International (MNN) — On the heels of failing food programs, squalid refugee camps, disease, and the migration of millions of war refugees around the world, the United Nations has launched an ambitious 15-year plan.
The plan takes aim at eradicating poverty, improving health and education, and dealing with climate change. The price tag of this program: between $3.5 trillion and $5 trillion a year between 2016 and the end of 2030.
You might be wondering how this can be done with the world’s largest ongoing humanitarian refugee crisis underway, or how to measure success. Admittedly, these are questions for which no one has an answer other than to point out: “What choice do we have?”
It’s important to note that since the crisis burst onto the world’s consciousness, more and more people are beginning to respond. Bethany Christian Services says some of those refugees have been brought to Michigan. Kristine Van Noord, the Program Manager for Refugee Adult and Family Services, says, ”Michigan, so far, has resettled 162 Syrian refugees. There are some of those refugees that have family members in the Detroit area. So that’s one reason [they’re coming to Michigan]. The other reason is that here in Grand Rapids, for example, the local community has really said, ‘We want to resettle Syrian refugees.’”
In fact, adds Van Noord, “Here in Grand Rapids, there is a Syrian–American community that really wants to get involved in helping the Syrian refugees, and then a large Christian community that wants to help, as well.” There are other reasons Syrian refugees are coming to Michigan. Some have family in the Detroit area, which is home to a large Arabic community. Michigan isn’t alone in responding, says Van Noord. “So far, in the United States, the largest states resettling refugees have been Texas, Michigan, California, Illinois, and Arizona.”
However, it’s a drop in the bucket, compared to the need. Right now there are over 4 million Syrian refugees and 8 million displaced within Syria. Yet, the U.S. has welcomed less than 1500 this year. Van Noord acknowledges that “the U.S. has committed to taking up to 10,000 refugees, and it’s just not enough out of 4 million.” By comparison, “Germany is taking 835,000. We’re asking the U.S. government to do more. There is a petition.” (Click here for that petition.)
What else can be done? “There are 9 national resettlement agencies in the United States,” says Van Noord. “Each one of those has local offices in different cities.” She says that letting a resettlement agency know there is a waiting community goes a long way. Simply call and say, “‘Hey! Our church is interested in doing this; we would love to help!’ [That] would be a great way to encourage them to bring [more] Syrian refugees.”
There are 34 Syrian refugees who have relocated to Grand Rapids, Michigan, home of Bethany’s main office. An area church responded to the call for help, and a resettlement office sent a family struggling with trauma and loss. “This is a family that had to flee for their lives. They were shot at as they went across the border,” explains Van Noord. “Now they are here, and they have this Christian church that has come alongside of them.”
What difference does that make? It’s a commitment, she explains. It’s a perfect example of how to show the love of Christ to others in need. This church body came alongside the family to help ease the adjustment to a new normal. “They have helped with English tutoring. They have helped with the material needs in their home. They have befriended them and shown them around the neighborhood and just connected with them–just really deep friendships.”
Commitment earns trust. Trust opens the door for more dialogue. Change happens on both sides, says Van Noord. Not only do refugees begin to heal from their trauma, but “as the Church loves them with the love of Christ, the volunteers are also being impacted. Their lives are forever changed by knowing this refugee family.”
Bethany also offers refugee foster care programs. They work with youth from many different countries, but so far, there are no unaccompanied minors from Syria yet. New arrivals come frequently, so Van Noord says they need more foster care families, people who are willing to host a young person in their home. For details on contacting the area Resettlement Agency, go to http://www.cwsglobal.org/.