By Mike Womble
Welcome House Wilmington has transformed Winter Park Baptist Church.
Emile and Jen arrived in Wilmington with their 5 children after an exhausting journey from the Democratic Republic of Congo and finally had a safe place to live. Their home for the past 10 years had been in a refugee camp in a neighboring country. For them, our humble house just off the corner of the church campus seemed enormous.
The humble home was a recent gift willed to the church by a generous member who wanted to invest in the future of her church as she prepared to meet her Lord. That dear saint has helped transform our church.
Now the halls and bedrooms of her home are filled with the laughter and joy as refugee parents, Emile and Jen, are preparing to transition from their first American home, the Welcome House to their own apartment in Wilmington. The ministry of welcome and hospitality has been fully embraced by all involved.
Welcome House has literally transformed Winter Park Baptist Church. While our new friends and now church family have been with us at the house a sense of peace and purpose has enveloped us. Over the past months we have had refugee children who have put aside their fears playing on the church playground, running through the church yards and riding their new bikes in and around the church parking lot. Their parents are learning English in our ESL ministry. They have found jobs in our community.
Every Sunday our new friends sit with members of our church, people who were strangers before but who now call each other friends; friends who are also bringing guests to church because they have heard we welcome the vulnerable, the foreigner, the refugee.
We have been surprised by joy in how our church’s immigrant members have gravitated toward the ministry in very natural ways. They are finding new ways to serve. I guess children of immigrants and their parents don’t need cross-cultural training. Our church is being refreshed with a new sense of racial equality and acceptance. Welcome House Wilmington is more than just a temporary housing ministry for refugees, it is one of the ways God is teaching and leading our church and our community to know Jesus. Winter Park Baptist Church is joining God in his great work of reconciliation in the world.
Mike Womble serves as Associate Pastor Spiritual Formation, Missions and Single Adults at Winter Park Baptist Church in Wilmington, N.C.