A Farmington Hills church that supports families fleeing from war-torn countries recently contributed to a project that helps refugees secure stable housing.
Hope Lutheran Church first connected two years ago with Samaritas, a nonprofit that, with a number of partners, provides services for new Americans. In 2019, the church made a six-month commitment to host two single-parent families moving to Detroit from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“We had about 40 people actively involved from Hope in a direct relationship with these families,” said church member Jessica Beamer. “We were involved in setting up a household for them, helping them learn English, getting their medical supports set up… including them in the community and taking them to events in the Detroit area.”
Even after the six months, Beamer said, volunteers have maintained close relationships with the families, expanding the circle to include one mother’s sister and her children. From that involvement, Hope Lutheran connected with Freedom Village, which opened last month in Hamtramck.
One of the biggest issues refugee families face, Beamer explained, is that they have limited funds, no credit or employment, and can’t pass background checks often required to rent or buy a home. Freedom Village provides not only transitional housing, but also job training and help with school readiness.
“Samaritas has really prioritized the Freedom Village… where six new families can have a stable housing experience for a year before moving on,” Beamer said.
Living faith in daily life
While none of Hope Lutheran’s hosted refugee families will live there, the church contributed $2,500 toward furnishings, which were acquired through partnerships with Loves Furniture and IKEA. Also, Rev. Greer Cherney brought a group of 20 volunteers to help beautify the grounds before Freedom Village opened.
Cherney described the church’s participation in the Freedom Village project as being “the in-action hands and feet of Jesus.”
“That’s really our message,” she said. “We live out our faith in daily life, and putting action to that sometimes is what it takes for us to remember that’s what we’re called to, and that’s what it means to be followers of Jesus.”
Also, Beamer said, there’s a great need for volunteers to work with new American families.
“Over the last four years, there’s been a lot of negative rhetoric about what it means to be an immigrant, and obviously the church stands up and says, the least of these is exactly who we’re supposed to serve,” she said, “and there’s nobody in greater need than those who are rising in a new country with nothing and no one and no language.”
Other Freedom Village donors and sponsors include Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Livonia, St. Paul Lutheran Church in Dearborn, The Synod of the Covenant Presbyterian Church, and St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church in Grosse Pointe Farms.
Samaritas has volunteer opportunities not only for churches, but for other groups and individuals interested in working with new Americans. To learn more, visit samaritas.org/About-Samaritas/Volunteer.
Learn more about Hope Lutheran Church at hope-lutheran-church.com.