As with previous years, our 2017 National Gathering will feature testimonies from a variety of church leaders undertaking innovative work in their communities. This year, Tom Charles, elder at Nassau Presbyterian Church, will be delivering a testimony about his involvement with the church’s refugee resettlement program. Here’s a statement Tom wrote in 2015 when the church was considering sponsoring another family, which they did in 2016.
by Tom Charles
The congregation of Nassau Presbyterian Church has a long tradition of sponsoring refugees, welcoming nine refugee families to the Princeton community over the past 50 years.
They have come from eight different countries, including Bosnia, Burma, Cambodia, Cuba, Hungary, Iraq, Sudan and Vietnam.
Before coming to the United States, they endured political repression, threats of violence and, in some cases, torture; they travelled great distances, often surreptitiously and at great peril; they arrived at area airports not knowing who would be meeting them; but they all came to the United States for a better way of life for themselves and their children.
They have all proven to be hard working and good people, committed to the ideals that make America a great country. They have found employment as a restaurant manager… a mechanical engineer… a physical therapist… a teacher at a Montessori school… a computer network specialist… a dentist… an inventory manager… a tailor… a food preparation worker… a librarian.
For our part, we have welcomed these families at the airport, hosted them in our homes, helped them learn English, assisted them in finding jobs, and learned much from them about courage, perseverance, and the love of freedom.
We have done all of this, not just to be nice people, but to welcome “the stranger” as Jesus would have us do (Matthew 25:35), being “doers of the word and not merely hearers” (James 1:22), and always receiving so much more from this experience than we have given. Welcoming refugees has rewarded me with some of the most faithful moments of my life.
Certainly, it is only natural to be concerned about the terrorist attacks around the world and ongoing threats to the United States … but I have confidence in the current refugee vetting process and prefer to respond to the current situation with hope and not fearmongering, love and not nativism, pragmatism and not negativity.
Tom Charles is a long-time member and elder at Nassau Presbyterian Church in Princeton, NJ, and has served in the past as chairperson of its Mission and Outreach Committee. Tom has also coordinated the resettlement of the last 6 refugee families sponsored by Nassau, including a Syrian family who arrived last May. Partly prompted by the extensive publicity resulting from NPR reports on this family, Tom has also begun working with various faith communities around the country who are considering such a sponsorship.