U.S. sponsors for Kosovo refugees urgently needed, NAMB reports

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)--Southern Baptist churches are urgently needed to sponsor ethnic Albanian refugees from Kosovo, reported Richard Robinson, immigration ministries specialist for the North American Mission Board.

“We have already been assigned several refugee families for resettlement, but as of today [May 6], we have no Southern Baptist churches committed to sponsorship,” Robinson said. “Our office has been flooded with calls from churches asking for information about sponsorship, but we now need commitments if we’re going to minister to these people in Christ’s name.”

Since March, more than 1 million ethnic Albanian refugees have fled Yugoslavia’s Kosovo province or have been forcibly deported. The first 20,000 Kosovars approved for resettlement in the United States are being processed through Fort Dix, N.J.

Robinson said those who have qualified for immigration either have relatives in the United States who will serve as sponsors or they have been classified as “vulnerable cases.” Churches are needed to serve as cosponsors for those with family and as full sponsors for vulnerable cases. Vulnerable cases include Kosovars who are elderly or have medical needs, those who have been brutalized, and mothers with children whose husbands have been murdered or separated from their families.

In addition to love, friendship and emotional support, sponsoring churches are asked to provide: housing and utilities for three months or until public assistance begins or employment is secured; food for the first two weeks or until food stamps begin; transportation to medical exams, the Social Security office, conversational English classes and to enroll children in school. Robinson explained the refugees are eligible for government medical insurance such as Medicare and Medicaid and are authorized for employment in the United States.

“No church will need to shoulder the responsibilities alone,” Robinson said. “Two or more churches may join together to sponsor a family. And the North American Mission Board and Church World Service, which helps coordinate resettlement by faith groups, have 45 local affiliate offices nationwide. Refugees are being assigned to sponsors within 100 miles of one of those centers.” Robinson said those offices will also assist with language translators.

Churches willing to sponsor or cosponsor refugees should contact NAMB’s immigration office at (770) 410-6343. E-mail may be sent to rrobinson@namb.net. Churches interested in making donations to assist with the resettlement project may send gifts to Refugee Resettlement Account, NAMB, 4200 North Point Parkway, Alpharetta, GA 30022. The fund will be used to provide housing, utilities, clothing, medical needs and other essentials.

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