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Ministry in Context

Internship Project Story: Pamela Gomp

Refugees: Resources and Relationships

Pastoral Intern Pamela Gompf, 2017-18 Phinney Ridge Lutheran Church, Seattle, WA                                

Welcoming and caring for the foreigner has always been at my core due to not being an American citizen myself and how I was welcomed (or sometimes not). Witnessing and hearing success and tragic stories of how Christians have cared or neglected our neighbors in need, in spite of what scripture teaches us, has been a moving edge in me. In our current world crisis of the largest displaced peoples since WWII, I believe it is paramount for the church to partner with organizations in a visible force of action to show Christ’s command to love and care for our neighbor.

 The Phinney Ridge Lutheran Church (PRLC) congregation and council had determined in their ministry discernment over the last year, a desire to be stronger advocates for refugees in the greater Seattle area. There had been a history of immigration support over several decades at PRLC, but as of 2002 there had been a strong growing decline in partnership with the prior established Indonesian community due to fear since 9/11, ongoing events of deportation along the west coast Lutheran churches, as well as a deportation event at PRLC Indonesian community, and the currently political leadership of the country which threatens access, resources and protection for refugees and immigrants as well as legal actions against those who assist them.

With the congregation’s desire to be better educated in understanding the needs and available resources in the Seattle area for refugees, the project was to build an action team of individuals who would facilitate the partnership and response of needed resources for refugees through the current refugee resettlement organizations of Seattle and PRLC faith community.

The Phinney Ridge Lutheran Church community has a long history of being advocates for justice and healing for their neighbors and environment. I felt it was perfect soil to be tilled for God’s service in this area of dire need. 

All communities of faith are called to welcome and care for the foreigner – even if you don’t think you have them in your neighborhood, doesn’t mean the need and responsibility doesn’t exist for the church. The sharing of this project might help others to understand the      process to do mission development in listening, building a team, educating, and igniting a passion to follow the call of scripture while building partnerships beyond the church mortar walls. 

The internship project:

Through education of forums and conversations by/with other community leaders/organizations already assisting refugees, the PRLC community was able to discern the faith community’s and individual member’s gifts & talents in helping fulfill their call to be stronger advocates of justice for refugees. I took the first three months and had individual conversations with each Council member, staff, and prior members who had worked with the Indonesian Refugees & Immigrants to hear what went well, what were the struggles, and what were their overall hopes. I contacted and invited the five refugee resettlement agencies in Seattle to come and present Sunday morning forums, and two responded and gave wonderful presentations which a large attendance of diverse generations from the community attended.[1] I lead a 6 week book study on Wednesday evenings, using the book “Seeking Refuge” by Bauman, Soerens, Smeir. I encouraged and supplied the titles of books for families to continue the conversation at home with students of all ages.[2] During the Christmas season, I was contacted by one of the resettlement agencies asking to partner to help provide gifts for newly settled refugee families. PRLC took on seven families and their needs and personally delivered them to each family. 

From these interactions, forums, and book study there grew a list of volunteers and a lead action team to coordinate future calls to partner and journey with our refugee neighbors. There are over 30 volunteers, including one retired couple who felt so strongly, they have donated their finished basement and have been approved by the resettlement agency to be an emergency temporary housing site for refugees who arrive and still do not have permanent housing. The Refugee Action Team of PRLC is now in the process of finalizing a committed partnership in sponsoring a refugee family for an entire year in all the areas of their journey once they arrive in the Seattle area. 

The Sunday morning forums were held at PRLC, as well as the Wednesday night 6 week book study. The monthly newsletter and weekly bulletins invited the community to participate in the Christmas gift program, and to attend International Refugee Day events throughout the city. 

The main purpose of this project was to listen, learn, and then to educate on how (and the steps involved) in becoming a support site for refugees. This community already had a deep passion, but was lacking the next steps and direction- it can truly seem overwhelming sometimes on where to begin. We all want to do good in helping, but how do we do that can be very daunting sometimes. 

It is my hope for PRLC to continue form their own identity in being advocates for refugee justice issues and having the resources and partnerships in place to do so. For PRLC to have an action team ready to facilitate the support of a refugee family/individual on a long-term and/or short-term basis through a refugee resettlement organization in Seattle. I believe this will move PRLC to imagine the potential and possibility of becoming a Sanctuary site for refugee and immigrant families/individuals through continued conversation, site development, and policy change. Through all this, I hope and trust that the PRLC community will ultimately build long lasting relationships with refugees and their ecumenical/interfaith communities, shining the love of Christ to all. 

Outcomes and Transformations the Internship Context experienced:

The book study and forums were well received, and many found new information which moved them into a deeper passion and understanding of the needs of the refugees and how they could respond and partner in this journey with their neighbor. It is a growing project, but I do hope that the passion will

continue to build and be member led verses staff led based. They have the skills and desire, I am merely providing the information, guidance, and doing the introductions to the resettlement agencies for their continued partnerships. It has truly been a joy to see some be in awe of the numbers of refugees in the world, our area, and how basic needs are desperately needing to be met. 

Outcomes and Transformations the intern experienced:

This project allowed me to use my organizational and leadership skills, but also stretched in me in not taking the full lead, but instead encouraging others to see their gifts of leadership and organization. PRLC has a long history of being staff led only, when there are many gifted people in this community very capable of doing the leading of such outreach ministries. It was a joy to see their growth and formation, but I also learned a lot in how to develop others gifts in ministry. 

An “image” which exists in your memory from your internship project experience:

An office full of wrapped Christmas gifts, as the outpouring came in, and was organized for the Christmas needs of the refugee families, and then the delivery of those gifts to the families. 

How might this project experience influence your ministry in a settled ministry call?

This project taught me how to reach out to other organizations/people to listen and learn from their experiences, finding that many times we don’t need to re-invent the wheel, but rather only partner with others to be stronger in our shared passion of justice advocacy. This can be done for all elements of a community, from setting up a new preschool, food bank, housing for homeless, interfaith/ecumenical partnerships/relationship, even to how to do a particular worship service. We just need to reach out, not be afraid to a say “I don’t know, please help me better understand, and teach me.” Sometimes fear or pride can get in the way of some really amazing progress which the church can be a part of.

[1] Seattle has five of the only 9 resettlement agencies authorized by the US and the UN. The nine resettlement agencies are: Church World Service, World Relief, Episcopal Migration Ministries,,,, Ethiopian Community development Council, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, International rescue Committee, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, US Conference of catholic Bishops, and US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants.

[2] “Refugee” by Alan Gratz (for teens), “My Name is Not Refugee” by Kate Milner, “Stepping Stones” by Margriet Ruurs, “Refugees and Migrants” by Ceri Roberts, and “Lost and Found Cat” by Doug Kuntz and Amy Shrodes (for elementary and preschool).

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