OKUMC churches join in local efforts to help refugees from Afghanistan
Congregations in Norman, Oklahoma City and Tulsa are joining with local organizations to help refugees who are coming to Oklahoma from Afghanistan.
Rev. Adam Shahan who leads OKC-Wesley said the church has an existing relationship with local groups who work with refugees.
“Wesley supports Burmese, Congolese, and Vietnamese refugees by helping tutor their children, introduce them to Oklahoma City, take them to appointments and events, and build relationships with them,” Shahan said. “We do this whether or not we can speak the same language, showing the love of Christ in whatever way we can. When the news about Afghan parolees coming to Oklahoma City reached us, it seemed a logical extension of the ministry we provide in partnership with the Spero Project.”
The Spero Project is a resettlement agency in Oklahoma City that works specifically with the refugee community. The non-profit was started as an effort to help Burmese refugees coming into Oklahoma City learn conversational English. Since that time, it has grown to serve the refugee community in Oklahoma City as a whole.
Wesley will help secure and furnish five apartments and work to build relationships with those who move in. Shahan anticipates those relationships will grow and continue into the foreseeable future.
Tulsa-First has secured at least five homes for refugees. The church has created a landing page, https://fumctulsa.org/afghan, to help both church members and the public know what items are needed, where they can be dropped off, and what things are important to know about the Afghan culture. A Facebook post by the church was shared 13 times by members and others hoping to spread the word.
Members of Norman-St. Stephen’s formed a Refugee Committee four years ago. The committee helped launch the Norman Coalition for Refugee Support, an ecumenical group of Norman churches including St. Stephen’s, University Lutheran Church, First Christian Church-Norman, First Presbyterian Church Norman, and Iglesia Pueblo de Dios.
“We have in the past two days set up an apartment for the first family, who are set to arrive in Norman on Wednesday (Sept. 15) next week,” Himes said. “We expect more to arrive in the next month.”
This will be the fifth refugee family the coalition has worked together to provide help and support with housing, transportation, education, medical care, language and general cultural orientation.
“St. Stephen’s sees this as biblically-mandated work,” Himes said. “We are to welcome the stranger, meet the needs of those who are hungry, homeless, threatened, or outcast.”