Refugees are here because they have had to flee their homelands due to persecution, injustice and even violence. I am reminded of two young Iranian women who came to Georgia through World Relief, a refugee resettlement agency, after they were placed in Iran’s most notorious prison for being Christians and sharing their faith.
I also think about the Iraqi contractors who served, and in some cases, protected our United States military and about the Burmese refugees who have escaped torture and imprisonment in search of a better life.
In 1999 Johnson Ferry had the privilege of partnering with other Marietta churches in resettling in East Cobb six families escaping the war in Kosovo (with over 20 children among them). This was a challenging and yet richly rewarding experience for all involved. Our people still see these Kosovar families today, who are now fluent in English and maintaining steady employment in the east Cobb community. Most of the children are now honor students attending college. We are blessed by God to have played a small part in helping these good people establish a new life in our community.
Our friends at World Relief have provided a few statistics to address what was written in the article. More than 80 percent of refugees are self-sufficient within six months of arrival in Georgia, which is among the best rates in the nation. Also, through taxes and payroll deductions, working refugees contribute millions of dollars to local and state budgets every year.
Additionally, nearly all funding allocated for refugee programs is direct federal funding, some of which flows through the state of Georgia, sometimes creating the mistaken impression that Georgia tax dollars fund these programs.
My desire is the readers of the Marietta Daily Journal understand that refugees represent the things that make our country great. They are patriotic and work diligently to learn English. They are committed to their families and many become business owners and community leaders.
We at Johnson Ferry support refugees for many reasons, and their stories remind us of what makes America such an amazing place. More importantly, we support refugees because of our faith, knowing the Gospel of Jesus Christ compels us to love the foreigner, even those who come from cultures and religions that may be very different than our own.
Many of our own ancestors fled injustice and persecution to come to the United States. Refugees are a new generation of Americans who are seeking a new life — just like generations of immigrants in years past.
I encourage anyone who is skeptical of this program to get to know these folks and welcome our new neighbors. There is a very good chance you will be blessed if you do.
The Rev. Bryant Wright is Senior Pastor at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in east Cobb.