Highlights from our February 2, 2017, newsletter
Anyone else reeling after this week? It has been a crazy one, full of challenges and unknowns, but also so so full of hope and perseverance. At the end of last week, we saw a historic Executive Order bring the hammer down on immigrants and refugees, followed by an even more historic response across the nation and worldwide (including hundreds of people who showed up last minute for a march through the streets of Missoula on Sunday) to the injustices this order imposes. For more of our thoughts on the order, please read our board’s statement. To take action now, read our post on 4 ways you can support refugees in Montana.
Even with all of the unknowns that this order brings (including, amazingly, getting two new families from Eritrea just last night!), we do know that our work continues: that Soft Landing Missoula is needed now more than ever, that you and all you do to support our work of making Missoula a welcoming and informed community where refugees can thrive is more important than ever. Thank you.
As a way of continuing to understand our work on a longer time frame (which may be easy for those of you that have had the privilege of working with the previous groups of refugees that have graced our city), I want to share with you an email that I received last week. This email continues to bring me back, not only to Missoula’s amazing efforts, but also to what interacting with refugees and people of different cultures, religions and colors can mean to a person and the wealth it provides a community. This came to me from a Lutheran Pastor in East Boston and here is the heart of it:
I just read the article about “Soft Landing Missoula” in Christian Century. We have a shared experience so many miles and many years apart. Our church and a tiny community organization, the East Boston Ecumenical Community, started sponsoring Cambodian refugees in 1982. We started with four families finally totaling 125 Cambodian and Vietnamese. The tiny organization, East Boston Ecumenical Community Council (ebecc.org), grew rapidly until we were serving 1,500 immigrant and refugee families per year out of our 2,000-square-foot basement hall of our church. East Boston was one of Boston’s white ethnic enclaves and racism was pretty intense. It was less than a decade after the end of the wars in SE Asia. We had to learn social service, mental health, civil rights advocacy, family support, youth work, how to teach ESL and more on the job! It was a wild, wonderful adventurous time!
The first family consisted of a 42-year-old Cambodian woman, her 16-year-old daughter, and her mother. Meing Lon lost her husband and five of her six children to the Khmer Rouge violence. One year after their arrival, the families made a Cambodian language banner for the church. It said “Glory to God in the highest and peace to His people on earth.” It hangs in the highest place and has been there since 1983. Meing Lon and I grew close. She was willing to share some of the stories. She was and is a wise and strong person. I swear that in my dying moments I will think of her as the most important person I met in nearly 40 years of ministry. “
So through this tough time I raise my glass to you, to those who have pioneered this work before us, and to the families that will undeniably be some of the most important people we meet in our years on this planet.
– In love and gratitude, Mary Poole
P.S. Check out our new frequently updated Donations Needed Now list on the homepage of our website and let us know if you can fill these needs!
P.S. If you read the Missoulian op/ed comments: No, I am not leaving, it’s a rumor! You are stuck with me. 😉
What the Executive Order Means for Refugees
Learn what’s in the Executive Order and what you can do now to support refugees. Read more.
Act Now: SB 97
Currently SB 97 is being considered by the Montana Senate Judiciary Committee. This bill is aimed at banning “Foreign Law” and is widely known to be specifically referring to “Shariah Law”. We already have this protection in the Constitution of the United States. Please write to members of the committee, even if they aren’t your representative, to urge them to vote NO on this bill. Act now.
Equip Refugee Families with Your Old Technology
Have you upgraded to a better Wi-Fi router, smartphone, computer, TV, DVD player, or micro-SD card? If your old technology still works, these families could make good use of it to be connected, or to make use of English-learning resources. Make a difference by donating it today! Details on what we need and how to donate.