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Refugees Brave the Cold for Fellowship in North Carolina

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On Sabbath, Jan. 18, a group of Karen youth lead a song service during "Refugee Families Thanksgiving Worship," held at the Greensboro Seventh-day Adventist Church in North Carolina.
Photo provided by Terri Saelee

On Sabbath, Jan. 18, just three days after Greensboro, North Carolina, was buried under 6-8 inches of snow that cancelled flights and closed schools, at least 170 refugees from six language groups braved the winter conditions to gather at the Greensboro Seventh-day Adventist Church for what they called a "Refugee Families Thanksgiving Worship."

After a song service by the Karen (pronounced “Ka-REN”) youth and opening prayer by prolific cross-cultural church planter, Fabian Reid, the event opened with a colorful parade of nations. Language groups included Nepali-speaking refugees from Bhutan and their leader from Nepal; Burmese, Karen, and Karenni-speaking refugees from Myanmar; Montagnard refugees from Vietnam; and Kinyarwanda/Kirundi-speaking refugees from Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Each group shared a brief group history and special music. Guests participating in this third annual fellowship event included a local Karenni Baptist congregation. 
 
Carolina Conference president Leslie Louis was the featured speaker for the event. The special worship was topped off by a musical selection by Louis and his wife, Carole.

“It was a tremendous blessing and inspiration to join with local leaders from the Baptist [denomination] and other faith persuasions," said Louis. "I was blessed to participate in this third annual fellowship ministry to refugees.”
 
Event organizer Jimmy Shwe, who serves as both pastor of the five Karen congregations in the conference and division-wide church planting consultant for the Karen language group, hopes to have 200 in attendance next year.  “I [would like to] encourage other groups to do it for their language groups,” Shwe recommended. “It doesn't matter what religion. Just invite them, and eat with them, and pray with them. Build relationships with them.”

— Terri Saelee is coordinator of Adventist Refugee & Immigrant Ministries for the North American Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.