By Rev. Mary Heath, Chair
Commission on Refugee & Immigration Ministries
On July 23rd, 2020, I received a text at 8:07 from my friend in Del Rio, Texas. We had been emailing and talking for about a year. I started connecting with border organizations when the Oklahoma Commission on Refugee and Immigration Ministries began. This organization in Del Rio at the time and for some time had been the busiest.
My friend asked if she could call and of course I said yes. She asked if Oklahoma Disciples were ready to take in a family. She had a large family that would be more difficult to place but thought about us immediately. When she told the family, it might be a little difficult to be placed, their reply was “God is good, God will provide.” My friend believed this family was just right for us, and we for them. I told her we would sponsor this family and she was thrilled! She knew she had called the right organization and that they would arrive at 11:45 pm that evening. I told her I had to get busy and would text when the family was safe in our care.
The fact my friend cares so much about the people she helps is the main reason I developed the friendship. She works hard without pay to give men, women, and children a chance at a new life and hope for a future. She takes photos with them, remembers them, and checks in on their progress and wellbeing. My friend has been working night and day lately.
I frantically began making phone calls, that is the way processing works. The organizations have to get the families sent to sponsors very quickly. I began thinking of everything I needed to do and everything the family needed. I wasn’t exactly panicked, but close to it.
Thankfully, many Disciples stepped up immediately and offered assistance of all kinds. One particular Disciple did more for me and the family than I could have imagined. The apartment for the family was not ready and we could not have taken them so late at night anyway. In only a few hours Jennifer Gallaway and her family arrived at Edmond Trinity Christian Church with air mattresses, along with complete bedding and a stuffed toy chosen especially for each child. Jennifer’s amazing family with huge hearts also brought toiletries and snacks for everyone. (The teenage girl’s favorite lotion is still guava body lotion from Bath & Bodyworks that was bought especially for her.)
But this was not all. There are many special moments in ministry, and there are some moments in ministry when God’s presence is fully recognized. There are moments when people know what it is to follow Jesus and it brings me to tears. This was such a moment.
Jennifer’s grade school-age daughter and nephew broke into their piggy banks to bring the family money. I stood there for some time before I could say anything. And I wasn’t the only person standing in our church nursery with tears. God is good. God will provide.
It was hard to find the words that could express how that kind and generous act by children made me feel. I will remember that moment for as long as I am on earth, and maybe even after. Part of the money given by the children went to buy a dress for the refugee mom. She was so exited to own another dress! This is the dress she wore to church at Edmond Trinity on their first Sunday in Oklahoma.
When we picked up the family at the Oklahoma City bus station, they were exhausted. They had taken a 13-hour bus ride with three children ages 12, 4, and 3. Just imagine that. And the mother was almost eight months pregnant. She had not yet seen a doctor. So, my husband Don and I picked them up with two cars and borrowed car seats.
They did not know us. They did not know the place they were. They did not know what to expect or what would happen. They did not know how they would make it in this place or to what extent we would help. I finally got around to asking them if it was scary to have to trust in total strangers? They replied, “Yes, but God is good, God will provide. We trust in God.”
This is still the response when we have hit a bump, and there have been several. The system is not set up to help families who want to live here. In fact, it is set up specifically so that it is very difficult and frustrating.
Our family has great faith and are devout Christians who are so interesting to talk to on subjects like religion, politics, faith, and the Bible. Everyone in the family is really sharp and funny. Time with them is very enjoyable. They believe everything will turn out the way in which God wishes, and they trust this, and they are quite right.
God will provide, and it is through good Disciples with kind and compassionate hearts like Jennifer, her family, and you. We have had wonderful support throughout our Region, however more is needed. This family has to be totally supported by us and a couple of small African churches in Oklahoma City.
Donations to the Region for the care of the family is greatly appreciated. Volunteers to help out with the family are greatly appreciated. Please prayerfully consider the situation they are in as are many families, and give what you are able in funds and time. And God will indeed provide, when we can be as generous and loving as children. Click here to learn more about Oklahoma’s Refugee & Immigration Ministries.