Refugee resettlement began in New Zealand in the 1940s, and it was the churches who were at the forefront back then, according to the New Zealand Red Cross. So it was fitting that our church’s work has come full circle, and this was acknowledged in an appreciation event hosted by the Red Cross on the 8th of February in Wellington.
Together with the Catholic Archdiocese of Wellington, we have helped to welcome over 400 new New Zealanders by furnishing and setting up homes in and around Wellington, becoming strategic partners with the Red Cross along the way. This solid dedication for the long haul was noted at the event. For the most part, the Anglican and Catholic volunteers who donate so much and invest their time in setting up homes never actually get to meet the families who arrive – a Red Cross policy designed to allow the families to settle in and adjust to life in privacy.
Despite being thanked by the Red Cross, Archdeacon Stephen King spoke at the event of how we are the ones who should be thanking them. “Last year was the 500th anniversary of Reformation, so Anglicans and Catholics have not always been together,” he said. “You invited us into a process, and we all had to change and explore. There was no blueprint. We had to work it out on the run. Eighteen months later, that is the fruit, but broader fruit for the Church.”
This working together is incredibly significant, Stephen reflected. “We who are many are one body, because we share the one bread. There is a love bigger than us – and working with the Catholic Church has allowed us to put flesh on those bones. We take forward the knowledge that we can be together. We are two dioceses, but we work in concert as one – there is no other thing.”
Our working in concert is reaping rewards. Saw Pone was one of two former refugees who spoke with praise for the strong sense of welcome his family received. But when reflecting on the experience of walking into a home, beautifully established and laid out with everything his family could need, he became emotional. Nearly six months on, the impact of encountering such a warm welcome from people he might never meet was still impacting for him.
Such strong examples of love lived out is only the beginning, says Archdeacon Stephen King. “If we can make this difference for our newest New Zealanders by working together, imagine what we can do for others in need.”
Featured photo: (L-R) Rev Tim McKenzie with Grace, Parish of Kelburn; Archdeacon Stephen King; Patricia Cooper, Diocesan Refugee Resettlement Co-ordinator; and Mel McKenzie, Parish of Kelburn. Photos courtesy Cassidy Dawson-Tobich.