In the last Illuminator, I asked you to pray about the possibility of fixing up the house on the property in order to provide temporary lodging for refugees who are being settled in the area through the work of World Relief Durham. I appreciate those of you who attended one or both of the meetings we had last week. I certainly learned helpful information from Adam Clark of World Relief Durham on Wednesday night and from Marc and Kim Wyatt on Thursday evening. It helped me to hear stories of some of the refugees that have come into the Triangle and to have a clearer awareness of the challenges these people face and the ministry opportunities that exist. Those of you present asked excellent questions and offered valuable insights as well. I appreciated the tone of the discussions and your prayerful consideration of this opportunity.
I believe that we have begun a productive conversation, and I am grateful to those of you who shared with me your excitement about being involved in such a ministry. At the same time, I know that some of you weren’t able to attend the information meetings and still need a chance to learn more about the details of this idea. I am working on scheduling a daytime Information Meeting so those who don’t go out at night can hear and learn more. There are also some questions we need to answer, including what such a ministry would mean for our insurance and what needs to be done to bring the house up to code and make it functional for this purpose. As we continue this conversation, I would enjoy hearing your thoughts, suggestions, questions, and sense of how God might be leading you. I also encourage you to keep praying for God’s clarity and guidance for us as a congregation.
I understand that these are important and challenging conversations and that refugees are being much discussed in the political arena these days. As I have mentioned in several settings, however, the question we are discussing is not whether refugees will be settled in Durham. World Relief Durham has been working with 150 new refugees each year and will likely be assisting 200 or more this year. The question in my mind is whether we will have an opportunity to meet them and demonstrate Christian care and hospitality to them on their way into town. If we choose to move forward with the proposal after this season of conversation and discernment, we will have the chance to meet, support, and show Christian love to families during their transition into a new country and a new way of life.
Thank you again for your thoughtfulness, questions, and prayers. I look forward to seeing how God will guide us forward together.
In worship on January 3, I mentioned a ministry idea that I ask you to consider prayerfully (If you would like to hear the sermon, you can listen here). Since the church offices have been relocated, the house on our property has been unused. After conversations with Marc and Kim Wyatt (Cooperative Baptist Fellowship missionaries focusing on ministry to internationals in the Triangle area) as well as leaders at World Relief Durham (their website is worldreliefdurham.org), I have asked the congregation to pray about working in partnership with CBF and other local churches to renovate the house to be used to offer temporary housing for refugee families while more permanent housing is being prepared. These refugees will have come through the government vetting process and will be coming to the area through the work of World Relief Durham.
Most of the refugees that World Relief helps settle are being placed at Oak Creek Village Apartments just 3 miles down the road from us, but there is often a gap of one night to several weeks between the time the families arrive in Durham and when their apartment is ready. The Wyatts established a similar ministry called Matthew House in Canada and have already helped open one in Raleigh that is called Welcome House. The primary work of resettlement is handled by the refugee resettlement agency which would be World Relief Durham, and the responsibility of the Wyatts and local churches is to provide Christian love and hospitality to families while they stay in the house amidst their life-changing transition.
If we as a church move forward with this idea, I envision it as a partner-ship effort between HVBC, the Wyatts, CBF, and other local churches. The process of renovating the house would become a project shared by local churches, visiting missions teams, and some skilled workers who might volunteer their time. There would likely be grant money available to help cover the costs of work that cannot be provided by volunteers. I am also convinced that if we pursue this path, the work of providing hospitality to the guests would not fall only on our church membership. I have several pastor friends who believe their church members will be interested in participating in a ministry like this one.
There is not room to give more details here, so I urge you to participate in two opportunities to learn more. 1) During Prayer Meeting on Wednesday, January 13 at 6:30 p.m., Adam Clark, the Director of World Relief Durham, will be speaking about their work in refugee resettlement. 2) On Thursday, January 14 at 7 p.m., we will have an introductory Interest Meeting to share more details and begin the conversation. Marc and Kim Wyatt will be present, and I hope you will join us to learn more and ask questions. In the meantime, please pray about this possibility and share honestly with me your thoughts, questions, and ideas. I look forward to seeing where God will lead us in the days ahead.