Janesville congregation readies home for Afghan refugees

Volunteers load a mattress bound for a Milwaukee duplex that will be home to a family of Afghan refugees.

A family of six newly arrived Afghan refugees has a pleasantly furnished Milwaukee duplex awaiting them thanks to a team of volunteers from First Congregational UCC in Janesville.

A team of about 10 volunteers gathered at the church the Wednesday after Christmas to load two vans and two trucks with donated household goods provided by an interfaith network organized by First Congregational. The network included Delavan UCC, which donated gift cards intended to purchase clothing, and the Janesville Muslim Dawah Circle.

“To be given kind of a fresh start and not have to think about possessions and materials, I think that’s huge,” one of the volunteers, John Mansur, told the Janesville Gazette.

An estimated 850 Afghan refugees are expected to settle permanently in Wisconsin. In addition to Milwaukee, the newcomers will settle in Madison, Wausau, Green Bay and the Fox Valley.

Members of First Congregational voted in 2017 to become an Immigrant Welcoming Congregation, the UCC’s official designation for a church that commits to supporting the arrival and inclusion of immigrants into a community.

The Rev. Tanya Sadagopan, pastor of First Congregational, told Wisconsin Conference Life that the door is open to help more Afghan refugees. (Click here to watch a video.)

“We see this as a test case for us as a community to possibly invite the resettlement of five Afghan families in Janesville,” she said. “We think we have a lot more to give.

“We feel very blessed to be God’s vessel for this work.”

Is your congregation interested in helping an Afghan family resettle in Wisconsin? Email Mary Kuenning Gross, the Wisconsin Conference’s Afghan allies welcome coordinator. 

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