Leavenworth Resettles

Posted by: Alex on Jan 25, 2016


Over the past year, especially in these recent months, our media sources have flooded us with images of refugees fleeing their homelands, seeking shelter in Europe.   Who has not been impacted on some level by the photos of desperate individuals, families, children, who have etched upon their faces the incredible hardships of their perilous journey and the trauma of that which had caused them to escape?

We have also heard the legitimate concerns voiced by host nations as they face dwindling resources and are ever more concerned with internal security and the impending social upheavals that will inevitably occur.

In the midst of all this and perhaps because of this, the heart of a Leavenworth resident has been deeply touched.  Sensing a stirring in her heart and a passion for mercy, she asked herself what it is that she could do in the face of such an immense humanitarian crises.   Might resettlement of one or two families work here in our valley?   Taking that first step, Claudia Elliot began speaking with members of her Leavenworth United Methodist congregation.  Realizing the enormity of the task, she also contacted Faith Lutheran.  In the next weeks, various members of these congregations and of our greater community began talking with one another and sensed that there needed to be a meeting of concerned individuals.

In December, a small group gathered in a local home and the planning began, with questions being asked:  Is this even possible in a rural setting where necessary resources may not be as accessible?  (Most refugees have been settled in the Tacoma-Seattle area).  Would this community be welcoming of such “strangers,” especially if they are Muslim?  Will there be security concerns that would create tensions?  And what agency could help the group realize their plans?

Many of these questions were addressed at a special meeting on the evening of January 18th.   Over twenty members of this community came together to hear John Forseth, Resettlement Director for Lutheran Community Services NW (LCSNW, Tacoma) present valuable information and realistic counsel.  With John came his assistant, Saleem Khan, an AmeriCorp worker.  Saleem had been an interpreter for the U.S. Army in Afghanistan and had recently been granted refugee status eight months ago.  He, his wife, and 5 children now live near Tacoma.  LCSNW is affiliated with Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services (LIRS), one of nine federally sanctioned agencies responsible for resettling refugees.

Yes, this will require much work and over a long period of time.  Yes, there will be those, as in any community, who will feel uncomfortable and even intolerant.  And yes, the family(s) will experience difficulties in transition and may perhaps even move after a time to be with relatives in another part of the U.S.  After their presentation, ten action teams were formed and Team Leaders appointed.  Jackie Frazier and Meleah Butruille will serve as Co-Facilitators of the Core Group consisting of Carol Hurst, Carl Florea, Laurie Peek, Judy Derpack, Claudia Elliot, David Morgan, Cassidy Sorensen, Mara Merritt, and Judy Rector.  These teams would provide and assist with housing, employment, food, clothing, education, medical care, and much more.

Nevertheless, as the conversations continued that evening and as the core group of Team Leaders met the next morning, the overwhelming response was “Yes, we can!”  As one participant mentioned an LIRS quote, “As people of faith, we do not welcome on the condition that refugees are Christian;  we welcome because we are Christian.”  The group sensed that in addition to providing the essentials of stability, safety, and the hope of a new life, we as individuals and as a community will benefit greatly from the gifts and hearts that these families will bring to us.   We will also learn important truths from their life stories, traditions, and faith.  We will together learn to listen, honor, and respect these precious “strangers” who have come into our midst, to enrich our own lives as well.  For more information, questions, or concerns, contact Alex Schmidt:   leavenworthresettles@nwi.net.