By Angela Reed
My name is Angela Reed, I am a Global Mission Fellow (US-2) of the global ministry board of The United Methodist Church. I am currently serving two years at Tacoma Community House (TCH) as a community organizer. As the community organizer, I engage with various initiatives in Tacoma to connect faith communities with the vision of TCH to welcome the stranger.
Recently, I participated in a discussion with our Refugee Planning Committee where I learned that Washington State welcomes one of the highest rates of immigrants and refugees in the United States. TCH serves 3,500 clients through their four core programs, Education, Employment, Immigration and Advocacy with nearly 2,000 clients receiving immigration services alone. Amazing!
TCH was started in 1910 by the Methodist Women to serve community needs, notably those of immigrants. As the community organizer, I strive to stay current on the social and economic needs of immigrants in South Puget Sound communities by actively engaging and staying informed. I participate in various committee and coalition discussions to increase my awareness of immigrant issues and to stay connected to TCH’s partners. I am often invited to speak to other United Methodist groups from Montesano, Washington to Portland, Oregon, seeking long-term charitable support. TCH continues to help immigrants find uses for their amazing gifts and talents that add value to Puget Sound. My job is to shine light on the social injustices surrounding immigration while engaging the United Methodist Women in this welcoming mission.
At TCH, I have the privilege of interacting with people from all around the world, including Ukraine, Moldova, Kenya, Russia, Mexico and others. I sit in on English and citizenship classes and enjoy seeing first-hand the cultures these immigrants represent.
One day, I met a student from El Salvador named Maria. Maria had only been in America for a few weeks and found herself struggling with her English assignments and homework. The teacher allowed me to sit with her and help her throughout the class. We shared stories about our families and hometowns and I could see how optimistic she was to learn English. Through many attempts to complete the assignment, she never lost hope. Before I left she said, “I made a new American friend”.
Maria’s strength and dedication is just one of the many stories I take with me when I visit United Methodist churches, community events and committee discussions to share the work of TCH. Day to day, I am becoming more familiar with immigrant and refugee data as well as with legislation surrounding immigration. I strive to gain support from council members, senators and house representatives so that Maria and others like her in the Puget Sound region will have the resources to keep their spirits up and their rights protected.
Each day, I find new ways at TCH to “welcome the stranger” by staying active in the community and connecting the church in mission. As TCH expands its services with a new two-story building, I am hopeful the extra space will allow us to build a stronger community for immigrants and their advocates.
Jesus said, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.” Please pray with me that TCH will continue to build a spirit of invitation in the south Puget Sound community for as it says in Psalm 133.1, it is “good and pleasant…when God’s people live together in unity!”
Angela Reed is a Global Mission Fellow with the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries. She is assigned to Tacoma Community House, a nationally-respected, community-based service center for immigrants, refugees, and long-time South Sound residents seeking enrichment and pathways to self-sufficiency.