What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
~ Mary Oliver
Bishop Knudsen, at the blessing of the St. Simon’s columbarium late last year, mentioned that quote. Later, she told us that she was widowed about a year earlier, and about the impact that made on her thoughts of mortality. I was sure that, over her long time as a bishop, she touched many lives. Yet, there was a future ahead to be used wisely, and now, perhaps, with more abandon. Made me pause and reflect on my own life, and where it might be headed.
The mission of helping others is not new at St. Simon’s. Following Christ’s example we heal, comfort, welcome and assist. Our outreach ministry has been engaging in service at the local, national and international levels for many years. What has shifted over time is our awareness of issues across the globe.
A few months ago, several of us at St. Simon’s attended a webinar. A plan was presented to help resettle Afghan citizens who had been promised temporary protected status in the United States when Kabul fell into Taliban hands in August 2021. The heart-wrenching story of losing everything, barely surviving and having no idea of what the future would hold was impossible to imagine. We wanted to find out what we could do to help.
Listening to the Spirit...
discerning, praying and being open to opportunity. Loving our neighbors as ourselves. Our fellow, global neighbors, some of whom feel so desperate that they decide to abandon their homes and venture into the unknown. Although it began as a closer look at the Afghan crisis, it was soon revealed as much more. The issue was compounded with the thousands of refugees now leaving Ukraine.
Chance meetings turning into networking, ideas being shared and growing, and committed people coming together has manifested itself into the group Open Doors an ecumenical resettlement group with members of St. Simon’s and St. Nicholas/St. Mary in Evanston. After exploring multiple opportunities, we have chosen to co-partner with RefugeeOne, an established and capable resettlement agency in Chicago. RufugeeOne will be responsible for the “heavy-lifting” that the family will require upon arrival. This includes finding housing, work training, connection to social services and enrollment in school. Co-sponsors like Open Doors are responsible for three major roles. Setting up the apartment with furnishings, housewares and food. Financial support for 3-6 months including rent. Welcoming, befriending, and being a mentor to the family as they get familiar with Chicago and their new surroundings.
Open Doors is composed of 20 people who have dedicated a portion of their wild ride to helping a family in a most intimate and direct way. However, we all know that it takes a village to accomplish tasks in life. I invite you to learn more as St. Simon’s plans to present some learning opportunities on this subject, and this mission.