Today celebrates Saint David’s Day which is the feast day of Saint David, the patron saint of Wales. We are excited about all the Welsh churches who have joined our Network and have been doing amazing work to welcome refugees and asylum seekers in Wales. Jacci Peach who is the Refugee and Asylum Seeker Liaison Officer at Vineyard Church Cardiff has shared with us some of the wonderful work they have been doing in their community.
Cardiff is a dispersal city for the Home Office, which means that new asylum seekers are not only housed here whilst waiting for a decision on their claim but they are also placed here temporarily in Initial Accommodation whilst they wait to be dispersed to other areas in Wales. This means that at any one time we have around 1,500 asylum seekers in dispersed accommodation and up to 200 in Initial Accommodation.
Since it began in 2008, Vineyard Church Cardiff has reached out into the local communities in our city to serve those in need through our compassion ministries, known collectively as Restore. We currently run six projects in the city, all of which have had the opportunity to bless local refugees and asylum seekers.
In January 2017 we began a monthly coffee morning called Blend, reaching out to refugees and asylum seekers in Cardiff. Blend provides a chance not only to sit and chat in a friendly, safe environment with a brew and some homemade cake but also support with practical and spiritual needs. It really took off and by September that year, it was running weekly and by 2019 regularly getting about 40 refugees and asylum seekers visiting weekly. What started off quite small, now needed a whole team of volunteers from our church to run the sessions and bake the cakes. This really impacted our church. Many people were asking questions about the asylum process, where people were coming from, how are they supported, and more importantly, what could they do to help.
As our church became more aware of the issues refugees and asylum seekers face, we were able to support the community more through our other Restore projects. Storehouse provides furniture to those in need, a third of their clients are refugees. Growbaby, a project providing clothing and equipment to families with children aged 0-5 mainly supports refugees and asylum seekers. Our most recent project, a Food Co-op for families, has also attracted a lot of refugees and asylum seekers, and even our Ty Adfer project, a shared house for 4 homeless men, has a refugee tenant.
At Blend we noticed an increase in our visitors asking faith questions. We felt God urging us to start a Small Group, especially for refugees and asylum seekers who were new to the faith, and in 2018 we began. The Small Group really took off, we were meeting 40+ refugees and asylum seekers weekly, many of whom attended other churches. We were able to link up with those churches to extend our reach and meet the needs of more people, sharing our other projects with them and building an amazing community of support.
Since this all began, we have been privileged to witness many refugees and asylum seekers come to faith, join our church, and become part of our community. We have celebrated their baptisms, gaining their refugee status, and having their family reunions. We have stood by them at appeals, cried with them, and held their hands in solidarity through difficult times. We have also given out Bibles in several languages and even sourced Arabic ‘Why Jesus?’ booklets. We have supported them with food parcels, clothing, equipment, Christmas presents, and toys and organised children’s parties, Refugee Week events, and other social gatherings.
It’s also wonderful to see more people in our church befriending newly arrived asylum seekers and helping them both practically and in their walk with Jesus. We have supported thousands on this journey that we have only just begun, but, more importantly, we have learnt so much from them and are constantly humbled by them. They are a blessing to us all.