Our New Neighbors
Tengo hambre, ¿puedo comer algo? Mi bebé necesita pañales, ¿tienes alguno? ¿Tienes ropa y zapatos ¿Tienes trabajo para mí?
This is what I hear every day as we continue to serve new arrivals in Chicago.
I am hungry, can I have something to eat? My baby needs diapers, do you have any? Do you have clothes and shoes? Do you have work for me?
And as they leave our Center after their visit I hear,
¿Cuándo es la iglesia?
¿Nos vemos mañana?
Thank you! When is church? See you tomorrow?
My special needs son, who has limited language ability, is walking around telling everyone, agua (water), buen (good), mañana (tomorrow). I too find myself answering English speakers with Spanish phrases as we continue to care for our “New Neighbors” as our city is referring to them.
2 months ago, we leaned into a crisis that came to our doorstep. It was to care for the poor, the needy, the homeless, the alien. It was a challenge to accept this new opportunity to meet the needs of people right in front of us or look past them as if they didn’t exist. It was an opportunity to pass by the person left on the side of the road for dead or to stop, interrupt what was a comfortable rhythm of life at the Center and begin to bandage wounds.
The trauma of every one of the 11,000 men, women and children that are sleeping on the floors of our police stations, or staying in overcrowded and unsafe shelters, in a city without the infrastructure and staffing to adequately care for them is significant.
I have heard stories of many who have traveled for months to be here, the oppressive conditions in Venezuela that motivated many of them to come to America, the horrors of being intimidated and abused by the police in Nicaragua, watching as people’s children are swept away in rivers as they try to cross them, and of a woman who showed up on my doorstep having lost her husband as he sat on a curb with 20 other migrants in Texas as a car veered off the road and ran them all over killing 8 and injuring many more.
But, I have also heard the stories of gratitude for what we are doing to bandage up wounds. I am hearing the excitement to be part of a family (FEC and Redemption Church) in America that cares for them. I have heard of one couple that wants to be pastors and others that want to get married. I am seeing and experiencing many Americans who would otherwise not be connected to the Church telling us how grateful they are for the acts of service and kindness we are showing these new neighbors. And every day I see the fulfillment of the prayer, “Your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven” as we break bread together, eat, laugh and even if for just a moment forget about the trauma and hardship they are experiencing.
The Gospel is simple and clear. Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). How we are to love our neighbor is not clearer than in the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10. The act of feeding, clothing, and sheltering people is no more direct than in Matthew 25. Paul reminds us of the church’s leadership’s mandate and his eagerness in Galatians 2:10 that we do not forget the poor. And then there is the importance of shining publicly in our good works so that others might see and glorify God (Matthew 5:16)
We do a lot at Family Empowerment Centers with the hope that we are honoring God and with the hope that one day he will say well done good and faithful servants! It is hard to find a way that our current ministry to new arrivals is not accomplishing that. Join in with us; the work is extensive, often exhausting, and costly. The reward benefit for the Kingdom is immeasurable!
We need your volunteerism. Reach out to Natalie at Natalie@familyempower.org
We need your donation of needed essentials. Reach out to Natalie at Natalie@familyempower.org
$2500 a month helps us employ two part time workers to assist in this crisis.
$3500 a month will help us employ a regular ESL teacher to assist in this crisis.
$1500 a month will help us buy necessary essentials as needed to assist in this crisis.
Here is a glimpse of the Migrant Crisis in Chicago by the numbers as of July 11, 2023:
- Chicago has received over 11,000 new arrivals.
- 49 Buses since Jan 1, 2023.
- 32 Buses between June 14 and July 9. (FEC got involved about 6 weeks earlier)
- 5,233 New arrivals in City shelters.
- 820 awaiting placement at Police departments and airports
- On June 27th their were 4,988 new arrivals in city shelters and 650 awaiting placement at police stations.
- 502 people have signed leases and 218 have moved to permanent housing as of July 11.
- After applying for asylum, it will take 6 months to get work permits after that paperwork is filed
- The lack of workers, case managers, NPO’s that are staffed/equipped to do intake and move people through the process is significantly inadequate for the need.
- Temporary shelters at the city colleges are needing to return to regular college schedules in August and there is no plan of what to do with New Arrivals
- Abuse, neglect, drug use, inadequate food, and sometimes abuse and trafficking are consistent concerns at the police stations and in the shelters. Some new arrivals are preferring the police stations over the shelters for these reason.