The 27th September 2018 marked the one year anniversary of Hillsong Dominion campus welcoming its first refugee family from Syria. It’s been quite the journey. We met Mandy Yu, who helped set up the Community Sponsorship Programme for the church. A programme with the aim of supporting and integrating refugee families into the UK by welcoming them, providing them with a home and helping them start a brand-new life.
From being affectionately nicknamed ‘Coffee Mandy’ by her teammates to leading the Community Sponsorship Programme (through our Refugee Response initiative), Mandy has come a long way on her serving journey. It’s clear that she’s always had a heart for helping. She recalls her mom telling her that if she felt her calling was to travel and “save the world”, she would have to find a way to support herself and that dream. That’s exactly what she did.
Mandy Yu here and above at Gatwick Airport with the rest of the team when welcoming our Syrian family
on 27th September 2017
How did you start serving in church?
A friend recommended I attend Hillsong when I moved to London from the US. It became the place I identified as what a church is and should be, it’s my point of reference. I felt people just came around me but I wasn’t meeting the same people every Sunday, so I had to find a way to connect more. I was introduced to the hospitality team and started there. I went from that to joining our City Care Street Team initiative, then to the kids team before getting a nudge from a good friend to help with the Community Sponsorship Programme. Moving between teams always felt like a natural progression. It’s a mix of figuring out those who invest in you and how you invest in them but also finding people who support and hold you accountable to the decisions you make.
What does the Community Sponsorship Programme involve in a nutshell?
The programme is a Home Office initiative and is aimed at communities of people to apply to sponsor a refugee family. Based on your community’s capability you are selected to sponsor a refugee family. I was asked to help write the plan for the sponsorship programme. I thought: I’ll do the plan then hand it over, but by the end of it I felt so passionate and invested that I had to take the next steps on. Over the past year, we’ve cultivated a special relationship with the family and have helped by not only befriending them, but being the family’s point of contact for integration into the UK. From setting appointments, helping with referrals in school, dealing with the UK benefit system… etc.
What have been the highs and lows and where do you see the programme in the future?
The highs: definitely getting to know the family, they’ve taught us so much. They tell me I don’t come around enough but I say I sometimes see them more than my friends and they respond: you are not our friend, you are our family. The lows I would say come in the challenges of setting boundaries at times, knowing not to interfere with something that needs to be dealt with as a family without involving another, me included. It’s also hard navigating the benefit system in the UK. In the future, the goal would be to have every campus sponsor a family. Why can’t we be a community that never stops helping?
Any words of encouragement/advice for people who want to start serving and helping within social justice?
I would say find out what’s happening in Church but also around you, in your neighbourhood and start where you can. Sometimes when you start something, it’s about coming back, checking in and doing it diligently for the cause. Mostly, just start wherever you are and ask why you want to do something. Is it in your heart to do it?