By Linda Jones, CBFNC
Note – This article originally appeared on the World Relief of Durham website.
DURHAM, N.C — “I know God is at work when 43 people from multiple churches show up at a meeting to begin work on Hope House,” said Susan LeGrand who chairs the mission council of Yates Baptist Church in Durham.
Hope House is a new collaborative ministry at Hope Valley Baptist Church to provide temporary housing, hospitality and friendship to newly arriving refugees coming to the U.S., and then being relocated to Durham, said LeGrand.
Durham’s Hope Valley Baptist Church (HVBC) launched the Hope House ministry plan following consultation with nine sister congregations, the Yates Baptist Association, Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina, United Solar Association, World Relief Durham and Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina.
Three collaborative task groups are at work to ensure the ministry goes well. Hope House is the second temporary residence for arriving refugees awaiting long-term housing in the Research Triangle. It is modeled after Welcome House Raleigh, which opened in October 2015 and has welcomed 67 guests from half a dozen countries to date.
The need is great, said LeGrand.
“Imagine having no alternative but to flee your home and resettle in a new land,” said LeGrand. “Imagine the loss you would feel.”
And the response, she added, is significant as well.
“Imagine not only having a warm bed and a meal upon arrival but a group of friends to help you navigate this strange place,” said LeGrand. “That is Hope House; that is the kingdom of God here on earth.”
Hope House will provide a safe home, settlement assistance and needed bridges into the community. Up to nine guests can live together in this home for one to six weeks. A team of hosts will support the refugee guests while they await long-term affordable housing.
Hope House organizers said they are seeking to share the love of God in Christ through the ministries of hospitality and friendship.
After undergoing renovation, Hope House is set to open in the fall. Already at work is a hospitality team composed of Hope Valley Baptist Church members and other community volunteers.
They will partner with World Relief Durham to collect lightly used household items for apartment set-ups and assist with daily orientation tasks for refugees. Also assisting are Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel Kim and Marc Wyatt and volunteers from churches supporting and guiding the Raleigh Welcome House.
Hope Valley Baptist Church has come to recognize that people from all around the world are moving into their community, said pastor Bill Bigger. Many of the refugees being settled in Durham are placed in an apartment complex just three miles from the church. Bigger said the church members want to meet and know them.
“Can you imagine being forced to leave home because of violence and attacks and having to start in a new country with little money and little to no understanding of the culture?” Bigger asked. “Can you imagine what a gift it would be for people to be there to welcome you, provide some food and hospitality, teach you some basic skills you will need, and promise to walk with you through your adjustment to a new place?”
That is exactly what Hope House will do, he said.
“Through Hope House, we will have the opportunity to meet these families during their difficult days of transition and, hopefully, begin friendships that will be lasting and will bless them and us,” said Bigger.
Bigger said that the ministry is more than just a good idea.
“From the beginning, I have felt and others in this church were convinced that this is God’s calling, that this is a Kingdom response to people in need,” he said. “At the same time, we have known that this ministry is larger than our one church can handle alone.”
So the church reached out to build connections and invite partners to join them in this effort, he said.
“One of the things that I think can make this a special ministry opportunity is the chance to show our community that Christians can and do work together in care and hospitality to the stranger and those desperately in need of tangible expressions of God’s love and care,” said Bigger.
Choosing the name “Hope House” comes from both the name of the host church and them mission at hand, he added.
“Hope is such a powerful and rich word in the scriptures,” said Bigger. “These days people often use the word ‘hope’ to mean wishful thinking. But in Scripture hope speaks of living and looking forward expectantly and with a conviction that God is present, active and working all things together for good.”
Bigger added: “We believe that Hope House will invite refugees to discover new possibilities and new beginnings while helping them sense the overflowing love of God.”
This ministry fits well with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina’s strategic commitment to “embracing our neighbors through developing a culture of loving our neighbors, supporting catalysts who engage in ministry to our neighbors and connecting churches and individuals to resources that will help them embrace their neighbors.”
Along with Marc and Kim Wyatt, CBFNC is sponsoring Refugee Roundtables to bring together experts, churches and other organization to learn, resource, and find new ways to collaborate around this ministry opportunity.
The next Refugee Roundtable will be held in September at Providence Baptist Church in Charlotte. Visit cbfnc.org for details.