In my professional life in international development I oversaw research on refugees in different troubled places in the world (including Cambodia, where I visited refugee camps) and came to understand the crucial role of NGOs in the advocacy and resettlement processes. After retirement I felt a call to become involved with an NGO myself and volunteered to help lead Morrow Church’s hosting of our dear refugee family, the Alarghas, and its program of visiting detained asylum seekers through First Friends. I have had almost weekly interaction with Alargha family members over the past 3 years, and although we have had to overcome numerous difficult obstacles, this has been one of the most meaningful experiences of my life. I am continually receiving gratitude from them, but I believe that I’ve been equally blessed.
Concerning the detainee visiting program, at one point I was working almost every day on some aspect of training, mentoring and outreach. It did help fill a gap in my semi-retired existence. I found particular satisfaction in the fact that Morrow Church’s 20 or so visitors were involved in the release of around 16 asylum seekers in 2017. Although at the time our national government was being steered in the direction of inhospitality, I felt that our work was helping to turn our part of Northern New Jersey into a welcoming refuge.
As a religious seeker, I’ve always looked for a spiritual life which combines a growing inner life with an active service agenda. The United Methodist Church has presented me with just the right combination of these growth opportunities. In recent years at Morrow Church I have been struck by the strength and beauty of the Matthew 25 message: come ye blessed: I was a stranger and ye took me in … Morrow has given me the chance to live that message – it has helped me place Christ in my life — and I have seen other peoples’ lives change for the better in the process.