Long-Term Refugee Ministry: Report from Calvary OPC, Glenside, PA

by Jessica Hulsey

Calvary OPC in Glenside, Pennsylvania has been sacrificially serving a refugee family from Afghanistan since last year. In a recent report about their ministry to their congregation, Jessica Hulsey, the coordinator of the effort, wrote, reflecting on the ministry. 

Jessica tells us that approximately six or seven members of the church are actively involved in this ministry on a regular basis and others jump in as needed. She admits it’s no small task, but extremely rewarding. The family is checked on by phone daily and visited by two individuals weekly. As you’ll read, they’ve gotten to know the family well, and although the family has not attended church regularly, there seems to be a strong bond between the family and Calvary OPC. 

We’ve asked permission to run this report to inspire and possibly help other churches in their efforts to minister to refugees in their area. The following is her report with the names changed to protect the family’s privacy and dignity. 

Calvary OPC in Glenside, Pa. has had the privilege of supporting a refugee family from Afghanistan for the past year. In the life of a refugee and those fleeing their home country, this probably feels like an eternity as they work to get on their feet. But for those of us watching and helping them, it has gone so quickly.

Just to remind you who we have in our family (names have been changed):

  • Hakimah: The amazing woman/wife/mother of the home just delivered another baby in December. Her intelligent wit and practical skills have helped the family in the past year. She continues to take care of the family with serious home cooking, daily fresh bread, and grocery shopping. She also walks three of the kids to school and has done a fabulous job picking up English in her spare time. She has learned the CHOP pediatric circuit for vaccines and well visits along with obstetric appointments for herself during pregnancy. She does well finding the proper groceries for her family as they adjust culturally to America. So far, we know one of the children likes pizza!

  • Hafiz: The father of the family started his groundskeeping job in June at a golf course. He enjoys being outdoors as he was a farmer before doing security for the U.S. government. His boss has been extremely supportive and has even offered to give him a car once he gets his license. We are thankful for his English skills as he is our primary contact for the family.

  • Lashkar has been working as a painter in Philadelphia along with his uncle. He has progressed well with his English.

  • Eachan, our quiet and shy teenager who is 15 and now at a school in Philadelphia that has a program for English language learners. He is much happier at this school yet struggling to communicate as he is shy; hard when learning another language.

  • Afsana, “Mayor of Philadelphia—2035”. Seriously, this kid could do it! He has the personality and determination. His motivation, new school and amazing teacher have been the perfect storm. He is thriving! Afsana continues to be so helpful within the family unit and enjoys chatting with visitors in the home.

  • Delruba still lives in Afghanistan, and this has been a tough situation for all. Although Delruba would like to be in the U.S. with the family and they would prefer that. (His grandparents were left behind and wanted one child to remain with them.)

  • Afsar’s teacher emailed this week letting us know that there has been great improvement just over the past month. He was really struggling, and we weren’t sure what was best. This note of encouragement was helpful. The goal is to get him into the same school as Afsana next fall.

  • Baser & Baset: Oh boy! We are so thankful for their gracious teacher as she works with these two:) We would appreciate your prayers for behavioral skills. They are professionals at beating one another up but we hope for a better outcome with school and maturity as they age. Please pray for wisdom as we navigate this situation and knowing what would be most helpful for them.

  • Zafar went through MAJOR brain surgery this year and recovered well. He goes back in May for an appointment and may need one more reconstructive surgery for his brain with neurology and the plastics departments at CHOP. He is still home with Hakimah during the day.

  • Lily, the newest member of the family as of Dec 7. She is our first family US citizen!

We have found a family pediatrician through Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia that has chosen to take on all the children as her patients and making sure we follow up with proper checkups. We have found some blood levels that have been a bit off due to parasites or genetic diseases, but we are working through each one. The lead levels have increased in the younger children over the year. Lead remediation services have taken place, but we are still battling this. The immigration process has been a bit trying. Please pray for a Calvary member and attorney, as she connects with lawyers for Asylum and Special Visas. Afghan families have been told they have two years to get a visa to stay in the USA. The two-year mark for our family is Sept 2023. That is very soon. Our assumption is that the U.S. government isn’t going to send them home, but we want to be diligent and need your prayers.

Please continue to pray for the housing situation for all three families in the area. Hafiz’s brother lives in North Philadelphia. Hafiz had another brother killed by the Taliban. His wife and children live in Northeast Philadelphia. Pray for wisdom as the churches work together to find the right area, pricing, and homes for the families to live in community together.

We are thankful for Calvary and the Deacons fund and how we as a church have been able to support this family over the last year with rent, bus passes, food, English, bed bugs, doctor visits and so much more. They have expressed their gratitude time and time again!

Please continue to pray that God would use Calvary and those who visit to reveal Himself to the family. We love them and are so thankful for the opportunity to have them in our lives. We want to encourage you that even if you haven’t been actively involved, they are very thankful for the church’s help. 

When asked, Jessie believes the two most important things a church should consider before beginning an outreach like this is to have the support from the church’s leadership—including the deacons, as they were able to work with the deacons on funding certain items over the past year for the family. The second, some real commitment from church members. She admits the process is wonderful, but also challenging. “You need to know that there will be people helping long term even when it gets hard,” she adds.
If you have any questions regarding Calvary’s ministry, or you are thinking of beginning a ministry like this at your church, Jessica would be glad to talk to you. You can reach her by email: jessica.hulsey@gmail.com.  

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.