Seeing Dallas through their Eyes is a Gift
Three years ago, the then new pastor at Northridge Presbyterian Church noticed a unique opportunity in Dallas. Northridge Presbyterian members were surprised to learn that there were refugees living only a few miles away from the church.
As the child and grandchild of immigrants, Associate Pastor Susan Sytsma Bratt understands all too well the importance of welcoming the newest members of our community. “I would not be where I am today if people had not welcomed my German immigrant grandparents to Michigan, helped them find housing, jobs, and taught my grandmother English.”
“We define mission as loving our neighbor,” says Associate Pastor Susan Sytsma Bratt.
“Supporting refugees fits in well with the church’s ongoing commitment to mission, service, and justice in our community,” says Sytsma Bratt. With some church members already involved as volunteers with the IRC in Dallas, a committee began working with the IRC on what Northridge Presbyterian hopes to be an ongoing event for newly arrived refugees.
Since May this year, in coordination with the IRC the church has hosted two events for newly arrived refugees. Church members and refugees spend a day exploring Dallas and attending workshops specifically geared toward the needs of refugees such as nutrition and navigating American supermarkets and an introduction to the US school system. Delicious American food, soccer, and tours of university campuses downtown Dallas have been some of the offerings that refugees have enjoyed through this initiative.
The first event in May energized the congregation, said Sytsma Bratt. “We had volunteer slots for 30 people and nearly 70 showed up!” Volunteers, with the oldest more than ninety years old, prepared for the event by reading about refugee issues, watching the IRC refugee journeys video and participating in group discussions on cross cultural interaction and communication with limited English speakers.
Sytsma Bratt loves seeing people of all ages and from different cultures interacting so freely. “Soccer was a unifying activity,” she said. “I noticed many making an effort to communicate verbally as well as with lots of smiles and sign language.”
As she reflects on the relationship her church is building with refugees, she adds, “Seeing Dallas through their eyes is a gift.”