Refugee Response: 11 RCA Members Who Can Help

Where do I start?

11 people who can help you and your church get involved with the refugee crisis

There are about 19.5 million refugees and 38.2 million internally displaced people worldwide. That adds up to nearly 60 million people who need our help. The RCA joined many other denominations in January 2015 for the GC2 Summit to discuss how the church can respond to the refugee emergency. That discussion launched a growing movement in the church to serve as Jesus’ hands and feet to refugees. We believe that it is indeed the business of the church to be involved, faithfully, in this time of crisis.

If you want to take action but want advice first, get in touch with one of these people in the RCA. Some are pastors, some are missionaries, and others are resettlement workers or refugee foster parents. All of them are eager to help you learn more and decide how to get involved.

You can also visit www.rca.org/refugees, where you’ll find additional resources for making a difference in the lives of refugees.

 

Anne Wilkinson

Coordinator of her church’s refugee resettlement team

First Reformed Church, Holland, Michigan

Area of expertise: church refugee resettlement teams

Contact: runnergirlakw@gmail.com

Anne and a team from First Reformed have helped resettled a refugee family in their community. Resettling can involve helping a family learn a new language, finding doctors, arranging transportation, providing housing and furnishings, and being a liaison to local schools. Because there are so many parts of the resettlement process, it’s often easier for a whole church to work together. Anne can offer suggestions to individuals and churches who have questions about how to help a family make a home in their community.

 

Caitlin Boersma

Foster mom to three refugee boys

New Community Fourth Reformed Church, Holland, Michigan

Areas of expertise: refugee foster care, cultural adjustments

Contact: clamaboersma@gmail.com

Caitlin, her husband, and their young daughter have welcomed three teenage boys from the horn of Africa who are refugees into their home. Caitlin has learned the joys and challenges of including refugees in her family. If your family is considering refugee foster care, she can share her experience. She can also help you or your church understand the cultural adjustments refugees make.

 

JJ TenClay

RCA coordinator for refugee ministries

Worldwide

Area of expertise: helping churches respond to the refugee crisis

Contact: jjtenclay@rca.org

JJ educates and empowers RCA congregations to respond to the refugee crisis locally and globally. She also works with congregations to assist in their efforts to come alongside refugees in their communities. Her goal is to raise awareness and advocate with congregations, missionaries, and partners around the world to help alleviate the refugee crisis.

 

Kathleen Edwards Chase

Pastor

First Reformed Church, Pompton Plains, New Jersey

Areas of expertise: leading congregational response, organizing a Refugee Sunday

Contact: frcrev@optonline.net

Kathleen has led her congregation to discover its passion for people who are refugees of today’s greatest humanitarian crisis. First Reformed has worked with World Vision, an RCA partner, to understand the crisis. The church has also raised money, sponsored children in refugee care, and helped families transition to the United States. Kathleen is a great resource for a church leader looking to take a step toward responding.

 

Melissa Vanden Bout

Professor

First Reformed Church, South Holland, Illinois

Areas of expertise: becoming informed, finding solutions, cultural adjustments

Contact: luvandenbout@gmail.com

Melissa is a professor of philosophy at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Illinois. With a passion for ethics, politics, and social media, she knows how to fruitfully guide the public conversation about refugees. As the daughter of a Navy family, she also moved frequently and has experience with adjusting to a new culture. Melissa can provide information about the refugee crisis, as well as help you design a process for educating your church.

 

Nathan Busker

Pastor

Ponds Reformed Church, Oakland, New Jersey

Areas of expertise: community learning events, church refugee resettlement teams

Contact: nathan@pondsnj.org or 201-337-6744

Nathan and the Ponds Reformed congregation changed when a young woman who had fled Aleppo, Syria, knocked on the church door. As they have helped her, they have learned more about the refugee crisis and have discovered more opportunities to minister in their community. Nathan can help you plan a community learning event on the refugee crisis or understand more about refugee resettlement.

 

Peter Ford

RCA missionary in Lebanon, professor of Islamic studies

Beirut, Lebanon

Area of expertise: Muslim-Christian relations

Contact: pford@softhome.net

Peter has served as an RCA missionary in six countries (including Jordan, Sudan, and Lebanon). He is a professor of Islamic studies at the Near East School of Theology in Lebanon, which hosts more than a million refugees. Peter’s passion is to help students develop productive ways of engaging their Muslim neighbors with understanding, respect, cooperation, and witness. If you or your church would like to interact in positive ways with Muslims, including Muslims who may be moving to your community, Peter can help.

 

Rebecca Liberato

Church World Service staff, coordinator of her church’s refugee response

First Reformed Church, Pompton Plains, New Jersey

Areas of expertise: refugee resettlement, leading congregational response

Contact: rliberato@cwsglobal.org

Rebecca works with Church World Service (CWS) to resettle refugees. She helped her church take first steps toward engagement through a Refugee Sunday partnership with World Vision. Now her church continues to support refugee resettlement in partnership with World Vision and CWS. Rebecca is familiar with various resources and organizations that can partner with your church.

 

Seth Kaper-Dale

Pastor

Reformed Church of Highland Park, Highland Park, New Jersey

Areas of expertise: refugee resettlement, advocacy, multicultural ministry

Contact: reformedchurchhp@gmail.com, subject line: Interfaith-RISE

Seth and his congregation have resettled many refugee families. Through Interfaith-RISE, they have also formed community collaborations that have increased their community’s capacity to resettle refugees. The church runs Global Grace Café, which hires resettled chefs who prepare and sell foods from their respective homelands. The church’s work has been chronicled in the Huffington Post, and Seth was an invited participant at the United Nation’s 2016 summit on the global refugee crisis and mass migration.

 

Scott Engelsman

Supervisor of Global Mission marketing, disaster response, and RCA mission in Europe and the Middle East

Grand Rapids, Michigan

Areas of expertise: development and church engagement 

Contact: sengelsman@rca.org

Scott helps congregations discover where and how God might be calling them to make a missional impact in the world and connects them with the tools and resources to live into that calling. 

 

Earl James

RCA coordinator for advocacy

New York City, New York

Areas of expertise: advocacy

Contact: ejames@rca.org

Earl helps congregations minister by engaging in advocacy for justice and compassion.