It’s tough times right now for people across the world, but how much harder might it be if you had recently moved to the U.S. from another country?

Covenant’s refugee ministry lead Emily Dove was thinking about the challenges facing us all and, in particular, the challenges facing new immigrants, and she decided to create gift baskets to help a few refugee families with ties to Covenant. Each basket was a little different, but each was delivered with love and concern and care.

“We put together baskets for five families, a total of 31 people,” Emily said. “The refugee ministry is connected with more families, but these are our friends who need a bit more support.”

Emily delivered Brita pitchers, oil and flour, as well as books, games, school supplies, diapers, hand sanitizer and household cleaners … and even a small portable fan. For a couple of high school graduates, she included Visa gift cards.

“I delivered all of the baskets,” Emily, who just took over as the refugee ministry chair in February, said. “I had not met most of the families, so once I explained who I was they were happy for a socially distanced visitor. And of course, new art supplies and soccer balls are pretty exciting – regardless of who is giving them to you!” 

Whitney Bell, Covenant’s Mission Director, said, “This idea was so perfect because we hadn’t been able to see these dear families due to quarantine. This allowed our team to remind our friends how deeply we love them and that we will always be here to care for them – a reminder of what the body of Christ should be.”

Many of the families who are part of the refugee ministry have been struggling to hold onto jobs in the service industry and to home-school their kids, Emily said. Whitney agreed. “COVID is disproportionately affecting lower-income households. Most of our refugee families fall into this category; many have lost jobs and are really struggling. For Emily to show up as a representative of Covenant with gift baskets of much-needed items really addresses physical needs of these families while reminding them of the love of Christ through the church.”

Whitney added that the best way to help out this ministry and the refugee population in Austin is to partner with an organization that focuses on refugee work. “Refugee Services of Texas is training volunteers online so once we can safely work together again, volunteers are ready to go,” Whitney said, adding that the Covenant team has been working to reorganize and will offer some new ways to volunteer in 2021.

For now, Emily asked the congregation to keep our refugee families in their prayers, adding that when things return to a more normal rhythm, the ministry will definitely be looking for more volunteers. “Serving our newest Austin residents is such a joyful experience, and it is my goal to emphasize the creation of lasting friendships between Covenant members and the refugee families,” she said.