Dr. James Litsey has joined us as a new trainer in ministry and outreach to refugees. He is the founder and director of The Welcome Project in Owensboro, KY. Here’s his story!
“For a while I was director of a government-funded resettlement agency. I could see there were many good-hearted Jesus followers in our community, people who wanted to engage the issue but didn’t know how. So last year I left that position to start The Welcome Project, which trains church groups to become involved in helping refugees get oriented in our area.
The government has created a mandatory resettlement protocol for refugees arriving in our country, so we train church groups to do some of these tasks. This might include setting up an apartment for a refugee family, meeting them at the airport, taking them to get a Social Security card or a state ID card, helping them enroll their children in school, or taking them to a bank and helping them open an account. Think of all the things a newcomer to this country must do, and how overwhelming it would be. The Welcome Project teams make it much easier.
So I train groups to do this work and a government-funded agency does the documentation that’s required. Any volunteer can do this if he or she is reliable and confidential. People can develop a rapport even if they don’t speak each other’s language. Just having a familiar, smiling face is huge for the refugees who are struggling to get oriented.
Also, we’ll often find a network of former refugees who’ve learned English who are already in an area – that helps with the language barrier. Other times refugees are arriving to join relatives who are already here and have learned some English.
For many of the people at the churches we partner with, it’s their first cross-cultural ministry experience. So not only are we serving refugees coming to this country, we’re opening the eyes of those already here to a bigger picture of God’s heart and his love for the nations. In his word, God tells us to welcome strangers – not just tolerate them. It’s a new missions mindset. The command to go is still there, but even those of us who don’t go will be in contact with people from other places and we are called to see them as image-bearers of God.”
James is interested in meeting with anyone who might want to learn more about The Welcome Project or ministry to refugees. Email him at [email protected].