This week, our featured blogger is Matt Owens, Pastor of Christ the Redeemer Quincy. In October, UniteBoston was blessed to partner with his church to host a fall festival with live music, a free ice cream truck, hot apple cider, pumpkin painting and other activities for children! Read below to hear about how UB helped to enhance and further his church’s fall outreach initiative.
Massachusetts is expecting to receive around 1,100 Afghans and the agencies are overwhelmed and asking for the assistance of churches and the Christian community. How will the Church in our region and across the U.S. respond to this tremendous need and opportunity?
One response locally comes from Kataluma, a faith-based org that is seeking to help churches rise to the occasion in serving these incoming Afghans. Kataluma is partnering with the Refugee & Immigrant Assistance Center (RIAC), one of the local resettlement agencies that is responsible for managing the resettlement process.
Here are four ways churches and individuals can help in the coming days:
1) Host homes or creative housing space: The rate of arrivals is too fast for resettlement agencies to find enough apartments. They are looking for temporary hosts who can provide a soft landing for an Afghan family for 2-3 months, but in some cases this may be as long as 6 months.
- Host homes need to be near public transportation
- Creative space such as parsonages, in-law apartments, donated apartments or houses, etc. are also being sought
- Kataluma, is seeking to raise up 15 host homes from local churches. Hosts will participate in an orientation, receive weekly check-ins from Kataluma and/or RIAC staff, participate in monthly gatherings with cohort members for prayer, reflection, learning and support.
- If you are in the Boston area and are interested in learning more about offering your household as a host home or you have access to other creative space, please complete the volunteer interest form to let us know of your interest in finding out more information.
2) Donating essential goods: The new Afghan evacuees have far less material resources than previous refugee entrants so will initially be in need of a lot of donated support.
- For NOW, the most useful in-kind gifts are: grocery store gift cards, drug store gift cards, public transportation gift cards, and Target gift cards. Gift cards may be hand delivered to me or mailed to: Emmanuel Gospel Center, PO Box 240017, Dorchester, MA 02124, ATT: Gregg Detwiler
- In the COMING MONTHS we may launch drives for items such as: diapers, feminine hygiene products, cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, disinfectant wipes, bathing supplies, house slippers/bathrobe, sheets, blankets, pillows, school supplies, backpacks, toys, games, shoes, coats. We are NOT ready to receive these items yet but will let you know when we need them in the coming weeks and months.
- If you are interested in donating essential goods please complete the volunteer interest form.
3) Other volunteering opportunities
- Other needs will emerge, such as food distribution, limited transportation needs, etc.
- Supporting families with friendship and helping connect them to other resources they may need as they seek to make their way in a new community and culture.
- If you are interested in joining our volunteer pool to support incoming families please complete the volunteer interest form.
4) Financial contributions: There are a lot of needs here, but I will limit this particular ask to one:
- Kataluma Refugee Hospitality is stepping up to do their part to respond to this urgent need in a variety of ways, including mobilizing the Christian community with: host home recruitment & support; food, transportation, and other volunteer support; cultural assistance and friendship. You can give to to Kataluma online here. Your gifts will be used in both direct assistance to Afghan families and to help us supporting our staff to do this work.
We also encourage you to watch this video below, where Gary Moorehead, founding Director of Kataluma, and Gregg Detwiler, Intercultural Ministries Consultant, are interviewed by Brandt Gillespie of Congregation Lion of Judah about the incoming wave of Afghan refugees. You can hear Gary share his previous experience rebuilding homes for returning Afghans, Paul Jehle sharing about the inter-church collaboration that is happening at this time, as well as ways that you and your community can pray.
Watch this video to meet Pastor Devlin, who recently stepped into the role as the UB communications administrator, the role that Pastor Percy Ballah has faithfully served for the past few months.
In the video, Pastor Devlin shares his experience growing up in inner-city Chicago, planting NewCity Church in Newton, and his hopes for serving in this role with UB. Join us in praising God for Pastor Devlin joining the UB team!
Today, we are honored to have Dean Borgman as our guest blogger on UniteBoston. Dean Borgman was a youth leader in Connecticut, then in Young Life’s first urban work on New York’s Lower East Side. For some forty years, he taught youth ministry, racial justice and biblical social justice at Gordon-Conwell’s Roxbury and Hamilton campuses. Here, Dean shares a reflective piece after watching a documentary from 9/11 about the need to confront the evil in our midst.
I watched CNN’s documentary on 9/11… and was led to live it in some small way… as an intrusive visitor. Still, its sounds and smells, the thuds of bodies and cries of injured… the incredible sacrifice of First Responders filled me with awe, anxieties… and questions.
My inner soul wants to take it all somewhere… but where? What are others feeling? What is Media suggesting? It’s been twenty years since my assistant called me and merely said: “Dean, you don’t know? Turn on your TV!”
In some way or other we are all Responders.
There seems to be at least three ways to respond:
to hate… to forget and pass on…
to forgive—a word that is almost unfathomable in this case. I have hated those who plunged so many lives into fear, pain, death, and grief. I have hated those who hijacked and drove those planes… and those who planned and smiled at great distances as so many suffered, those dying and those who would spend the rest of their lives grieving.
Then, besides that initial hate, I have forgotten… and gotten on with my life. After all, it’s unhealthy to dwell with hate or drown in grief. We who have tended to forget and pass on will occasionally express a genuine: “It was a terrible shame.” And our unfinished regret is assuaged by media memorials.
But finally, beyond hate and forgetting, the forgiving…. What does that even entail and mean? And what good does it do… myself and the world? I don’t see myself, or society, knowing what it might mean to forgive such an enormous assault? The forgiveness seemingly called for is not just my own individual turn from hatred… or “getting on with my life.” It seems to call for a much larger national forgiveness… and forgiveness from “faith & religion,” the Church.
There is trivial forgiveness of slight social mistakes, and there is superficial forgiveness of serious personal and social injustice—harm that one suffers and can’t get over.
Effective forgiveness needs to be pondered and discussed—as a process. It calls for genuine relationships and the telling of true stories. Must I not deeply understand what I’m called to forgive? Don’t I somehow need to comprehend vividly what I am forgiving… something of the nature of Evil?
Something still seems to be missing? That hour in CNN… with the dust and darkness, the bodies! The terrified faces of those fleeing the hailstorm of debris… the frustrated looks of firemen and first responders. The cries! I’m struck by the enormity of Evil.
Am I alone trying to comprehend such evil? I hardly hear it being called Evil. Nor little suggestion as to how we are to deal with evil. Nor instruction about what Evil really is. I understand that in our Post-(so much) times such issues have dissolved into the ultimate nothingness of life. Can we live with such final meaninglessness?
Being honest, I realize I have not preached specifically on Evil. I fear… I may get it wrong… express it wrongly… be misunderstood or rejected. Am I another part of a Church that hasn’t taken up its cross and proclaimed Evil as a necessary part of the Good News. Am I basically unwilling to follow the way Jesus confronted the evil of Pharisaical religiosity (Matthew 23) or the evil in every individual’s heart (Matthew 15:19)?
Such honesty would call us all… individuals, nation, and churches… to repentance. The Good News would not be “just believe and join us,” but “repent and believe.”
I can hardly do this alone. Don’t we need the Church? Don’t we need others to help us confront evil… which comes from the Evil One… who so easily seduces societies, churches, and all of us descendants of Adam and Eve? Don’t we need, as a People, to remember and face the evils of the Holocaust, Racism and 9/11… and more, with true repentance, corporate and individual… against evils going beyond our personal comprehension.
Loving and forgiving God, we are trying to face realities in which we all share some blame. We have busily built our own kingdoms. Help us humbly repent and pray,”‘Thy Kingdom come.”
Dean Borgman was a youth leader in Connecticut, then in Young Life’s first urban work on New York’s Lower East Side. For some forty years, he taught youth ministry, racial justice and biblical social justice at Gordon-Conwell’s Roxbury and Hamilton campuses. He’s also taught at Fuller Theological Seminary, Cuttington University (Liberia), the African International University and Daystar University (Kenya). Dean and his wife Gail have four grown children and twelve grandchildren.
This summer, UniteBoston’s leadership team hosted a series of smaller backyard concerts with an open mic for Christian artists and budding songwriters to share the songs, poems, artwork, and dances that have emerged out of the challenges of this past year. This initiative came out of the Songwriter’s Guild that Bailey Kolapudi had launched with Reunion Christian Church and then expanded to involve Christians from many churches through UniteBoston’s network.
Our vision for these concerts was to restore the bonds of friendship, justice, and resilience, bringing renewal to the body of Christ and our surrounding communities. We were thrilled to see this vision become reality by successfully hosting four exciting backyard concerts at different locations in the Boston area. Below are snapshot promo videos, photos, and testimonies of this impactful concert series!
“I had the privilege of attending UB’s first summer outdoor concert, and it was, as we used to say back in the day, “Off the Hook!” The musicians and their music choices were an absolute blessing, and the fellowship was refreshing!”Marian E. Turenne, Bethel Pentecostal Church (Boston)
Nature is itself a hymn to God’s glory, so it was truly a double-delight to sit within a choir of trees and brush, breathing in fresh, warm, evening air, all the while listening to the harmonization of human voices and musical instruments joining the chorus and giving glory and praise to our Creator!Father Tom Ryan, The Paulist Center (Boston)
Watch this highlight from our concert in Roxbury, where Devin Ferreira had members of the audience write down words and then he created a freestyle rap amidst choruses of “Oceans” – “Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders…”
It was such a fun time playing at the Renew Backyard Concert series. Artists were asked to sing originals that related to our experiences during the pandemic. I sang my original song “Cherish You” because if there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s to cherish loved ones and human interaction like never before. We wrapped up the night with a sing-along of “Stand by Me” and it really warmed my heart. Grateful for the new connections made and the inspiration shared yesterday!–Jen Aldana, Impact Church (Medford); center in photo above
“I’m so glad I attended the Renew backyard concert! I saw friends I hadn’t seen in a while and made new connections with women who are doing similar ministry to mine at other churches. The music was amazing, with a wide representation of styles and talents. It was gratifying to see so many talented Christians in one place. God is truly at work in our city, and I’m thankful for UB and its vision to put this event together.”Yovanny Pulcini, Congregation Lion of Judah (Boston)
”I had the privilege of being a part of all of the concerts and I really appreciated the diversity of talent and music genres represented, especially at the last concert. There was worship music, reggaeton, hip hop, contemporary Christian music, and more. Through this, I saw firsthand the beauty of worship music and its ability to edify not just the person singing, but others who are listening and singing along. I also had the opportunity to get on stage and share a song that I’ve been working on with others in the Songwriter’s Guild. Thankfully, it was a safe environment to share in and I was met with encouragement.”Cleopatra Muhammad, Restoration City Church (Boston)
“The creative performances by local Christian artists and social interactions between diverse groups of people created a vibrant atmosphere that contributed to the formation of new friendships and re-connection of individuals from different Boston neighborhoods.”K. Percy Ballah, UniteBoston Communications Administrator and Pastor at Impact Center Providence