How a church in Texas is using its resources in partnership with Refugee Services of Texas Dallas to extend welcome to newcomers.
As we prepare our hearts to celebrate the Christmas season, I can’t help but be reminded of a small town called Bethlehem.
This small town, that sits about six miles southwest of Jerusalem, has a long history of being a place of refuge. Bethlehem offered refuge to shepherds and their flocks as they passed through. It was a place of refuge for David during the constant conflict between the Philistines and Saul. This same town was the town where Mary and Joseph took refuge to give birth to their son Jesus.
In the 20th century, Bethlehem became a home to Armenians and Syriacs fleeing from the Holocaust. In 1948 it became home to Palestinians fleeing the creation of the Israeli state. All throughout history Bethlehem has been a town of shelter, protection, sanctuary and rest.
This Christmas season there is a new “Bethlehem” providing refuge for the displaced in Dallas, Texas. This past week I had the opportunity to visit our CWS affiliate, Refugee Services of Texas Dallas, where a local church has set up a special home to provide temporary shelter for newly arriving refugee families, asylees and victims of human trafficking.
Over the last year the community, the church and the RST Dallas team have been working to restore the house to its history of welcome after it has been closed for a short time. Countless volunteer hours and resources have been poured into this home, from painting the entire house, to making necessary repairs, to new counter tops and appliances. So much love, care and thoughtful consideration has gone into making this home a safe place for a family to land and find refuge.
This house already has a rich history of being a place of refuge for RST clients. It has been a safe haven for over 22 families since 2001 including: seven women from Honduras, three families from Sierra Leone, three families from Ethiopia, eight “Lost Boys” from Sudan, two families from Liberia and families from Togo, Iraq, Moldova, Eritrea, Somalia, Afghanistan and Myanmar.
On Saturday the house was recommissioned as a place of refuge for refugees, asylum seekers and survivors of trafficking in the city of Dallas. A group of individuals and stakeholders gathered outside the home as the pastor led everyone in a prayer of blessing and commissioning of the home to restore it to its history of welcome.
On Sunday afternoon this three- bedroom, two-bathroom home welcomed a family of three from a Central American country. This family will have the opportunity to spend the next three months inside this home to regroup, recharge and find refuge.
Thank you to the RST Dallas staff and the community of Dallas for the work you put into preserving this home’s legacy of welcome through your restoration efforts. Thank you to this church for using what God has given you to bless and welcome the stranger, and for making it possible for RST Dallas to offer this type of service to newly arrived families. Thank you for inviting me to the ceremony and for letting me be just a small part of the home’s restoration.
Most importantly, thank you all for bringing the Christmas story to life for me, the story of a little boy who needed a place of refuge and the town of Bethlehem that provided it. Merry Christmas!