Riverton Park UMC is offering support to hundreds of asylum seekers. Can you help?

Rev. Jan Bolerjak offers a hug and encouragement to a child living with their family on the Riverton Park UMC grounds. Photo: Screen capture of KIRO7 video report.

Riverton Park United Methodist Church in Tukwila, Wash., has been in the news a lot recently. About 400 asylum seekers have found refuge on the church’s grounds since December, with around 180 currently living in tents and other shelters, including nearly 70 children. The challenging situation has caught the media’s attention, as has the generosity of this United Methodist church and the compassionate witness of its pastor.

According to reporting in The Seattle Times, many “state and local officials say they’ve known about this migrant camp” for months but have not acted. That is starting to change as recent news coverage is prompting some action, including a declaration of a state of emergency on Friday by the Mayor of Tukwila.

While there is hope that the slow wheels of governmental assistance may be moving soon, Riverton Park UMC still needs support, and this is where good people can add action to their thoughts and prayers. Please consider visiting the church’s website, where you can support the church’s work with a donation, by purchasing needed items from an Amazon wishlist, or by scheduling some volunteer time.

In interviews and through the dedicated work of members, staff and volunteers, Rev. Jan Bolerjack and Riverton Park UMC incarnate a church living out Jesus’ call to care for all of God’s children. “To me, that’s kind of what faith is,” said Bolerjack. “You’ve got to see what’s happening right now, and you’ve got to respond because we’re talking about human beings here.” 

Many of the migrants arriving at Riverton Park are from Angola in Africa and Venezuela in South America; all are legally seeking asylum in this country, a long process that requires individuals to be in the U.S. before they can apply. Interviewed by KIRO 7, Rev. Bolerjack noted the skills and accomplishments of many seeking asylum, including medical professionals, tradespeople, and a gifted Angolan artist. None can work legally until their asylum application has been heard.

Churches making the news isn’t always a positive these days, especially in a part of the U.S. where a fair amount of skepticism exists about the value of faith communities. In this situation, a different narrative is evident for The Seattle Times editorial board as they reflect upon Riverton Park’s ministry of hospitality and the failures of local, state and federal governments to offer resources to this point. 

“[I]f lawmakers want to be inspired to make a difference, they should look to a small church in Tukwila, and the good people there who are doing so much with whatever resources they can muster.”

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Patrick Scriven
Patrick Scriven is a husband who married well, a father of three amazing girls, and a seminary-educated layperson working professionally in The United Methodist Church. Scriven serves the Pacific Northwest Conference as Director of Communications.

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