The crew from St. Peter Parish and Mariposa Ministries. (Courtesy St. Peter Parish)
The crew from St. Peter Parish and Mariposa Ministries. (Courtesy St. Peter Parish)

Imagine living here in Oregon, and leaving to find a better life in another country only to be denied. Imagine having to then live for several years in a tent on an island (which is a detention center for immigrants) 30 miles from the equator. And imagine finally making it to a country that is half way around the world where strangers welcome you and provide for your needs. One more thing: Imagine having to leave your children behind in your homeland during all this.

This is what Mahshid had to go through, but for her it wasn’t imagining, it was reality.

Mahshid is an immigrant from Iran. She left her country and ended up on an island that serves as a detention center for immigrants who have been denied entrance into a new nation. For four years, she lived there in a tent. But in October 2017 she made it into the United States thanks to St. Peter Parish in Southeast Portland and Mariposa Ministries, which runs the House of Mercy with the parish. The House of Mercy is a place for refugee, immigrant and local homeless women to live and receive support and services. The aid includes obtaining a solid job and income, finding permanent housing and learning English. Delphine Busch, a Holy Names Sisters associate, lives fulltime at the House of Mercy.

Mahshid ended up at the house and is now doing well. But this isn’t the end of the story.

After a few months at the House of Mercy, Mahshid got a good job, but the commute was too difficult, so her new employer provided an apartment nearby. In a world that is torn by hate, we are reminded daily that good can be found everywhere. It may not be making the news, but good people are doing good for their neighbors daily in hidden places.

Pramela left Sri Lanka with her husband. Two years into their wait for a host country her husband died. It took another three years of waiting to be received by a country. Pramela was alone. She cried for three months. One day she decided she had to get up and live. She found refuge in America, and moved into the House of Mercy the week before Christmas and on Christmas morning saw her first snowfall. Pramela has been working with one of the Holy Names Sisters to learn English and now has a job in downtown Portland.

Other refugee and homeless women are waiting to get into the House of Mercy. Over the last two years, St. Peter Parish has seen a 100-percent success rate in helping refugees, immigrants and local homeless get established. Now those who have been helped are giving back and helping the new ones coming in.

We hear a lot of talk about what needs to happen, but at St. Peter it isn’t talk. They are taking concrete actions. They are seeing the unfolding of God stories every day.

Other churches are helping the “least of these” every day as well. We encourage you to pray for them and volunteer. Consider if your parish may open a place for people in transition. If so, you can contact Michael Davis at 503-310-0966, or Delphine Busch at 503-209-8480. Training is available, and you will have service support as well.

Davis is a member of St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Southeast Portland.