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MI churches invited to dream big

Members of Dearborn First UMC help refugees move to a safe place.

UMCOR invites Michigan congregations that have an idea for a creative project that would reach refugees and migrants in their community to apply for a $2,000 Mustard Seed Migration Grant. Deadline for applications is September 30, 2022.

JAMES DEATON
Content Editor

For the second year, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) will award $2,000 grants to United Methodist churches to fund local projects that assist refugees and migrants. Michigan churches are invited to consider their neighbors and propose a new and creative project that fills specific needs or gaps in their community.

The Mustard Seed Migration Grant program will make it possible for up to 50 local United Methodist congregations in the United States to start a new, one-time community-based service project focused on refugees and migration.

The deadline to submit the application is September 30, 2022. Congregations interested in applying should review the 2022 Call for Applications, which provides an overview and outlines eligibility and selection criteria.

Named after Jesus’ parable in the Gospels, the Mustard Seed Migration Grant encourages churches to start small but dream big. “Vast are the many things that you could do if you had as much faith as the size of a mustard seed,” says Sonya Luna, Coordinator of Latinx Ministries for The Michigan Conference. “With this grant, churches have the opportunity to live out the biblical guidance of providing hospitality to sojourners. The ministry doesn’t have to be big or elaborate, a small gesture can go a long way.”

Luna suggests a few simple ideas for congregations to consider: “Ideas for ministry could be backpacks for children, a fresh vegetable and fruit market, or creating book bags for children with books in English and their language of origin. Take that seed of an idea and let it grow!”

Other project ideas provided by UMCOR include the following:

    • offering English, financial literacy, or civics classes for adult learners or tutoring for students;
    • supplying families with cash vouchers for emergency rent, utilities, or transportation assistance;
    • facilitating access to the Internet through provision of cell phones, laptops, or Internet access;
    • distributing bicycles for transportation assistance; and
    • assisting a newly arrived refugee family in setting up their new apartment.

The Scriptures are clear that Christians are called to love our neighbor and to welcome the stranger. Jesus, in the parable of the sheep and goats in Matthew 25, speaks of those who will inherit God’s kingdom. Those who minister to the “least of these” are attuned to the presence of Christ among us: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (v. 35).

“The Mustard Seed Migration Grant program can help local churches live into a new understanding of the kingdom of God as they actively engage in caring for the most vulnerable in their midst,” says the Rev. Jack Amick, Director of Global Migration for UMCOR.

Interest in ministry with refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers has increased recently, especially since the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine. The Michigan Conference’s Immigrant Support web page has a host of resources for congregations wishing to learn and do more.

Another way for congregations to get ideas for their own project is to reach out to the 5 churches from Michigan who received the Mustard Seed Migration Grant last year: Dearborn First UMC, First UMC of Warren, Troy Big Beaver UMC, Lansing Mount Hope UMC, and French UMC in Detroit.

Rev. Alice Fleming Townley, Mission and Justice Coordinator for The Michigan Conference, encourages Michigan congregations to lean on and learn from each other. “Considering this grant opportunity could lead to beautiful brainstorming, learning, collaborating, and moving into the Spirit’s lead.” It brings to life the connectional spirit of The United Methodist Church.

In the coming weeks, stories from these five congregations will be highlighted in the Friday mifaith newsletter, providing evidence of what happens when seeds of faith grow and spread.

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The Michigan Conference