Churches in the NWL work in partnership to support Ukranian refugee guests

Churches in the North West Leicestershire deanery are pulling together in partnership to support Ukranian refugee guests and their host families within their community. 
From personal prayer and monetary donations to practical advice and weekly support groups, Christians in this area are creating the Kingdom here on earth by showing loving service and working together to offer a helping hand to those in need. 
A few months ago, when the weather was finer, a large event was held in Coalville to welcome Ukrainian refugees into the area.    
The day was filled with live music and dancing, Ukrainian food, face-painting, crafts, games and a bouncy castle. The local council also supported the event and offered stalls with information and advice. 
A host of Anglican churches from the Coalville Benefice, the United Benefice of Whitwick, Thringstone and Swannington, the Woodfield Team of Churches, Three Churches, Ibstock and Heather, plus the New Life Church in Coalville, teamed up to make the event a success.
They also worked alongside various areas of the local council, including those who support refugees with medical care, employment, travel, education, and finance.
Other community support came from the foodbank, The Marlene Reid Centre, and a local network who organise weekly groups for Ukrainian guests and their host families. 
Revd Rhianne O’Rourke, pioneer curate in the Coalville Benefice, said: “It was a humbling and fun filled experience, which showed what teamwork could do when our churches take action and work together – praying together, raising funds, creating various stalls, and generally planning and running the event.
“It was a case of everyone brought what was in their hands, which created an event that was a true reflection of the idea of partnership and unity. Not one single person can be given credit, it was a group effort.
“We had many voices not only saying how welcome these Ukrainian families are but showing them practically with our actions.” 
Rhianne said she keeps coming back to the story of the boy with the loaves and fishes - he brought what he had and God blessed it and multiplied it beyond what the boy thought possible.
She explained: “When we began planning the event we didn’t have any resources or money, we didn’t know what people would bring or if they’d even want to be involved. But God took what we had and did more with it than any of us dreamed He could.
“At one point in the day some of the Ukrainian women approached me and said, ‘it just smells like home here’, referring to the food we had sourced, and for them I think it was a moment of healing.”
As an extension of this, there are now weekly support groups being held in the area for Ukrainian host families and their guests, and tentative plans for a Christmas event are being formed. 
Rhianne said: “What’s really encouraging are the stories I’ve heard of other support groups popping up from people outside of the Coalville area who attended the event and want to continue supporting refugees in their local area.
“This partnership has also helped the churches involved in the pilot Minster Community get a glimpse of what we can accomplish if we all pull together and work on something beyond ourselves. It’s powerful.”

First published on: 14th October 2022
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