Welcoming the stranger: LSC opens New Americans Program office in Greenville, South Carolina

Trinity Lutheran Church Senior Pastor Susan Crowell said she has always been passionate about refugee resettlement. She was introduced to the ministry as a child in Little Mountain, South Carolina when the church her family attended helped resettle refugees from Vietnam.

“We made sure we had personal relationships with the families we sponsored at the time,” she said. “I’m so happy that I’m still in this call and that this can still be part of my career.”

Trinity Lutheran Church in Greenville, South Carolina recently formed a partnership with Lutheran Services Carolinas (LSC), and the nonprofit opened a New Americans Program office in two of the church’s unused Sunday School classrooms. Refugees resettled through LSC are legal, fully vetted, and are here at the invitation of the United States of America.

Crowell said when the congregation was approached about the possibility of being involved, she knew the program perfectly aligned with its passion to welcome all.

“This ministry, it resonates with us deeply and fits so well with our mission. We are thrilled that it’s happening in Greenville and on our campus,” Crowell said. “We think it’s wonderful that people who are in danger in their homeland can come to the United States and that we here in Greenville can become a place of welcome and hospitality.”

Amberly Chirolla, LSC’s area manager for the Greenville New Americans Program office, said in just a few short months there have been so many miracles with the refugees that are coming into the area.

When the individuals and families come in need donations, volunteers find them. LSC teammates are also working around-the-clock to provide transportation, find them temporary housing, and connect them with any services they might need to start their new lives in a new country.

“It’s inspiring to me the power people can have,” Chirolla said. “It has been amazing because of the people I’m working with. We have so many case workers and volunteers that are so passionate about refugees.”

The way Chirolla found out about her newly created position could also be categorized as a miracle.

She has always loved traveling and has a master’s degree in international development. Before moving to South Carolina and deciding to stay home with her children, she managed a study abroad office at Wayne State University in Detroit for 10 years.

When Chirolla saw the news about the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and the families who were fleeing the country, she felt compelled to do something more.

It began with an Eagle Scout project by her son, Eric Chirolla, who expressed an interest in collecting donations for refugees. That led to a fateful phone call with LSC’s Columbia, South Carolina office where Chirolla was informed that the nonprofit was opening a Greenville office.

“I thought that they (LSC) would probably need employees, so I applied and thought I’d just see where it goes,” she said. “When they offered me the job, I felt so compelled that I came out of my stay-at-home retirement to do this important work.”

The partnership is seamless so far, with both LSC and the church working to better the lives of our Afghan allies in any way they can.

“This is part of what we are called to do. We really want to make room in our hearts for people who need and crave connection and belonging,” Crowell said. “We can welcome the stranger and make a home for the foreigner. The Bible is very clear that we are meant to do that.”

For more information about LSC’s New Americans Program visit http://lscarolinas.net/refugee-and-immigrant-services/.