Frequently Asked Questions
If you have questions, we’re here to help. Please review the Frequently Asked Questions below for answers to many of the great questions we’ve received over the years.
What is the Mars Hill Refugee ministry?
The Mars Hill Refugee Ministry strives to empower members of the Mars Hill community to join the God of the oppressed by using their gifts to help meet the physical, material, spiritual, and relational needs of specific refugee families in West Michigan as they strive to acclimate to their new home country and become economically self sufficient. Working with new refugee families that have been resettled in Grand Rapids, we assist families for the first 9-12 months as they transition into life in a new country.
How long has this ministry been around?
The Mars Hill Refugee ministry began in early 2006 and has welcomed 15 families since.
How does it fit into the Mars Hill Outreach model?
The Refugee Ministry is one of Mars Hill’s four corporate outreach initiatives and focuses on local opportunities to live out our relationship with Christ.
What is a refugee?
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) defines a refugee as someone who “due to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality…”
How does a refugee get to Grand Rapids?
Fewer than 1% of refugees are referred for resettlement in a foreign country. Of those that are resettled internationally, about 75,000 are brought to the US each year and assigned to local resettlement agencies. Grand Rapids received ~600 refugees last year.
What governmental support are refugees given when they arrive?
Local resettlement agencies, such as PARA [a branch of Bethany Christian Services] and LSSM [Lutheran Social Services], help with case management including financial assistance, job searching, and ID applications, as well as work to partner each refugee family with a church sponsor to help the family in their transition [this is where our Refugee Ministry fits in]. Additionally, for their first 6 months, refugees are eligible for federal financial assistance. Beyond that time, they can receive standard state benefits for low-income families, if they qualify.
What specifically does the Mars Hill Refugee Ministry do?
Our main goal is to form a team of volunteers that encircle each new family. We call this our “Family Team” approach. In addition to the Family Teams, we also assist with obtaining donations to set up new apartments, providing rides to appointments, and various other needs that come up.
What are some ways can I get involved?
- Become a member of one of our newly forming Family Teams and journey with a new refugee family.
- Watch for requests for donations and respond when you have things we need.
- Join our leadership team & help with training new volunteers and other organizational & strategy-forming needs.
Can we serve as a house church or other group?
Absolutely. Depending on the size of your group, you may fill all the roles on a Family Team or we may join you with other volunteers to complete a team. House churches are an especially great fit as you already know each other and are in regular communication [an important aspects of a successful Family Team].
Do I need any prior experience?
Not at all. We have opportunities for all ranges of time commitment and skills and no prior experience with refugees is needed.
How long is the commitment?
Typically commitments run 6-12 months, depending on the volunteer role, however there are a variety of roles that require less of a commitment.
Is there training?
Of course. For new Family Teams we offer two sessions. One to address general information, and a second specific to each assigned role. We also provide training as needed for other volunteer opportunities.
What else do you guys do?
- Summer picnics: Four times during the summer we gather on a Sunday afternoon to hang out, eat, and play together as a group. Check out the calendar for upcoming dates.
- World Refugee Day: This annual Grand Rapids celebration event for World Refugee Day takes place on June 20.
- Stride & Ride with Refugees: An annual walking & bicycling fundraising event that takes place in Kentwood and benefits the Mars Hill Refugee Ministry.
- Cultural Awareness Events: Throughout the year we host various events related to refugees in Grand Rapids and the refugee situation around the world.
Who's in charge of the Refugee Ministry?
Like all outreach initiatives at Mars Hill, this falls under the oversight and direction of the Outreach Sub-Team and Pastor of Strategic Initiatives. There is a refugee leadership team that meets every other week who have responsibilities related to shaping and executing the overall goals, direction, and structure of the ministry. They also train all the new volunteers and serve as an ongoing resource for current volunteers. There are multiple opportunities to join the leadership team, as well, if the more organizational side of things is appealing to you.
I'm ready to sign up, what now?
Visit our volunteer page to review all the opportunities available. Then, follow the link to sign in with your Mars Hill login and “apply” for the position you’re interested in. Someone will contact you soon to discuss things further.
What if I have other questions?
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d be glad to answer any other questions and/or meet with you or your group to discuss the Refugee Ministry.