To: Presbyterians, Congregations, and Councils of the Synod of the Covenant
Re: WELCOME ALL REFUGEES ( including Families from Iraqi and Syria)
Dear Presbyterians, Congregations, and Councils,
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” (Matthew 25:35-36)
“Let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8)
“For the Lord your God is God of gods…who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who love the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 10:18-19)
In their intent to dominate, the super powers, including our United States, are responsible for causing continuous wars, unjust socio-economic systems and unjust geo-political policies. Millions of innocent people, who are victims to these conditions and wars, have had to flee their homes and families and abandon their livelihood and native countries to seek safety for themselves and their families.
Mary and Joseph also had to flee their home and country for the safety of their child.
In 2015, the Synod Assembly earmarked $100,000 to help congregations to host refugee families fleeing the intense war and destruction in Iraq and Syria and other neighboring countries in the Middle East. Our Church has been helping support the church in Iraq for the past 17 years and the church in Syria and Lebanon for the past 7 years. In fact, the Presbyterian Church has been in serving in the Middle East and Asia as early as 1820s. Because wars have forcibly displaced millions from their homes and from other neighboring countries where many have sought refuge, local and church resources have been stretched beyond thin. People seeking refuge had to flee their homeland and relocate temporarily anywhere safe in order to survive. On August 3, 2018, on the recommendation of the Peacemaking and Justice Committee, the Synod Assembly voted to expand our outreach to ALL who seek refugee in the United States, including those from Iraq and Syria.
Hospitality is the essence of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We acknowledge that individuals and congregations have rich and different gifts, and there is so much we can do collectively and as disciples, congregations, and church councils within our Synod, especially “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). We hear loudly and clearly how the Spirit, through the Church and this Synod, invites us urgently to demonstrate the love and teachings of Jesus by hosting individuals and families who seek refugee and sanctuary. A host congregation may request financial assistance from the Synod to help host and show hospitality to individuals and families in need, including to refugees who have been settled by a refugee agency. Individuals, congregations, and councils are also urged to partner and become active in ecumenical and interreligious collaboration to respond with practical hospitality and genuine love.
Interested individuals, congregations, and councils may contact the Synod Executive to discern ways to respond, and/or finalize a funding proposal for financial assistance.
We have been working closely in Michigan with Samaritas (https://www.samaritas.org/). We encourage you to work together with the Synod to explore and develop more meaningful ways and practical partnerships.
Please, do not hesitate to contact the synod should you require additional information or assistance.
Welcome Refugee Grant – Download Application
Statement by Gradye Parsons – Choose Welcome, not fear
A Covenant Agreement Synod of the Covenant and Samaritas
March 23, 2019
The Synod of the Covenant has been involved in ministry with refugees, asylum seekers, and others escaping persecution and terror since 2016 in partnership with PCUSA congregations, and continues to practice hospitality and to discern by reaching out in various ways to demonstrate the love and teachings of Jesus Christ. In Michigan, when possible, we continue this ministry with refugees in partnership and mutual agreement with Samaritas. This covenant offers an understanding of the ongoing relationship between the Synod of the Covenant and Samaritas as agents of Christ’s body engaged in mutual mission partnerships to serve vulnerable neighbors in our society and neighborhoods within Michigan in particular.
Synod of the Covenant Mission Statement
“We, the Synod of the Covenant, in partnership with our presbyteries, congregations, the General Assembly, and other faith communions, are called and sent by God to be a living, active, and inclusive witness to the love of Christ.”
Samaritas Mission Statement
“Serving people as an expression of the love of Christ.”
The rich history of Samaritas is one of growing and diverse service to our neighbors in need. The story began with immigrants from Germany and Scandinavia making their way to Detroit at the end of the 19th Century. They followed the Scriptural imperative to help others in need, especially fellow immigrants, by providing food, clothing, and jobs. Congregational outreach efforts came together in 1909, and then in 1934, Lutheran Inner Mission League of Greater Detroit was incorporated, changing its name soon afterward to Lutheran Charities. In 1959, the organization merged with a similar group in Saginaw and was renamed Lutheran Social Services of Michigan.
We were founded by Lutheran congregations, but our ecumenical strive to serve and partner with a diverse group of people has grown Samaritas into one of the largest faith-based nonprofits in Michigan. This passion also inspired us on April 5, 2016, to rename ourselves after the Good Samaritan, since this person helped and healed the other one beside the road despite the difference between them. We serve through foster care, adoption, resettlement, services for person with disabilities, senior services, home health, and support for homeless families, survivors of human trafficking, formerly incarcerated women prison, impoverished children, and many others. Today, Samaritas spans Michigan’s Lower Peninsula with more than 70 program sites in 40 cities. Samaritas’s diverse staff shares a dedication to serving their fellow human beings by doing the right thing, for the right reasons, every day.
Samaritas’s work in formerly serving refugees began in 1949 as a result of our heritage as immigrants. It has been estimated that at the end of World War II, one quarter of all Lutherans in the world were refugees. Our value of hospitality and a desire to reach out to our displaced neighbors, and in many cases family, propelled our service in this area. Today, Samaritas has grown to be the largest refugee resettlement agency in Michigan and fourth largest in the nation. We have resettled thousands of people from dozens of countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Central America, and South America. Samaritas has been the Michigan affiliate of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service since the 1950s. In 2002, Samaritas became the Michigan affiliate of Episcopal Migration Ministries as well. We now serve refugees through three general ways: resettlement, post-resettlement, and refugee foster care.
Samaritas began offering refugee foster care in 1979 as a response to the thousands of refugee children from Southeast Asia without a parent to care for them. Since then, Samaritas has continued to develop and expand this Unaccompanied Refugee Minors (URM) program, and in 2001, began serving unaccompanied migrant youth as well. In 2017, Samaritas provided 150 unaccompanied minors with safe and loving foster, group, and independent living homes, case management, mental and emotional health services, educational and cultural support, and independence skills. We are currently one of only two agencies in Michigan, and one of only a couple dozen in the nation, that provides these specialized services.
Partnering with Presbyterian congregations and individuals began far before our renaming as Samaritas in 2016, but since being clearer that we are a diverse organization dedicated to serving the beautiful mosaic of fellow children of God no matter who they are, no matter how they got in their challenging circumstances, the number of relationships has blossomed. Moving into a more formalized relationship as two aspects of the same Body of Christ will serve to strengthen the foundation that already exists, and will expand the number of people we serve in mutual mission.
Commitments of Samaritas
- Cooperate with Synod of the Covenant and leaders of congregations, committees, and other organizational structures within the Synod concerning common issues of concern that are related to refugees (i.e. refugee resettlement, post-resettlement, refugee foster care, and other related matters).
- Serve as a resource for the Synod of the Covenant and its various constituents on issues and concerns for refugees through providing presentations, seminars, up-to-date public policy information, and other helpful data for pastors, church leaders, and other church members.
- Communicate with the Synod of the Covenant the work of Samaritas in general and serving refugees specifically through Samaritas’s multiple forms of print and electronic media.
- Provide a space for at least one person, recommended in conversation between the Synod of the Covenant Executive and Samaritas’s CEO and CAO, on the Samaritas Foundation Board.
Commitments of the Synod of the Covenant
- Encourage presbyteries and congregations within the Synod of the Covenant to pray regularly and publicly for the people served by Samaritas, especially refugees, as well as for the many team members delivering that support.
- Encourage presbyteries and congregations within the Synod of the Covenant to assist the ministry of Samaritas and refugees within their communities, develop mutually supportive relationships, and consider shared projects, programs, and partnerships.
- Encourage presbyteries and congregations within the Synod of the Covenant to partner with Samaritas in its ministries and services to support refugees and to support financially Samaritas’s various refugee services through congregational budgets and special appeals.
- Assist Samaritas in communicating with presbyteries and congregations within the Synod of the Covenant by periodically providing Samaritas with up-to-date contact information.
- Assist in finding at least one person to serve on the Samaritas Foundation Board in conversation with the Samaritas CEO and CAO.
This Covenant requires approval by the Chief Executive Officer of Samaritas, the Board of Directors of Samaritas, and the Synod of the Covenant Assembly. It will be reviewed every five years or earlier if requested by either party.
In Faithful Partnership,Rev. Raafat L. Zaki
Synod of the Covenant