April 29, 2016

Bishop Welcomes New Refugee Partner

LIRS refugees

Pennsylvania Lutherans have an long history of stepping up to help resettle refugees arriving in our area. This life-transforming work will continue despite the decision by Lutheran Children and Family Services in Pennsylvania to bring their resettlement work to a close. Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) is partnering with Bethany Christian Services to manage refugee services in Pennsylvania. You are invited to learn more at a May 2 reception (6-8 pm at LTSP Brossman Center Room 101C) where LIRS Executive Director Linda Hartke will celebrate the achievements of LCFS and introduce the partnership with Bethany.

Bishop Burkat’s letter

Bishop Burkat sent the following letter to rostered leaders of the Synod:

Dear Partners in Ministry,

As you may be are aware, recently the Board of Directors of Liberty Lutheran and Lutheran Children and Family Services of Pennsylvania (LCFS) made the decision to bring to a close their work resettling refugees in Allentown, Lancaster, and Philadelphia in the coming months. This has been life-transforming work – both for the tens of thousands of refugees who have been able to rebuild their lives in a safe and welcoming place in Pennsylvania, as well as for the communities and congregations that have received these new neighbors.

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), has been the national partner of LCFS throughout this work. LCFS has been a valued member of the LIRS network of 25 partner service organizations that resettle refugees in 45 communities across the United States. In addition to resettling adults and families, LCFS has also provided the specialized services for unaccompanied refugee minors – who come to America alone, and who are welcomed into loving foster families.

LIRS remains deeply committed to resettling refugees in Pennsylvania in partnership with local Lutheran congregations. The amazing legacy of Lutherans in Pennsylvania welcoming refugees – loving them as our own brothers and sisters – will not end. But we need your support in this transition.

LIRS has selected Bethany Christian Services as their new refugee service partner in Pennsylvania. Bethany is already a partner with LIRS in children’s services in Michigan and Maryland, and they also have experience partnering with one of our peer organizations in refugee resettlement in another state.

In this brief transition period, Bethany has already taken over responsibility for resettlement in Allentown, and LIRS is awaiting final approval from the State Department for this new partnership to restart resettlement in other locations.

This week I wrote a letter of support to the State Department for Bethany Christian Services partnership with LIRS. Together congregations and leaders in Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service and Bethany Christian Services will find ways to provide Refugee Services for children and adults here in Pennsylvania.

LIRS and refugees need your help, and this is how:
• Contact Bethany’s Pennsylvania congregational engagement person Andrew Brunk (abrunk@bethany.org), or 215-622-1790, to volunteer, ask questions, offer to sponsor a refugee family or become a foster parent.
• Contact LIRS at: outreach@lirs.org or 844-230-2736.
Sign up to indicate your interest and support for refugee resettlement in Pennsylvania at www.lirs.org/refugeesinPA
Join LIRS at one of three community events (Philadelphia, Lancaster and Allentown) to celebrate what LCFS has achieved, to thank their staff, to share our commitment to continuing this work in Pennsylvania, and to introduce Bethany Christian Services. For details on this event and a bulletin insert you can use to spread the word, visit: www.lirs.org/refugeesinPA

Welcoming Refugees Reception

• Monday, May 2, 6:00-8:00pm
• Lutheran Theological Seminary
• 7301 Germantown Avenue
• Philadelphia, PA 19119
• Brossman Learning Center: Room 101C

At this reception Executive Director Linda Hartke will:

• Review what has transpired regarding refugee resettlement here in SEPA Synod. Thank the LCFS staff and celebrate what they have accomplished.
• Introduce Bethany Christian Services and
• Invite participation from leaders and congregations to continue this important work.

Over many decades, Pennsylvania Lutherans have lived out God’s call to love and serve their neighbors and I am grateful for the opportunity we have to continue putting our faith in to action. Join us!

With and in Christ

The Rev. Claire S. Burkat, bishop