Will Your Faith Community Make Room?

The name of the innkeeper who made room in his stable for Mary, Joseph, and Jesus doesn’t appear in the Bible, but I bet that Mary and Joseph never forgot, and that he never forgot the miracle that occurred that night in his barn. And what about all of the other innkeepers in town? Do you think they regretted their decision to close the door? Simple acts of welcome are powerful for both the host and the guest, and we see this play out today with every co-sponsoring church and refugee family they welcome. Like many of the best experiences, co-sponsorship takes effort, time, and resources, but it is a powerful, transformative experience for everyone involved. We have found that strong church communities are the best networks to support especially vulnerable families who arrive with refugee status. A church family always creates access to a wide network of resources– donated … Continue reading

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Welcome a Family with Refugee Status, Welcome Christ

We all know the familiar story of Christmas–Mary and Joseph, wandering from inn to inn on the verge of giving birth, finding every door barred to them. Every door closed to the Messiah, the Son of God, who would later say “when you welcomed the stranger, you welcomed me.” It’s hard to miss the irony in the fact that the deadline for governors and county officials to submit their letters of welcome, or by default close the door to refugee resettlement in their community, falls at Christmastime. By giving states and counties the ability to discriminate against refugees building new lives in the United States, this order will further separate families, damage the resettlement infrastructure, and increase division in the United States. Governor Walz has submitted his letter of consent to resettle refugees in Minnesota, and Kandiyohi and Olmstead Counties have also submitted letters of consent. If you live in … Continue reading

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Welcoming Our 2019-20 Social Work Interns!

Each year, we have the opportunity to host Social Work interns from local universities, sometimes at the Bachelor’s level, and sometimes at the Master’s level. This year, we are hosting both and are excited to share with them the reality of daily work with families who came to Minnesota with refugee status, and to have their help and support in this work. This year, we asked each intern to introduce themselves, so without further ado, meet: Erin: I am doing an internship for a Master’s in Social Work at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. My concentration is in Clinical Mental Health and I am interested in mental health issues that arise for refugee and immigrant populations as well as psychotherapy for severe and persistent mental illnesses. At the Minnesota Council of Churches Refugee Services, I am learning about case notes and files, doing some of the basic tasks associated … Continue reading

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New Staff Profile: Brian Ombongi

Brian, MCC’s new Health Case Manager, joins the Refugee Services team with a wide variety of experience.  In addition to being a nurse, he has a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and recently graduated with a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from the Humphrey Institute. He describes himself as an “old soul” because of his love for music from the 1970s and 80s and old architecture. Since childhood, he’s dreamed of traveling to Cuba and would love to see the classic architecture and cars there. After completing high school in Kenya, Brian immigrated to the United States and made a home here in Minnesota. He first pursued a LPN nursing degree and then worked as a nurse through his college and graduate school years studying politics and public policy. While he was a student, he interned with Give Us Wings, a non-profit that serves communities in Uganda and Kenya, and … Continue reading

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New Staff Profile: Emily Linder

Moving to the Twin Cities to accept a Lutheran Volunteer Corps position at MCC Refugee Services represents a kind of homecoming for Emily, who grew up outside St. Paul before heading to Luther College in Iowa. While a student, Emily pursued a double major in Anthropology and Nordic Studies program, and studied abroad in both Norway and Tanzania. Following graduation, Emily decided to complete a year of volunteer service, hoping to explore the realm of non-profit work before deciding if she would like to pursue a career in non-profits, or return to school for a graduate degree in anthropology. She decided to apply for the Lutheran Volunteer Corps, and MCC Refugee Services was her clear first choice for a placement and she is excited to work with people from a variety of cultural backgrounds in a positive way. In her LVC position at MCC, Emily has the opportunity to work … Continue reading

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There’s Work to Be Done

When the opportunity to lobby for refugees in Washington D.C. arose, Habiba Rashid jumped at the chance. MCC’s former Executive Director, Peg Chemberlin, was collaborating with Oxfam on a World Refugee Day advocacy day, and turned to MCC Refugee Services to see if any former refugees on our staff would be willing to travel to D.C. and share their story on the Hill. Habiba immediately recognized this as a life-changing opportunity and made room in her schedule as a full-time employee and mother of 6 to make the trip. Habiba credits Oxfam with excellent organization for this event that included former refugees from across the country. They organized participants’ travel and hosted an event the evening before the lobby day to provide training on what to expect during their meetings with Representatives and Senators, Congressional etiquette, and details about Oxfam’s specific advocacy goals. The following day, Habiba had in-person meetings … Continue reading

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A Fond Farewell: Margo Druschel

After two and a half years with Mankato Refugee Services, our Program Director, Margo, will be stepping down from her position. As the second program director to lead our Mankato team, Margo has worked very hard to expand the program and develop staff capacity. Under her leadership, MCC Refugee Services experienced tremendous growth and impact in our Community Health Worker program and educated many providers and community members. They have also expanded the Tapestry Program by adding Teen Tapestry and Immigration offerings during her tenure. As she departs this role, Margo expressed her confidence in the whole Mankato team who have increased their capacity as they do great work and advocate for refugees in Mankato. She is also grateful for the opportunity to have worked with staff members who are also members of refugee communities to set and maintain good boundaries so that they can plan for longevity in the … Continue reading

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Frostbite: An Unknown Danger

This January, Mohamed Ibrahim, MCC’s  former Community Health Worker, visited Mariam and her family to talk about her son’s asthma. While there, he noticed that Said (age 6) was hiding his hands behind his back. When Mohamed asked him why, he saw immediately that Said had severe frostbite. It turned out that Said had spent the last few frigid days playing outside in the snow, even though he’d lost his gloves. No one in Mariam’s family had heard of frostbite before and they were concerned by the painful state of Said’s hands. The story of how his frostbite was finally resolved is continued below, but first we’ll introduce Mariam and her family. Mariam, a single mother of seven children, moved to the Mankato area last November. She had already lived in the United States for a number of years and become a US citizen, but she relocated to Minnesota to … Continue reading

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New Staff Profile: Lah Lah Doo

Eight years ago, Lah Lah came to Minnesota as a 12 year-old refugee with her family and was resettled by MCC Refugee Services. Today, she’s working as a Case Aide in our resettlement program, helping new families as they arrive to Minnesota. Lah Lah is the oldest of four children in her family, and she was just 6 years old when her family fled Burma and moved to a refugee camp in Thailand. After 6 years in the camp, her family was approved to come to the US as refugees and they made the long journey to Minnesota. Not long after Lah Lah and her family arrived, they met an MCC volunteer named Jennie who had been assigned to assist a neighboring  family in their apartment building. Despite being quite new herself, Lah Lah’s mother encouraged Lah Lah to help interpret between her neighbors and Jennie, and they developed a … Continue reading

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Refugees Don’t Stay Refugees Forever

Refugees don’t stay refugees forever. Hassan Ibrahim’s life provides a clear illustration. Hassan was only 4 years old when he fled his home in Somalia at the outbreak of the civil war in 1991. He grew up in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp, where he completed high school and a university education, as well as marrying and starting a family with his wife. Their lives took a major turn when they were approved for resettlement in the US as refugees and arrived in Indiana in August of 2016. After just two weeks, they relocated to Mankato to be close to family and friends. Now, Hassan says that Mankato is home and he’ll never leave, unless he was to go back to Africa. He loves the calm, peaceful character of Mankato, the reliable public transportation, the presence of a thriving university, and the welcoming nature of Mankato’s people. When he arrived in … Continue reading

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