When St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Asheville conducted its capital campaign a few years ago, Pastor Matt Smith said a big part of it was to renovate the building to serve the community and to plan for a miracle.
“We didn’t know exactly what that would look like and what the needs would be, but we trusted that the Spirit would find ways for us to serve through our investment in these spaces,” Smith said.
The campaign allowed St. Mark’s to create two classrooms for a child development center, add office space, and renovate some bathrooms. However, Smith said as the COVID-19 pandemic slogged on, the spaces weren’t being utilized to their full potential.
When the church received a call from Lutheran Services Carolinas (LSC), the congregation knew it had found the miracle.
“When we got the call from LSC that they were looking at doing refugee resettlement in Asheville and one of the needs was office space, we saw God at work,” Smith said. “Part of our congregation’s mission is serving all people, so we were thrilled to be able to use our comfortable spaces to partner with LSC’s Afghan placement program to support people who have been through so much and will arrive with so little.”
LSC recently opened a New Americans Program office in part of the church’s renovated spaces to bring its refugee resettlement work to the Asheville area. Refugees resettled through LSC are legal, fully vetted, and are here at the invitation of the United States of America.
“We are the church together,” said LSC President Ted Goins. “It takes a village and when churches, LSC, individuals, and the Asheville community lean in, we can work wonders. These neighbors have been persecuted and threatened by the Taliban; we can give them a new and safe life as New Americans.”
Laura Collins, Asheville’s area manager, said LSC expects to receive 100 refugees to the area in the coming months. She added that St. Mark’s is a perfect central location for these new arrivals, with easy access to anything they will need.
“I’m excited to be a part of this moment in history,” Collins said. “This is quite literally the largest airlift of refugees in United States history, so Asheville gets to be part of that.”
The first refugees are set to start arriving in the middle of January, and Collins said there are a variety of ways the community can get involved. The biggest need is housing, whether temporary or more permanent.
The office will also accept donations of halal appropriate meals because of dietary restrictions or donations to pay for them, grocery store gift cards, or general contributions to allow LSC to do this important work.
Please contact Amy Dix, Asheville’s outreach coordinator, at email@example.com for information about contributions, items to donate, or for information about volunteer opportunities.
Anyone who is interested in learning more about LSC’s New Americans Program can attend an upcoming open house at the new office, which is located at 135 Merrimon Ave., Asheville, NC 28801, on Sunday, Feb. 13 from 2-4 p.m.
Attendees will have the opportunity to meet LSC President and CEO Ted Goins and learn more about refugee resettlement efforts in Asheville.
Please RSVP by Friday, Feb. 4 to Tracy Staley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 704-603-1692.