Monday, May 22, 2017

Welcoming the Stranger; Lakeside's Refugee Project #1 Post

Pre Moving breakfast, 8:30 am Sunday 
This is the week that we have been waiting for at Lakeside Congregation as we welcome Makanja, a refugee from the Congo to live in Chicago.  We have learned together as a congregation how best to welcome him and I am sure we have more learning ahead of us.   I will start with some of our preparations that began long before he was scheduled to arrive at O'Hare. 

For the better part of the last year we have been working with HIAS to prepare as a congregation to welcome a refugee.  Most refugees coming to the United States spend their life or most of their lives, 17-25 years waiting to get the clearance and visas to immigrate. It is a rigorous process and when  people ask for more "vetting" I don't think that is possible.   In Makanja's case he is 27 years old and has spent his whole in a refugee camp.

Loading the truck
At Lakeside we started by raising funds which will help Makanja pay rent for the first few months he is here.  This is what we know about him:  

On his application it lists “barber” as his occupation. He has been living in a mud hut without doors, without running water or electricity.  We know that he doesn’t speak English, might speak a little French, but Swahili and possibly some Bembe will be the language most likely spoken.

Makanja's new apartment
The new apartment is in Albany park near transportation and classes Makanja will take to learn English. 

On Sunday a group of dedicated volunteers got up early and began to move all of the assembled furniture and goods we have collected for him.  Thank you to the Guttman/Valentine household for not just providing breakfast but also storing furniture for Makanja for many months.  Also special thanks to the Bagdade family for driving the truck, providing muscle power and for all of the organization this took.  Special thanks to Zach Auerbach for getting up early on Sunday morning and adding his muscle power, we couldn't have done it without all of you.  

When Makanja comes from the airport on Wednesday he will have a furnished apartment, a refrigerator full of cooked food, some clothes and other necessities.  Our Refugee committee has worked hard to make this dream come a reality.  We hope to keep you updated as we welcome Makanja to Chicago.  

We will let you know what donations of materials and donations of your time we will need.  We know as a congregation this is the right thing to do and expect that it will not be an easy task.  We will need many different resources to make sure Makanja has a successful transition.  Do not hesitate to contact me if you want to help or Lakeside's office.  Watch for more as we wait expectantly for Makanaja's arrival on Wednesday May 24th.  

(Special thanks as always to Lakeside's social action committee, they are always looking for more volunteers just let us know if you are interested.)

And the Eternal had said to Abram, “Get out from your country, and from your family, and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1)