When an extended family of 19 Afghanistan refugees headed to Maize, Kansas, with just the clothes on their backs, Kane McEntire put his connections — especially his United Methodist Church connections — to use.
“I utilized the platform in the community that my position of my appointment at Maize UMC has in order to pull some strings in my network in The United Methodist Church and also to build relationships with school leaders that let me know in advance that some of these families were coming to the Maize community and the Maize school district,” said McEntire, pastor of Maize UMC.
McEntire spearheaded the effort to round up more than 50 items, from diapers to a flatscreen TV, for the refugee family, including a baby born since their arrival. About $5,000 worth of items and $3,500 in cash donations were sent to the family.
“Between (Maize) United Methodist and (Wichita) Aldersgate, they combined were able to provide every single thing a family of nine, in addition to their immediate family members of eight, needed,” said Paige Hill, Maize Middle School assistant principal, who worked with McEntire. “Every single thing they wished for was provided. You name it, it was provided. And it was across the board from an Amazon wish list that Aldersgate completely took care of and provided all the items from, to monetary donations to gift cards.”
McEntire also credits contributions from Wichita Chapel Hill, Andover and Valley Center Furley UMCs with making the donations happen.
A part-time local pastor since 2019, McEntire said his first item of business, after a prayer at the church door, was to contact every school administrator and member of city council in Maize and offered time to meet with them.
Late last summer, McEntire got a call from the principal of Maize Career Academy, a high school vocational program, telling him two families of Afghan refugees would be on their way to the area and would need household necessities and clothes.
“She didn’t know my church context very well, but she knew about my heart for people,” McEntire said of the principal, who is also his brother and sister-in-law’s best friend.
McEntire made a point of initially not involving his church because he didn’t want the Muslim newcomers to think the congregation was trying to convert them.
“We didn’t really make this a church movement, but I made it something that I wanted to do on behalf of my ministry calling,” he said.
McEntire did not get to meet the family, afraid of being too heavy-handed about Christianity.
“I hate that it kind of broke my heart not having Kane come over,” Hill said. “There’s a lot of cultural discrepancies there we want to honor, as well as their privacy.”
McEntire said the community coming together to support the refugees came at just the right time.
“I think it’s so positive to come together as a community in a bright light after having such a hard year and finding beauty and being able to embrace one another again after COVID and sickness,” she said. “It’s been a remarkable experience, honestly, and it’s been so humbling.”
McEntire did get to see photos of school vans overloaded with the necessities to take to the families.
“It was kind of hard to see in my phone screen because my eyes were wet,” he said. “I was very impacted and reminded of the power of what the church does when it rallies around loving on people.”
Adjacent to Wichita, McEntire said many may know Maize for its high-end shopping and restaurants, but “it still has a very rural understanding and way of life and neighborhood.”
Because of a lack of affordable apartments in Maize, the family has found a home in Wichita and is eager to help the next group of refugees who might come to the area.
“You kind of see this pay it forward thing happening now,” McEntire said. “At the end of the day, it’s people who are the beloved children of God and worthy of acts of grace and piety.”
Contact David Burke, content specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.