A Refugee's Mile

TERRE HAUTE, IN - As you approach the doors of the Central Presbyterian Church in Terre Haute, you are greeted, with a sign that welcomes you in three languages, not as a stranger but as a friend. 
 
"Officially it speaks about the importance of being a good neighbor in three languages that happen to be Spanish, English and Arabic," Joshua Powers said. 
 
Joshua Powers, chair of the mission committee, got the idea for the sign after a recent trip to the Immigrant Welcome Center in Indianapolis. There they volunteered and learned more about the refugee population.
 
"We have become interested in the needs of refugee's in the last five or six months," Joshua Powers said. "Currently it's been very prevalent in the news and we wanted to educate ourselves about this." 
 
During their two day trip, the volunteers went shopping for items that refugee families would need in their new homes, like pots, pans, clothes and native food.
 
They passed out the items on two separate days at two separate locations, to two different groups of refugees. At one location, they got a unexpected surprise. 
 
"They asked us to stay and they showed us their culture," Bruce McLaren said. "They had a coffee ceremony. They actually roasted the beans right in front of us in the waiting room and severed us coffee." 
 
For volunteers and church members, Bruce McLaren and Mary McLaughlin the experience was life changing. 
 
"It was very moving and I'm glad that we participated in that and it helped us understand that these are real people and they were extremely grateful for the help they were given," Bruce McLaren said. 
 
"Well, it was exciting really," Mary McLaughlin said. "They were so appreciative. There was a language barrier but somehow you get through that." 
 
No matter your position on refugees, powers says it's all about being a compassionate human being. 
 
"This is in the American DNA, we are a country of immigrants," Josh Powers said. "We are all strangers in a new land so to speak and all of us at some point or another have experienced a moment where we felt like the outsider but somebody made a different in our lives to make us feel welcome."
 
If asked to volunteer again members say they would do it in a heartbeat. 
 
"The tag line is walk a mile in a refugee's shoes," Bruce McLaren said.
It's about understanding their need. We had two days to do that so others may see that this is a pretty tough road they walking but it's not a road they can't walk and help is necessary."
 
For more information, you can contact the Central Presbyterian Church. 

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