One chilly afternoon, Ann Arbor member Karen Yang saw Vincent, an Adventist Rwandan teen, walking with a friend to the bus stop. She pulled over to offer a ride, which they happily accepted. Vincent’s friend had just arrived from a refugee camp in Rwanda. She took them to their temporary home, a hotel, and met the new family.
The family appeared anxious and worried. Yang invited them to church on Sabbath and offered them a ride. They brightened at the invitation and quickly agreed to go. Since most Christians don’t attend church on Saturday, their response seemed a little too favorable. Yang asked if they were Adventists? Yes! They were.
The Ann Arbor church warmly welcomed the family. Other Rwandan families embraced them and the church provided the family with winter clothing, shoes, blankets, and more. Through the generous sponsorship of a church member, the youngest son enrolled in the Ann Arbor Adventist Elementary School.
Yang began to visit the Rwandan family more frequently at the hotel and met other refugees who noticed the Rwandan family seemed less distressed. Some of the Afghani refugee families were exasperated, trying to keep their children occupied for a month or two, with nothing for little ones to do in a cramped hotel room.
A few days before Thanksgiving, Daniel Rodriguez, the new pastor of Ann Arbor, suggested that the church provide a meal for the refugee families staying at the hotel.
Fifteen Rwandan and 17 Afghanistan refugees came for the Thanksgiving dinner.
Providentially, God sent translators for each group to understand what the pastor said in his short talk and prayer in the school gym. The Afghani families were incredibly grateful their children could run and play in the gym and shared a speech of thanks at the end.
Later, a group took the Afghani refugee women to purchase clothing and things from a second-hand store. Members took the children to go to the public library to borrow books and play at the playground. Yang and Rodriguez connected with the Plymouth Adventist Community Services to select items the families would need for their new place. An agency in Ann Arbor soon found apartments for the families.
A few events opened the door of trust between Yang and the refugee families. Through Google translate, Karen was able to take the Rwandan youth and the Afghani men to rake leaves at homes surrounding the Ann Arbor church.
Yang would knock on the door, introduce herself as a member of the Ann Arbor Adventist church and explain that the refugees wanted to rake leaves on a donation basis. The neighbors not only gave generous donations but brought out jackets, suits, winter shoes, hats, gloves, and good wishes for their resettlement. The day was a blessing in many ways: the community became aware of the church’s refugee ministry, and refugees earned money for needed items. Yang took the men out again when it snowed, and offered to shovel for donations.
The refugees were very happy to receive compassion from the community as they served them, plus the side blessing of making an income. Yang told the refugees that those who live by the Word of God, especially Adventists, want to be blessings to others, even those not of the same faith.
Yang says, “I rejoice in the refugee ministry. The new Rwandan family started a Bible study twice weekly. We open the Scripture and let the Holy Spirit move. If not translator is available, we use Google Translate. The seven young people have become enthusiastic and interested in the life of Christ Jesus. They said that their family is praying together every evening for worship now, and Jesus has become real to them. The Holy Spirit may not call us to go to Rwanda or Afghanistan as a missionary, but brought them close to our home to share the love of Jesus and the gospel to preach.”