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Worthington Members Assist Refugees Displaced by Fire
Story by Heidi Shoemaker
Worthington church members feed refugee families recently displaced by an apartment fire.
Refugee families from Bhutan, Somalia and other countries of conflict were recently displaced by an apartment fire in northern Columbus, Ohio, and forced to rebuild their lives yet again. The fire claimed everything, forcing families to flee with what was on their backs, leaving cell phones and identification documents behind.
The Northland Alliance (NA), a nonprofit organization that improves the northern Columbus area and life for immigrants who reside there, was one of the organizations called upon for assistance. Kennedy Dulo, a member at Ohio Conference’s Worthington church, is friends with Kwesi Gyimah, pastor of Allegheny West Conference’s Columbus African church and a member of the NA board of directors. Together they spent the night of the fire and the next day trying to find shelter for hundreds of people. Once completed, Dulo began looking for ways to feed the masses. Despite having to overcome language barriers and strong accents, Dulo and Gyimah fed the refugees one meal a day at the Worthington church until more permanent housing was located.
The church also helped provide personal hygiene items, clothing, school supplies, linens, furniture and the other items. Dulo turned the church gymnasium into a market so people could “shop” for what they needed to get back on their feet, and provided transportation. “It was a blessing to interact with immigrants and help,” said Dulo. “It was another opportunity to share Christ’s love with them.”
In an effort to distract them from the stress and turmoil around them, Dulo also took 22 children to a local park to play. The youth adored this break from the crisis, and asked when they could go again each time they saw him. Adults were not immune, often opening the doors to their new homes and inviting Dulo in for a cup of tea to show appreciation for his assistance.
The experience has spurred the desire for Dulo and area churches to possibly begin more community-based programs, covering anything from finance seminars for young adults to a children’s ministry outreach to a Ping-Pong club. “It’s not about individual conferences or churches … it’s about people,” said Dulo.