Mary Ryan-Hotchkiss – Portland Chapter
Several of the North Bay Affiliates had been on mission in southeast Asia. Now their mission not so far afield is helping a Haitian refugee family in California. Last November, the NSFA told about Bob and Nancy McFarland being willing to open their home to a refugee family.
Nancy and Bob had begun to work with a rapid response team to help undocumented immigrants. One family who fled Haiti for their safety had traveled through many countries before reaching California. They learned that this family of four—a father, his wife who was 9 months pregnant, and their 2- and 4-year-old children—was sleeping on half of the living room floor of someone else’s apartment. Even though the McFarlands had health concerns and would soon be traveling to the 2017 MAC in Guatemala, they had a spare bedroom and could not refuse to help.
The McFarlands’ cautious “Yes” was echoed throughout the community. They were gratified when 17 of their associates immediately volunteered to help materially and with transportation. The father, Jean, spoke to another faith community that collected $1,800 to help the family pay expenses. Another Affiliate gave a car he could no longer use to the family. Now Jean has passed his written driver’s test but not yet the actual driving test allowing him to use the car he’s been given.
The family is applying for asylum because of the violence they experienced which forced them to flee Haiti. Although lawyers volunteered some of their time, the asylum application will still cost about $5,000. Affiliates transported and accompanied the family to the immigration hearing, carrying the 25 pounds of paper applications for the 4 refugees.
“A healthy baby was born to the family and it was like a real Christmas story. Jesus was a refugee,” Nancy reminisced.
The community has come together to support the family of five. That evening during our pot luck dinner, Bob took a phone call and made a quick exit to drive Jean to his new job.
Helping the refugees has reinvigorated this Affiliate chapter. Their presentation last fall about immigration issues at a local parish has attracted several new members. They have connected with other organizations who are also concerned about immigrants and refugees. These Affiliates remember their immigrant roots and eagerly share their love, time, and energy.