Upon the arrival of 180 Somali Bantu refugees in the U.S., residents of southern Africa who were victims of slavery and intense persecution in East Africa, World Relief and other Christian churches are working in partners to help them adjust their lives to a completely new culture.
World Relief will provide aid in the resettlement process of 400 Somali Bantu refugees across the U.S. by the fall of 2004.
World Relief reported that local churches play a vital role in helping them with the ongoing resettlement of the Somali Bantu refugees. Somali Ban families are paired up with local churches so that they may receive various kinds of support from them.
According to Jennifer Schamel from World Relief’s Nashville office, the Somali Bantu arrivals are doing excellent job in learning ‘immense amount of information” about how to live in the U.S.
“Because the Somali Bantu refugees have lived in desert camps, residing in tents their whole lives, they’ve had no previous long-term exposure to many of the conveniences we have grown accustomed to in this country. The Nashville staff has learned to not take anything for granted during this teaching process – to discern, repeat important lessons and dedicate our time with each family, as each is very different.”
Christians in Nashville are actively involved in providing assistance to each arriving Somali Bantu family by donating former parsonage as a temporary house, hosting weekly church dinners, and by serving as their emergency contacts.
World Relief also noted how the Bantu families are very excited about working in freedom receiving proper wages. Because they had been always oppressed as slaves in East Africa, they have never worked for proper wages. They were also excited about sending their children to school.
Laurie Pederson, who volunteers at her church in Nashville, describes her recent experience helping in the resettlement process through her church:
“[It was] a portrait of the Body of Christ in action. Within days of putting the word out, we had a non-stop stream of bags and boxes flooding into our house. Within three days, it [our house’s lower level] was filled with household articles, toys, clothes, shoes, food, toiletries and diapers. Dinner meals started appearing until the freezer could hold no more…the whole ‘team’ concept has worked fabulously and has truly made this doable and joyful.”