Frequently Asked Questions
Refugee sponsorship is a way for congregations to live out the witness of God's love by being a neighbor. We are encouraged by the Apostle Paul to continue that witness by loving each other and to welcome strangers.
- Who is a refugee?
- How does one become recognized as a refugee?
- How does a refugee come to the United States?
- How are refugee cases assigned to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance?
- What is sponsorship?
- What is expected of a congregation?
- What happens after I agree to sponsor a refugee?
- What happens after a refugee arrives?
- What are the benefits of being involved in this ministry?
1. Who is a refugee?
A refugee is a person who has had to flee his or her country of origin because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.
2. How does one become recognized as a refugee?
A person becomes recognized as a refugee by:
- fleeing his or her country of origin, AND
- applying to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for recognition as a refugee.
3. How does a refugee come to the United States?
A refugee must apply to be admitted into the United States. After a refugee has been accepted for resettlement into the United States Refugee Program, the person (or family) waits, often in a refugee camp, for the admission process to be completed.
Part of this process involves assigning the refugee "case" to one of twelve Voluntary Agencies (VOLAGS) approved by the U. S. State Department to resettlement refugees on behalf of the United States government. Presbyterian Disaster Assistance only works with refugee cases which have been allotted to Church World Service.
4. How are refugee cases assigned to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance?
Church World Service (CWS) assigns its allotted refugee cases to denominations based on:
- whether the refugee is being reunited with relatives or friends which have previously been resettled.
- a request by the refugee to be resettled in a certain geographical region.
- an equitable distribution of refugee cases among member denominations. This is known as a "free" case.
5. What is sponsorship?
Sponsorship is an act of faith in which churches can share God's gifts with those seeking new life and renewed hope. It is helping refugees become self-sufficient, contributing members of their new communities by providing initial resources they need while rebuilding their lives in freedom and safety.
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance has begun to use the term "pastoral accompaniment" to describe the work with refugees as a ministry of pastoral care.
6. What is expected of a congregation?
Congregations are asked to:
- Be a Friend, providing the crucial emotional support and guidance needed by the refugee to meet the challenges of overcoming great personal losses and making the major adjustments to the new society.
- Be an Enabler, assisting the refugee with initial material needs and helping the refugee achieve economic self-sufficiency.
- Be an Advocate, insuring just and decent treatment for the newcomers and promoting respect for the cultural heritage and identity of the refugee.
7. What happens after I agree to sponsor a refugee?
After notification of the refugee family you will be sponsoring, you will sign a Sponsorship Commitment Form and your ministry begins. Now is a good time to begin collecting household items, food, and clothing. You might also want to begin searching for an apartment. However, do not sign a lease until after you receive notification of arrival. There will usually be ample time to prepare for the arrival of the refugee. Housing is an issue to be discussed with the affiliate office.
8. What happens after a refugee arrives?
Your witness of hope begins with meeting the refugee at the airport. Seeing welcoming people helps the refugee feel they are truly embarking on a path where the despair of hopelessness is behind them. Some of the immediate ways in which the church will need to assist the refugee are:
- locating appropriate housing
- getting medical check-ups
- enrolling the family in ESL classes
- enrolling children in school
- helping the refugee apply for a Social Security card
- helping the refugee look for work
- orientation to food shopping
The congregation will also need to help the refugee family become acquainted with the community and provide transportation needs until they can learn the public transportation system.
9. What are the benefits of being involved in this ministry?
Many congregations are involved in refugee sponsorship. They do it:
- to experience the great joy of learning about other parts of the world.
- for their youth — giving them an opportunity to touch real human need.
- for their senior citizens — offering an opportunity to keep them in the mainstream of church life by helping with the refugee.
- as a mission — did you ever think the mission field would come to your neighborhood?
- for spiritual growth — God speaks through the voice of the dispossessed and prayer life becomes revitalized.
- because of a profound thankfulness for God's many blessings.
- for the unique closeness felt by the congregation as you work towards a common goal.
Inviting those who are outside of our community is a witness to the love of Christ that lives within us. By embracing the stranger, we affirm the common humanity shared by all of the children of God.
For answers to questions such as:
- How much will it cost?
- How long will it take for the refugee to arrive?
- Who pays for travel expenses?
- What if a sponsorship is not totally successful?
And any other questions you have concerning refugee sponsorship please contact the CWS refugee affiliate office near you.
"If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday" (Isaiah 58:10)