Sarah has served the immigrant community for many years as an educational and career advisor and ESOL instructor, becoming Greater Boston Refugee Ministry’s first Co-Director (along with her counterpart, Rev. Torli Krua) in 2015.
GBRM builds regional Refugee Missional Communities (RMCs) which help churches and Christian leaders partner with refugee families in facing their short term challenges as well as the ongoing challenges of all refugees in our region. GBRM is currently supporting RMCs in Boston, Lowell, Lynn, and Worcester.
Sarah Blumenshine, Co-Director, Greater Boston Refugee Ministry
Greater Boston Refugee Ministry
PRECIOUS IN GOD'S SIGHT
85,000 refugees were resettled in the U.S. in 2016, with 2,000+ in Massachusetts. Families arrive every week from places like Iraq, Burma, Bhutan, Somalia, Sudan, and Syria. These people have gone through almost unfathomable suffering and loss and yet are precious in God’s sight.
Resettlement agencies and caseworkers are stretched thin and desperately need caring volunteers to assist these families in the resettlement process. What an opportunity for the Church to step in!
For a year and a half, a coordinating team (convened and led by Intercultural Ministries at Emmanuel Gospel Center in Boston) engaged in Research & Development, meeting with government agencies, resettlement agencies, community organizations, refugees, and volunteers. Through this process we developed a new ministry initiative that calls on the Church of Greater Boston to collaborate at a high level. The new ministry is Greater Boston Refugee Ministry (GBRM). GBRM offers a holistic "wrap around" model of ministry that supports refugee families in their present resettlement while also mobilizing the church and refugees to collaborate together on the long-term challenges faced by refugees.
To address the immediate challenges faced by a refugee family, GBRM forms “ambassador” teams comprised of 8-12 members from local churches who form a loving welcoming community to walk alongside our refugee friends as they adjust to life in a new place and culture. The teams focus on supporting families in areas such as English learning, job readiness, adult education, children and family, health, housing, finance, cultural learning, spiritual support, and transportation.* The central GBRM team helps recruit, train, mentor, and multiply ambassador teams in churches throughout Greater Boston. During our two-year pilot period (April 2015 - April 2017) we hope to start 10 church-based ambassador teams.
To address refugees’ ongoing challenges, GBRM forms topical Learning & Action Teams that are seeking to address longer-term systemic issues such as Housing and Employment & Entrepreneurship. These Learning & Action Teams are seeking to foster inside and outside the box solutions to refugee housing, employment, and entrepreneurship that go beyond directly serving the needs of one family, with an eye toward strengthening the ecosystem around these issues.
As GBRM supports both the ambassador teams working directly with families and the learning & action teams innovating around particular issues, GBRM is able to gather a regional fellowship that fosters refugee ministry in a particular city. These broader regional fellowships made up of these diverse teams are Refugee Missional Communities (RMCs). The RMCs create various opportunities of engagement and learning for caring Christians, whose gifting and passions may draw them to involvement “downstream” directly with families or to tackle strategic “upstream” issues that affect refugees broadly. The RMC helps the efforts across the system stay connected, learning together and acting more effectively at whatever level. GBRM is currently supporting regional Refugee Missional Communities in Boston, Lowell, Lynn, and Worcester.
GBRM also seeks to foster partnerships with refugees doing ministry in their new communities and with those who feel called to return to rebuild their home countries post-conflict. This is an important part of GBRM’s approach, to both support our refugee friends as they pursue their callings and potential, as well as to help the church benefit and learn from our refugee friends for the mutual transformation of the church and those displaced around the world.
*GBRM’s Ambassador teams were inspired and influenced by the wonderful poverty alleviation model developed by The Open Table (http://www.theopentable.org). GBRM is not affiliated with The Open Table network but commends its great work.