By Susan Mires
STOCKTON—The cold and snow of this winter will be difficult for Iraqi refugees. A Stockton couple is working to help make it more bearable for them.
David and Evelyn Barker are collecting blankets and winter clothing to give to the refugees in Worcester, Mass.
“They came in with summer clothes with no concept of what winter is,” Evelyn Barker said.
They became aware of the need this summer when they served as Mission Service Corps volunteers in New England. The Barkers helped Pleasant Street Baptist Church, among other ministries, operate a baby boutique as part of the crisis pregnancy center.
“We started getting inundated with people from Iraq,” Evelyn Barker said.
It is estimated there are hundreds of refugees who are divided among three communities and include entire families. The need is immense. The Iraqis are political refugees who escaped the war in their home country. They arrived in the United States with their lives, but they do not have jobs, adequate clothing or money for basic necessities. The mission had 10 coats to give away and 80 people showed up hoping to receive one.
“We’re hoping to reach the Iraqis while they are new in the country and they’re open,” Evelyn Barker said. “We’re hoping something can be done.”
The Barkers and the Mission Service Corps took part in the exhibit hall at the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) annual meeting Oct. 26-28 at First Baptist Church, Raytown, raising awareness of the need. Because shipping can be so expensive, they recommend sending money or gift cards that can be used to purchase winter coats and blankets.
“The language barrier is tremendous,” she said.
So the Barkers are also collecting money to buy translation dictionaries. The dictionaries cost about $10 each.
“Some of the refugees may be followers of Christ, we’re not sure about that,” Evelyn Barker said. “Some are followers of John the Baptist and believe Jesus was a false prophet.”
Others are believed to be followers of Islam. An Arabic pastor from Boston is working to start a Bible study among the refugees. Pleasant Street Baptist is a new church plant in an existing church. Although church members do not have a lot of resources, Pastor Noel Williamson is leading them to be involved in a number of mission projects.
“All of Massachusetts, all of New England is a mission field,” Evelyn Barker said.
The Barkers have a heart for home missions. David Barker is a retired minister, having served in Michigan for 23 years. They have volunteered in mission work in New England for the past five summers.
“New England needs a lot besides coats. They need people to go up there and plant themselves,” Evelyn Barker said.
To send clothing, blankets or gift cards to the refugees, contact Rev. Noel Williamson, c/o Pleasant Street Baptist Church, 6 Ashland St., Worcester, MA 01609. For additional information, contact David and Evelyn Barker in Stockton, Mo., at (417) 276-4739, cell phone (417) 276-1329 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.