Jeffersonville church prepares to welcome second refugee family to area

·3 min read

Sep. 22—JEFFERSONVILLE — For the second time, First Presbyterian Church in downtown Jeffersonville is filling up with furniture, pillows, appliances and even toiletries as parishioners prepare to welcome another refugee family to the area.

Over the next week or so a family of seven from the Democratic Republic of the Congo will be moving to the area.

Kentucky Refugee Ministries in Louisville is hosting the family and the Jeffersonville church is the first in Southern Indiana to help with the efforts. Over the past year they also helped a family from Afghanistan settle into a safer life in the region.

"I think that just we had such a good experience, the congregation seemed very energized by this. It was like well OK, we finished that commitment but there's still many refugees in need, I mean thousands who still need help. Why quit?," said Debbie Cover, a member of the church's mission and outreach committee. "We still have the energy to help so that's why we decided to keep going; it was a good thing for our church but also a good thing for the community."

Cover knows firsthand how helpful hospitality and understanding is for immigrants.

Her parents came to America in 1948, with her father moving from Jamaica and her mother from the Cayman Islands.

"I am very familiar with the whole thing of immigrants needing to be welcomed and being strangers trying to find their way," Cover said. "For me personally immigration is a big passion."

Earlier this week other members of the Mission and Outreach Committee were gathering things at the church for the family. They said the congregation was extremely generous, donating things to furnish the family's home.

After all of the items are together, they'll be transported to the family's home.

"(Kentucky Refugee Ministries) will take this to the house they got for them and some of our members will go over there and set it up for them as best we can," said committee member Virgil Hertling. "Then we will get a group together to carpool over to the airport and when they get off the plane, we'll greet them."

The church has a 90-day commitment to the family and will help them on trips to the grocery store with English and then hold a reception after the time period is over.

With the family from Afghanistan, church members took them to the Falls of the Ohio State Park, helped with English and supported them as they found jobs in the area.

Committee member Rodney Smithey said after the 90 days the church and family will keep in touch.

"We can still stay in contact," he said.

For Rev. Eric Wright, it's important that the church helps people in need.

"(They're) affirming life and wellbeing of others beyond the church's walls. This church has a heart for outreach and they care deeply and their love is deep and wide as far as welcoming refugees," he said. "And making sure they have a safe and welcoming and loving environment to be part of."

He said it's important for the church to help de-escalate polarization across the country and this is one way to do it.

"We are helping to embody God's love in a very real way as we help kind of de-escalate violence to bring people on the margins to the center."