Forum for Refugee Awareness: Learn How to Help

Forum for Refugee Awareness: Learn How to Help

Restoration is proud to host the Refugee Awareness Forum on Sunday, April 24. The event is free but you must register online if you plan to attend. We’ve asked Sheryl Belson to share more about this wonderful opportunity to learn how we can respond to the refugee crisis. 

God calls each of us into various roles at various times. Some are exciting and some are mundane. Ephesians 2:10 says each one of us is custom made for good works that God planned in advance for us to do. My husband Maynard and I didn’t know that one of the things He had planned for us was to capture our hearts for the refugee and to join with others who share this calling. But here we are, excited to be a part of what God is doing, working together to participate in the Forum for Refugee Awareness immediately following service on Sunday, April 24.

God has given us a desire to bring information to our church family and the community about the refugee crisis. We have gathered a panel that includes a refugee resettled in our community from Iraq, representatives from local organizations that assist in refugee resettlement, information about how refugee applicants are vetted and more.  The forum includes a catered Middle Eastern meal prior to the panel discussion and child care for kids 12 and younger.

To whet your appetite for this topic, I’ve include below an article that expresses the heart of a Refugee Officer who has worked with refugee applicants for several years.  It expresses our heart as well.  We hope you enjoy reading it.

Most people don’t know that our profession exists. Plenty of people don’t realize that our country has a process of resettling refugees fleeing from persecution worldwide. So there’s a lot to tell someone when you want to help them understand this job and the work that USCIS does for refugees.

The job of a refugee officer is acting out the USCIS mission on a daily basis; working to give the right benefit to the right person at the right time, and not giving it to the wrong people. 

We are sacrificing the stability and routine of a life in one place to travel to the places to which refugees have fled. These are people who have experienced some of the most traumatic conflicts that the world has known. We’re sitting down and talking to these people and hearing their personal experiences of extreme harm and learning about their fears. We’re delving into the reasons that they’ve experienced such trauma, and it is often on account of something very core to their being – because of their religion, their race, or the things that they think. They, very commonly, fear not so much for themselves but for their children. Many of our applicants are people who have struggled to survive, to avoid involvement in violent conflict surrounding them, and they want no more than the security to live their lives. 

We sit down and we ask questions about this, all the while running through our minds is the United States’ immigration law and our in depth studies of the country conditions for the areas the person before us has been, so that we can determine if they meet the definition of refugee in our law, and if there are any reasons for concern. We hold in our mind guidelines set in place to protect our national security and follow procedures to make sure that we are not giving a benefit to someone who doesn’t warrant it. 

It’s grueling. It’s the most mentally strenuous job I’ve ever had. At the end of a day, our hearts may be heavy and our minds exhausted. But at the end of my day, I know that my job helped put some people on the path to a new life in the United States, where their kids can grow up in safety. I know that I’ve done my diligence to make sure that I’m not helping the wrong people get to the United States. And I usually have a stack of new pictures drawn by smiling children who are just as elated by the sight of a bag of crayons and a coloring book as my nieces are. 

So if there was one thing I could explain to help someone understand my job, perhaps it’s this: we put our hearts and minds through the wringer each day so that people who have experienced some of the worst trauma the world has known can have a chance for their kids to color in peace.

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