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Welcoming the stranger

by Sonia Pastore

In 1957, my grandfather immigrated to the United States from the Holy Land [Ramleh, Palestine] to Youngstown, Ohio. He was not sponsored by an agency, but rather came on his own, leaving his young family behind to wait for him to secure a home and employment.

A lifelong Episcopalian, and lonely one Sunday morning, he wandered into Youngstown’s St. John’s Episcopal Church. He was met at the door by a greeter, who engaged him in conversation and invited my grandfather to his home that evening for dinner.

That welcoming of a stranger grew into a friendship over the course of many months, and with the assistance of a few others from the church, my grandfather’s new friend helped him purchase and furnish a home for his family,

One gentleman drove my grandfather to New York City to meet the arrival of the SS Cristofaro Colombo. Upon the ship’s arrival in New York harbor, they collected the young family that had nervously waited ten years for word to travel to the United States, few of them able to speak English and all of them afraid. The friends drove my grandfather and his family back to Ohio. We still know these people today.

Sixty years later, I know it is more than chance that I find myself a member of this Episcopal church in a position to reach out in the same spirit of generosity offered all those years ago to a young man alone in a new country looking for comfort in a familiar place.

Through our community partner, Samaritas, Christ Church Cranbrook has offered to co-sponsor a refugee family. If there’s one thing I have learned it’s that one person or group of people really can make a difference. Even unknowingly. It has compelled me to offer my assistance in kind as our family has benefited from the same.

If you are interested in participating in the welcome and settlement of a family God will soon give to us, please see members of the Refugee Resettlement Executive Team: Beth McArthur, Anita Qonja, David Jensen and myself, or Pastor Manisha.