Continuing to Know Our Neighbors

In March 2017, Shepherd of the Valley hosted a unique Somali Dinner with guest speakers from LSS Refugee Services. Everyone enjoyed a meal of delicious sambusas, jasmine basmati rice, chicken fantastic, and chai tea. Following dinner, our guest speakers inspired us with stories of refugee families fleeing persecution and beginning new lives in the U.S. LSS staff also shared their approach to community engagement and how we could take action to be part of their “Circle of Welcome.”

Here are a few highlights:

  • Refugee resettlement has a long history of community involvement, especially within Lutheran churches.
  • Reaching out to refugees is a little jump that can make a huge difference. Interaction and conversation helps everyone to get to know “the other” better, strengthen bonds, and break down silos.
  • Last year, volunteers served over 5,550 hours – that’s over $130,000 of time given! Beyond the dollar amount, think of how much support was given to refugees during those hours.
  • LSS provides families with “The Long Welcome” by providing mentors, financial support, and other services to families during the difficult first year. The goal is that families will feel empowered, a part of the community and able to become self-sufficient.

While Shepherd of the Valley has enjoyed a long-standing relationship with LSS, we have recently expanded our efforts over the past year to better get to know our neighbors in partnership with LSS.  In addition to hosting the LSS Study, “And Who is My Neighbor?”, Shepherd of the Valley activities have included collecting hygiene items and making fleece blankets for refugees, field trips to Somali neighborhoods and restaurants, book studies, and writing letters to elected officials in support of refugee resettlement. Several 9th grade Confirmation students also took part in a “refugee connection” class, learning more about young refugees and having dinner with them.

There is still a lot to learn about our neighbors. An ongoing Racial Truth & Reconciliation Task Force sponsors a monthly movie night/discussion and an ongoing book study. Shepherd of the Valley is also building relationships with area faith partners including the South Metro Islamic Center in Rosemount and Lily of the Valley AME Church.

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