ACC’s P&J Committee selects a peace mug recipient each year to highlight and recognize past and present Shalom work being done in our communities. This year the committee has selected Kendra Eshleman and Rebecca Pries of Mennonite Congregation of Boston as its receipients.
Becca and Kendra serve with their local branch of Refugee Immigration Ministries to support refugee families in our community. They have been dedicated and relentless advocates and supporters for two families in particular over the past few years. Their work includes connecting the families to services and supports in the community such as safe housing, food, clothing, medical assistance, vocational training, and more, organizing financial help, and just walking with these families as they navigate various systems and barriers.
They began 5 years ago after feeling a need as their community received a higher than normal number of resettled refugees and as the anti-refugee rhetoric increased. They have been matched with two different families over these years, both single Ugandan mothers with small children. Besides housing, they provided whatever material or social support was needed as these families transitioned and navigated the immigration process.
One of the sobering aspects for Becca and Kendra has been sharing the feeling of helplessness that families experience in the system.
“What impressed upon me is what it is like to have your fate and the fate of your children completely at the mercy of a state agency,” noted Becca. “We sat with the family as they waited to whether they would find a place to stay by the end of that day. It was a relief to her that she got into a place that was very well run. But her asylum application has been put off time and time again and it will be years until it is resolved.”
Kendra explained that as families wait for their cased to be heard, they are often not allowed to work and dependent on an unreliable amount of benefits provided to those in their situation. “Many are stuck in limbo for years and have little help to navigate the process,” she explained.
“Its an honor to be able to do this with these families and gratifying to know how we’ve been able to help them but also sobering to realize that it’s a tiny, tiny tip of the iceberg, shared Becca of the experience.”
If you have someone in your congregation who you’d like to nominate for next year’s peace mug, send their name and involvement to firstname.lastname@example.org.