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Staff Reflection: Community Sponsors in Jefferson City embrace Afghan refugees as neighbors

We are so grateful for the Community Sponsorship role that has been a vital part of our agency’s ability to help resettle over 250 Afghan refugees since September 26th. As our response to resettle Afghan evacuees after the fall of Kabul continues, these sponsorship groups have seen the joy-filled parts (and the hard, messy parts) of resettling refugees.

It’s almost impossible to communicate the humanity of this work on social media and in the press. Every person who comes through Catholic Charities Refugee Service’s doors has a story and a hope for the future. Each of our community sponsors has their own stories, their own reasons to answer our call to help. They bring their unique talents to this work, offering transportation, helping families settle into their new homes, sharing meals and tea with them — truly adopting each other in ways they may not have expected last summer.

Our agency and these families are so blessed by these volunteers; their willingness to serve, their open hands and hearts to encounter those in need, their flexibility to meet those needs, sometimes under time constraints or last-minute changes. Their inclusion of each other, and of me, has shown me how this work is built on relationships. Trust. Compassion. And as I watch these relationships grow, I am filled with so much hope. It is a beautiful thing to witness people from different faiths, backgrounds, career experiences, ages and abilities come together in service to our new neighbors.

This month, Catholic Charities’ ecumenical Community Sponsorship group welcomed Afghan refugee families at Columbia Regional Airport and began their resettlement walk together. Amidst the chaos of the airport were many hands to give out coats, carry bags, buckle little ones into car seats. At the welcome dinner for families and sponsors hosted by the Jefferson City Muslim Community at the Islamic Center of Central Missouri, I watched families relax and share a meal, children play, mothers reach out to hold and help each other’s children.

I am seeing this group knit themselves together into a family of sorts – with phone calls, text messages, and WhatsApp notifications, working together to make sure these families have what they need.

“The family served me tea today, and let me know they would like an ironing board and iron soon”
“I have a new iron and ironing board, I plan to drop that off at their house tomorrow.”
“One family member needs a ride to a medical appointment, can you drive them?”

From where I sit, the list of ways these folks are answering the call to help seems endless.

This community sponsorship group is made of members of First Baptist Church in Jefferson City, First United Methodist Church Jefferson City, Wesley United Methodist Church, Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, the Islamic Center of Central Missouri, the Oasis United Church of Christ and Living Hope Church.

I have been humbled to witness this partnership, and so grateful for the many hands reaching out to help. Our work in Jefferson City has just begun, but with the dedicated hands and hearts, I know these families are rebuilding their lives among friends.

Ashley Wiskirchen
Director of Communications
Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri