Bridgewater Church of the Brethren has always been involved in ministries and service to the poor and needy. Part of this continuing outreach has been refugee resettlement.For 55 years, we have provided resettlement to this country for persons suffering because of political, religious, ethnic oppression. They are legal refugees. Once here, we work to get them self-sufficient as quickly as possible. Refugees are expected to get jobs and no longer need local or federal assistance within six weeks of arrival.
Our Hospitality House has two apartments, one with two bedrooms and one with three. Our committee’s role: 1) maintain the two apartments for refugee families; 2) Choose CWS sponsored refugees through the Harrisonburg Refugee Office; 3) welcome at their arrival and assist them in living in the USA; and 4) provide major assistance in their first days to secure documentation, Social Security numbers, health exams, schooling for children, language study and securing jobs. This process is taken care of by the Chair of the Refugee Resettlement Committee, members of the committee and other available persons in the church.
Over the past 55 years, our church has either fully or in partnership with other churches, settled over 300 refugees from more than 16 countries. The first church sponsorship was in 1957 for a Dutch family fleeing war in Indonesia. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, we received refugees from Russia, Cuba, Kurds, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Vietnam. These families were often kept in member’s homes until suitable rental arrangements could be made. In 1991, the church purchased and renovated Hospitality House # 1 (107 Broad Street). Refugees began coming from the breakup of Russia, Central America and the Balkans (Bosnia, Croatia, and Slovenia). In 1998, the Bridgewater Presbyterian Church wanted to expand parking but needed the land of our refugee house, so they found another house and we traded. This is our current Hospitality House # 2 (205 Broad Street.)
April 17, 2015, by Jim Miller, on behalf of the Refugee Resettlement Committee: Dean Neher, Kathryn Albright, Eric Barkey, Jim Benedict, Margaret Horn, Rufus Huffman, and Rod Miller.