Saturday, December 23, 2017

A message from our refugee resettlement director

Dear faith leaders, and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, 

“When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up,’ he said, ‘take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.’ So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod.”

This time of year, as we all gather to celebrate the gift of Christ’s birth, I ask you to remember this part of the Nativity story: Our Savior and his Earthly parents were driven from their homeland into the arms of strangers under pain of death. Our King was a refugee in Egypt

There are 65 million refugees in the world today: that's millions of families just like our Savior’s family who have been forced to flee for their lives—and they are knocking on our doors. What is our response? As a Church? As a country? As a community?

As many of you know, I work for Canopy NWA, a new nonprofit started by our community to welcome and care for refugees. We have had the chance to welcome 55 refugees so far, and there are 75 more we are expecting this coming year. We know 32 of them by name. Many of these families were assigned to us last winter but have not been permitted to travel because of three separate refugee bans. Even though some refugees are starting to be admitted again, we are worried by the current pace of admissions: currently, we are on track to admit a paltry 15,000 this year instead of the 45,000 promised by our President. If nothing changes, we worry that some or all of our families might not make it in this year.

I’m writing to you all as my brothers and sisters in Christ to ask you and your churches for three things this Christmas, in the name of the 65 million displaced: 

1. Will you pray with me? Pray for the 32 men, women and children who are being kept from their homes here in Northwest Arkansas. Pray for their safety: already, we are grieved to know that one young man we were expecting has passed away in a refugee camp from an illness that would have been easily treated here. Pray for peace for them as they wait. Also pray for the families, co-sponsor teams and churches who have been waiting for nearly a year to be able to receive these people here in Northwest Arkansas. And above all, pray that they would be permitted to join us here soon. Pray for change in the hearts of those who are barring the way for these families to enter into their promised home. Ask God to change our rulers’ hearts to “let His people go.” 

              2. Will you give to support our work? Since our founding, we have relied on the support of faith communities like yours, but never has this support been more crucial than in this moment. Our government funding is tied solely to newly-arrived refugees. If we are not permitted to welcome any refugee families this year, that funding—which also allows us to continue serving those who are already here—will disappear. We are facing the possibility of a loss of up to $75,000 if none of our expected families are permitted to travel. I ask you all and your churches to consider supporting our ministry this coming year. It is becoming clear that we simply won’t be able to continue without you all. 

              3. Will you plead with our leaders along with me? Every one of our elected officials—from our members of Congress, to our President and Vice President—call themselves Christians. So as leaders of the Christian faith, I ask you consider how you might be able to use whatever influence you have to remind our leaders that our faith commands us to welcome these strangers, fleeing for their lives. Our elected officials are not infallible. Like the kings of Israel, they are humans who sometimes need to be reminded of what is true and right. God often used His prophets to correct the rulers He had put in place and call them back to obedience. Likewise, I believe God is calling us—calling the Church—to speak up for His children. We cannot be silent anymore. Please. This Christmas, join me in pleading with our elected officials to do what is right and to allow the 45,000 who have been promised refuge here to enter into safety without delay. I invite you to start by signing this statement, if you haven't already. After that, I would ask that you prayerfully consider who you might have in your sphere of influence who might need to hear this message this Christmas.

Thank you, brothers and sisters for taking the time to read this and listen to the Holy Spirit's leading. Please feel free to reach back out if you would like to speak to me about any of this in person or over the phone.
For the sake of our Refugee King,

Emily Crane Linn
Resettlement Director, Canopy NWA

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