By Jennifer Gradnigo
It’s unusual to turn on the news and not hear something about the plight of refugees. For as much information that is broadcast, there’s just as much confusion about who are refugees and how we can help or even if we should help. Gabriel Akoi is a refugee from Liberia. He’s been in the U.S. for over 10 years and has attended Holy Trinity Episcopal Church the last several years. Currently, he works at Bethany Christian Services helping other refugees arriving to the U.S., many of them children who came here alone, without family members for support. He and others from Holy Trinity’s Outreach Committee invited Rev. Kris Van Engen from World Renew to talk to our parishioners about refugees and answer our questions.
People come into the U.S. to live permanently through four different avenues: family members, employers, diversity requirements, or as a refugee. The number of refugees in the world has reached its highest peak – over 30 million in 2016 according to the United Nations. Less than 1 percent of refugees are permanently displaced to another country. An even smaller number find their way to the U.S., and that’s after being vetted by multiple international and U.S. agencies and a more than two-year process. As Gabriel said, these people don’t want to leave their home. He didn’t want to leave his home in Liberia. Resettlement in the U.S. is a life-saving opportunity, not a choice.
What can be done to help these families and children when they are displaced to the U.S.? There are organizations in place right here in Grand Rapids to help them resettle. If you’d like to know how you can help, please talk to Gabriel or any member of the Outreach Committee and they will connect you and your resources with the needs of our new neighbors, whether it’s transportation, help with job placement, furniture and other household goods, or mentoring of refugee children.
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress.” ~James 1:27