The Minnesota-Wisconsin Woman’s Missionary Union Foundation is revolutionizing their outreach to refugees by having the ministry center its focus on building relationships and community, according to the Baptist Press. In addition to providing essential supplies and services, President Gwendolyn Sutton shared that they wanted to do more “hands-on” ministry where products are not just dropped off, but volunteers get to know the people they are helping to build a more supportive community. Focusing on women and women’s issues, the ministry is currently making a difference for the Afghan refugees who had to flee their homeland last year.
According to the Baptist Press, a “grant has allowed them to partner with the Milwaukee chapter of a non-profit organization called Hanan Refugee Relief, adding that the partnership has allowed WMU staff and volunteers to develop a ministry focused on relationships and community, not just practical needs.” The grant is known as the HEART (Humanitarian Emergency Aid for Rebuilding Tomorrow) grant which was established to help leaders of the Woman’s Missionary Union Foundation handle emergency needs across the country.
Since last fall, over 150,000 Afghan refugees have arrived at military bases all over the country hoping to be resettled. At Fort McCoy in Wisconsin, over 10,000 refugees have been welcomed, and while many were able to resettle, some still have to wait.
Sutton shared that the WMU Foundation provides “practical ministry” for women which includes getting food, supplying sewing machines, buying home items, and helping with hygiene. Still, the most fulfilling part of the ministry is learning about the women they are helping and really getting to know them. Sutton recognizes that each woman has a story, and likely heartache is involved considering the chaos they fled in Afghanistan. Getting to know the women prevents assumptions and provides a more supportive environment built around empathy and respect. Though some refugees can speak English, others need more support working through the language barrier.
With the success and increase in the work of the WMU Foundation, Sutton stated that she wants to expand the ministry by “recruiting more volunteers from local Southern Baptist churches, starting ESL classes and developing programming for refugee children.” The positive impact that the ministry has had on the whole community is improving everyone’s lives through the emotional connections they are making with each other. Lending a helping hand comes in many forms including providing basic necessities such as food and household items, in addition to meeting the needs of the heart which is compassion, understanding, and love. The WMU Foundation understands what it means to be a neighbor and friend, and the relationships they are building in their community are certain to leave a lasting memory of kindness and gratitude for all who have been involved.