by Caleb Rollins, LSA Development Manager
After a late flight back the night before from a training with an LSA member in North Carolina, I felt a bit groggy as I entered the Falls Church, Virginia office of LSA member Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area (LSS/NCA). Housed in an old Lutheran church, this location manages adoption and refugee and immigrant services.
I was there to volunteer with LSA’s Vice President of Marketing and Communications, Tania Hernandez-Andersen, interns Nura Zaki and Danielle Steinwart of the Valparaiso University CAPS Fellows Program, and Member Engagement Fellow Natalie Goodnow of Harvard University’s Kennedy School.
Occasionally volunteering with our local members helps provide our staff and interns with a tangible understanding of the crucial ministries of the members of our network of 300 Lutheran social ministry organizations.
Our task for the morning became abundantly clear as we saw dozens of donated toothbrushes, shower curtains, mops, and more strung between the cubicles of the LSS/NCA staff. We spent our time organizing these donated items and putting them into kits for families. This LSS/NCA office alone will resettle 550 refugees in 2016 and each of them will receive these kits of basic household items to start out with in their new home.
In the middle of our work, a small group of refugees arrived for a cultural orientation training. As they walked through the mess of donations, I couldn’t help but be in awe of the incredible and terrible stories that each of them held. Fleeing their homes because of fear. Surviving the strenuous process of being accepted into the U.S. as a refugee. Arriving in a strange and foreign country, likely without friends or family nearby.
Unfortunately, these stories are all too common in our world today. A recent report from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees states that 65.3 million people were displaced by conflict and persecution in 2015. On this mass scale it is hard to comprehend this record number of displaced people in the world.
But just like those who we saw in the office, each displaced person has a unique and valuable story. We do not have a right to know these stories or even become a part of them; but we do have a calling to provide a hospitable space for these stories to endure and evolve.
Dozens of LSA members assist in creating this safe space through their work in refugee resettlement. I was humbled to join one member in this work in a very small way and I pray that Lutheran social ministry can continue to play a crucial role in giving space for the stories of refugees and displaced people to carry on in peace.
Interested in assisting with refugee resettlement in the LSA network?