language.
Bethany’s farming program takes a closer look at how to help these refugees use what they already know and help them use that knowledge in a whole new context.
Hope Farms is a small farm of five acres. The farmers pay a small fee to use a portion of the five acres. They gain access to healthy food and are able to sell what’s left over to local restaurants and grocery stores and at farmer’s markets. This helps supplement their income.
Morgan says that Hope Farms is really a story of redemption by giving a bit of normal life back to these people. “Being able to be back into their livelihood of what they’ve known their whole life is really a beautiful story and I think reminiscent of the Gospel of getting people back into something they love and seeing them being able to support their families,” she says.
The farmers currently using Hope Farms are all Christian. They have been able to meet in small house churches where the Gospel is taught in their language. Morgan says this also helps them feel at home since many of them attended similar churches in their own countries.
Why should someone like you care?
Morgan says benefits exist for those involved with this project, not just the farmers themselves.
“Having interactions with people of different cultures and different backgrounds is always beneficial; you can always learn new things and kind of broaden your perspective on life when you’re interacting with these people.
“Jesus commands us to care for the refugee and the alien, over and over again in the Gospel, and so it’s a great thing for Christians to get involved with,” Morgan says.
The locals in the community have stepped up and been blessed to get to know these people. Morgan says, “We’ve seen a lot of volunteers who didn’t know much about refugees or that they were even in the community. Once they get involved, they just fall in love with them and are able to help them.”
If you’re local to Kentwood, Michigan, Morgan has a word for you: “This is a people group that needs a lot of support from the community if they’re going to acculturate well here. So the more people we can get involved to have a heart for this, the better.”
To support Hope Farms from afar, you can give financially here. Or consider researching resettlement agencies near your city.
Ask God to help these refugees to be a testimony of His providence and love to the community around them.