Tami and Randy Arrowood of Atlanta were horrified at the pictures of Kosovar refugees on their television screen one March evening. As they en joyed dinner in their new three-bedroom home, Tami, 23, says, "It hit us. These people can't change the channel."
As aid agencies continue sending relief supplies to the more than 750,000 Kosovars in makeshift camps in Macedonia and Albania, some American Christians, including the Arrowoods, are providing temporary housing for the anticipated 20,000 refugees coming to the United States.
Through an Internet search, the Arrowoods volunteered with World Relief, which they discovered is resettling 2,000 refugees. The agency is one of ten selected by the U.S. Department of State to facilitate the Kosovar refugee resettlement. Others include Church World Service, Episcopal Migration Min is tries, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, and the U.S. Catholic Conference. In many cases, the groups are relying on churches to help provide temporary housing, furniture, clothing, language training, and money for rent.
Jim Donovan, pastor of the 1,000-member Southwest Christian Church where the Arrowoods attend, says, "It looks to me like the Lord is bringing the mission field to us." He hopes the Arrowoods' guest family—who most likely will be Muslim—will feel welcome in the church. But he knows there will be language and cultural barriers to communicating the gospel. "We'll just have to demonstrate it," Donovan says.
Priority is being given to reunite refugees with relatives. The Boston-based Albanian Orthodox Archdiocese in America helped create a bilingual Web-based clearinghouse for refugees searching for family members (www.web-depot.com/ kosovo/). The site currently lists more than 6,000 names.
For Kosovars who have been forced out of their homes by Serbian forces, an apartment in the United States may be a welcome reprieve from a tent in a muddy camp. But it also moves them farther from their homeland.
Bedrije Limani of Streamwood, Illinois, left her home in Pristina more than seven years ago due to political instability. While watching recent news broadcasts, she spotted her parents, two brothers, and their families—first in a Macedonian refugee camp, then at Fort Dix, New Jersey.
Limani, 40, is grateful for U.S. hospitality, but she looks forward to the day when she and her family can return to an independent Kosovo. "America is a great country to live in, great opportunities; but you're still homesick for your land," she says.
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