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    The Upper New York Conference of The United Methodist Church

    news article

    Churches in the Albany District help refugees and immigrants through a Mustard Seed grant

    January 24, 2022 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Mustard Seed Migration Grants continue UMCOR's 80-Year tradition of welcoming the stranger. These grants of up to two-thousand dollars are funded to local churches in the United States to fund local projects that assist refugees and migrants.

    In 2021, Burnt Hills Church in the Albany District earned a two-thousand-dollar mustard seed grant from UMCOR. They collaborated with four other UMC churches in the Albany District (First UMC East Greenbush, First UMC Delmar, Jonesville UMC, and Emmaus UMC) to distribute bicycles to refugees through the Refugee Immigrant and Support Services of Emmaus (RISSE), which is housed at Emmaus UMC.

    RISSE was founded in 2007 to equip immigrants and refugees in the Albany area to build sustainable, independent lives by offering language and literacy instruction, as well as support with life skills and integration into U.S. culture and community. RISSE serves hundreds of individuals of all ages.

    While the purpose of the 2021 mustard seed grant was to supply bicycles to immigrants and refugees, the project did so much more—it established people-to-people connections as congregants from the five involved churches met with families and children. Prior to this project, most congregants had never connected with refugees or immigrants.

    Bicycles were delivered to 10 households; two bicycles were donated without mustard seed funds. Each family represented five people on average, so the total impact of the bicycle program supported about 50 people.

    The families that were given bicycles expressed the upmost gratitude and happiness. The bikes were most often used to commute to work. The Albany area does have public transportation, but it often takes multiple transfers to make it across town. The bicycles gave the recipients hours back to their day that they would have to use to wait for busses.

    The Rev. Holly Nye, pastor at Burnt Hills UMC, said “Our program taught us that outreach doesn’t have to be gigantic to be meaningful. We started with two-thousand dollars and touched 10 families. We didn’t try to give away cars or homes or fifty-thousand-dollar checks. Rather, we offered a practical item and the good wishes of strangers to help the families in their daily lives. People our families didn’t know came with a meaningful gift and asked for nothing but the families’ well-being in return. The smiles in our pictures tell it all.”

    TAGGED / Connectional Ministries

    With more than 134,000 members, the Upper New York Annual (Regional) Conference of The United Methodist Church comprises 865 local churches and 85 new faith communities in 12 districts, covering 48,000 square miles in 49 of the 62 counties in New York state. Our mission is to “live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to be God’s love with our neighbors in all places."