This week, our blog is written by Kaitlin Roberson, BostonServe project coordinator for the care bag packing party for refugee youth. It’s encouraging to see how Kaitlin mobilized resources and volunteers to meet a need in the community, and how Christians coming together showed the love of Jesus in a practical way to our neighbors.
Being a mother of four, I have a huge passion for children and families. My heart breaks when I see children often getting caught in the crosshairs of adult conflict. Through no fault of their own, they are left fleeing for their lives, sometimes with a younger sibling in their arms. Some are orphans, parents killed in the midst of war and persecution. Some are here because their parents surrendered their rights out of an inability to care for their children, and some are rescued from human trafficking or extreme abuse.
These children are here in our midst, right in the Boston area, and there is a program that receives unaccompanied refugee minors and places them in foster families called the Ascentria Care Alliance. The children in this program are alone here, waiting for foster care and adoption. Many have spent a decade in refugee camps and some are here with their younger siblings. Unlike the regular foster system, which aims for reunification as soon as possible, most of these youth don’t have that option.
One evening, as I visited with a staff member of the Ascentria Care Alliance, I asked what their immediate needs were. I explained that a group of friends would like to do something to make a tangible difference. Two things came out of that conversation: children needed duffle bags to carry their belongings and older children phasing out of the program needed kitchen supplies for their first apartments.
In the wake of the Boston protest against the travel ban and limitations put on refugees, the timing was perfect to rally people around these two projects. So as not to keep the 170 youth waiting any longer for these supplies, we gathered as much support as possible through GoFundMe, an Amazon wish list, petitioning local businesses, and partnering with BostonServe. I was amazed to see support coming in from 25 states and 4 countries in one month’s time!
On May 6th BostonServe volunteers joined other volunteers in Cambridge. Together, we packed 130 duffle bags full of personal hygiene items, school supplies, blankets and toys. This was a beautiful gathering of approximately 185 people, some of faith backgrounds and many who would not identify with any particular faith. Boston is a very secular area, but what a tremendous witness it is to the heart of the gospel when we come together to truly love people. A friend of mine who identifies as an atheist pulled me aside and said that we’re really doing what our faith compels us to do, not just saying the right things but doing them.
A staff member of the program who oversees the care of these refugee youth came that day to speak and she cried as she stood before the group of volunteers, so touched by the love she witnessed. They have since written me a letter of deep gratitude for the outpouring of support and supplies, but more than anything for helping these children feel seen, heard, and cared for.
The core of my faith, which includes loving my neighbor, welcoming the stranger, and looking after orphans in their distress, energized me around these projects. I had spent many months asking God about the next season of my life, as my four young children are now entering school full time. I believe the church is awakening to the global refugee crisis and our role in welcoming refugees–building meaningful relationships where the heart of Jesus can be shared.
Although we may land different places politically, my hope is that people will see that children tend to be the victims of war and economic unrest. As Christians, we have a tremendous opportunity to be good Samaritans, help them assimilate to our wonderful country, and have the chance to pursue life, liberty and justice. More than that, we have the chance to feed, clothe, and love like Jesus.
Please pray for the refugee children who are currently on a waiting list for foster families and for the 170 youth currently in the program. I cannot fathom how alone and insecure they must feel in a country that is unfamiliar to them and at times, unwelcoming.
Thank you for your support of BostonServe, so that projects like this are possible. There is nothing more beautiful than the unified body of Christ serving together.