By Bill Holdsworth

The Resettlement Support Team (RST) is a joint group of Central and Zion Mennonite churches in northwest Ohio. Our team formed in mid-2022 in response to seeing hundreds of thousands of people displaced all over the world by war and violence and a desire to offer our time and community resources to help immigrants settle in a safe and welcoming place.

In the first year, the committee spent time reaching out to immigrant resettlement and advocacy organizations to discern how and who we could assist. We learned a lot about the legal definitions, rules, and restrictions associated with statuses such as “refugee,” “asylum seeker,” and “humanitarian parolee.” We had some concerns at first about our rural location: Would it offer enough job and learning opportunities? Would it be too far away from other immigrant communities so that new immigrants might feel isolated? Would it be a hard place to adapt to for someone coming from a city? We were encouraged by Charity Stowell, the Newcomer Coordinator with Mennonite Central Committee, to not let those concerns stand in our way. We could present what we had to offer and rely on God through the process. For some immigrants, our area might match exactly what they wanted and needed.

During that time, the United States had launched the Uniting for Ukraine program to assist Ukrainians fleeing war to come to the U.S. for up to two years on “parole” status. This program allowed sponsoring families or communities to work independently of the agencies specifically authorized to resettle those with a “refugee” status and gave immigrants some government benefits and the ability to work soon after arrival. Working with an organization that helped match immigrants with sponsors, we applied to the Uniting for Ukraine program and quickly received approval to sponsor a family of three and a family of four. This community model of sponsorship, first launched for Afghans and Ukrainians, was so successful that the government has now launched Welcome Corps, a program that uses this model to resettle refugees who have a path to permanent citizenship.

As we were preparing for the arrival of our sponsored families, we asked our churches and communities to partner with us. The response was enthusiastic and overwhelmingly supportive. We received monetary and material donations of all kinds — everything that we asked for — including two cars! In a short time, we also had lists of volunteers that we could text for different types of needs, including transportation, household items, clothing, food items, legal help, medical help, etc.

Both of our families arrived just over a year ago. The first few weeks were overwhelming! In addition to settling into their new temporary spaces — a house and an apartment which two families had generously offered at no charge — the families began the long process of getting established.  Registering for school, filling out government documents and applications, going to the Social Security office, getting required immunizations, figuring out cell phone plans, finding employment, learning how to drive, getting insurance, navigating communication across language differences, finding stores, opening a bank account and debit card, figuring out the unique and often perplexing aspects of American taxes and health insurance, finding doctors, dentists, etc., etc.

There was a lot of learning in the first weeks and months, and our team asked our sponsored families for grace more than once as we made mistakes along the way. It wasn’t always smooth — we found that our greatest need during that time was transportation and help with appointments. We found a natural hesitancy among volunteers to become involved in one-on-one settings due to the language barrier, but we also saw that with some experience with the Google Translate app, this hesitancy often disappeared. With so much to do, the involvement of the team, church community, and greater community was incredibly important — both as a way to share the work and offer opportunities for relationships to form. The families were very grateful for the community’s support.

A year out, there aren’t as many day-to-day needs, but we continue to be involved, helping as friends when asked or needed. There have been some struggles — negative news from back home, trips to the ER, job difficulties, and misunderstandings. But we have also been able to celebrate joys with them — sharing food, fellowship, and milestones such as the birth of a new baby, the successful completion of a job training program, and transitions to independent apartments, which many hands helped to make a home. We continue to see new perspectives, learn about cultural differences, and understand things in new ways.

If anyone is interested in learning more or would like to sponsor immigrants in a similar way, our team would be happy to answer questions and share what we’ve learned along the way! We have continued to be surprised and humbled by the gifts and resources offered every time we simply ask. You can send me an email message at

This story was shared with delegates during Ohio Conference’s Annual Conference Assembly at Sharon Mennonite Church in Plain City.