This summer we are featuring Restoration members who are actively ministering to others in our community and around the world. Maynard Belson, along with his wife Sheryl, joined Restoration about three years ago and have blessed our congregation with their gifts, leadership, and wisdom. You can see Maynard on Sunday mornings running the sound booth, reading Scripture aloud, or helping with our children’s ministry. We asked Maynard to share his experience coming alongside a refugee family as they make their new home in Dallas.
Why is Restoration involved in ministry to refugees?
Part of Restoration’s mission is to join God in the restoration of our city. Specifically, we desire “to seek God’s best for every person in our community as we participate in his mission to restore everything he has created. We ask for open eyes to see the needs of our neighborhood and the world as we extend the hospitality and healing of Jesus to all people. We call everyone to join in God’s work of restoring our city by practicing hospitality in our homes, meeting the needs of those in great need, and taking the good news of Jesus to the nations.”
The following passage which speaks to the City portion of our mission is a reminder that we to are sojourners and foreigners in this land. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare (Jeremiah 29:7). We have a unique opportunity to tend to the welfare of the least of these in our community through a variety of ministries. One that is dear to our hearts is refugee resettlement.
Describe your relationship with the refugee family you serve.
My wife, Sheryl and I are part of a Restoration team that “adopted” a refugee family in June 2016. The Alezzaldeens (a family of eight) moved to the Dallas area after fleeing their home in Homs, Syria in 2011 and living in a Jordanian refugee camp for almost five years. As a team we have helped with all the things kids need when they first attend school, but with some unique challenges. They spoke no English and had minimal schooling as there was no formal education available to them while in Jordan. We also help with medical, housing, work, bills…. My personal involvement has been with housing, benefits, bills, and finding work for Hasan, the dad.
Over the months, Hasan has become a brother and dear friend. I try to visit with him 3-4 times a month and while we still discuss financial stuff, we also play backgammon, struggle with conversations about family, work, the weather, and food. Hasan speaks very little English and I speak no Arabic, so we often must engage their older daughters to help with simple translations. But even through the language and culture differences, a unique friendship continues to grow.
How did you get involved originally?
Our first exposure to refugees came through our daughter who worked for Refugee Services of Texas in 2008. She subsequently worked in the Middle East and then became deeply involved with immigration through a job with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). We sought out opportunities to serve the refugee community on a local level through Refugee Services of Texas and Gateway of Grace. When we moved to Restoration Anglican Church in 2015 we brought our heart for displaced people with us. In partnership with the Dominguez family we hosted a Refugee Awareness forum to share information about the global issues and ways people engage in our community.
What has motivated you to continue to be a part of this ministry?
I have a passion for international missions and a desire to see people’s hearts captured by Jesus. For me the challenge in pursing that passion has primarily has been through support of missionaries serving overseas. Out of the chaos and unrest in the world, God seems to have opened doors for displaced people from around the world to come to our city, allow us to build relationships and be lights to people that have fled unfathomable destruction of their worlds and their families. While I am compelled to continue to seek out ways to advocate for displaced people, I also enjoy the friendship that has and is forming with the Alezzaldeen family. I want them to find a true home in the USA; regain stability that comes with an education, work, a home, friends and through a relationship with our Restoration family to come to know the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
Are there current or upcoming projects that Restoration would be able to support you in?
We will have a back to school drive for all the refugee families with whom Restoration has a relationship. Keeping six kids in uniforms, shoes, and other necessities for school is not easy. It would be a great help to the Alezzaldeens if you would take a tag from the Back to School Angel Tree in August so that this family is prepared to go back to school.
Are there ways that people at Restoration can become personally involved in your ministry?
The mom, Kholoud and their two teenage girls, Mona and Thuraya desire to work and contribute to the family so they might get out of subsidized housing and to a safer community. They would benefit from someone guiding them through the job search and application process for positions they can realistically fill, that would provide useful experience and income. The objective is to train them as job seekers not to do the job searches and applications for them.
The two boys would benefit from engagement with Boy Scouts in their school/area. It would require one or two guys to get them signed up with the local scout troop and volunteer once a month at their troop meeting or a monthly outing. I believe that Hasan would also engage if there was someone to go along with him.
All the kids, ages 8-17, need tutoring for virtually every subject. They are years behind and the school system they are in simply can’t address the shortfall, especially for the older kids.
How can Restoration pray for you?
My biggest prayer need is to be bold in engaging with Hasan and his family in discussing spiritual matters and sharing the grace, mercy and hope of being a follower of Jesus Christ. I also desire to not allow myself to be satisfied/complacent in limiting my support of immigrants and refugees to the Alezzaldeen family.
A more global prayer would be for the 68.5 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, the organizations that strive to help and godly wisdom for leaders of nations that seem unable or unwilling to stop the destruction of families, cultures, cities and nations.