This week, the Pope called on parishes to take in refugee families – but what’s it like to open up your home and heart to people fleeing their homeland?
Jarrod McKenna has shared his home with refugees for 11 years.
“People are looking at Germany saying ‘wow, look at what they are doing’. But there are lots of beautiful examples of people being welcoming here. The Australia we dream of is already happening.”
Here's how it happened for him.
In 2004 Jarrod was at church. (He confesses to being "an embarrassing God-botherer who loves Jesus so much I make other Christians blush.") He realised he was studying the words of history's most famous refugee on a Sunday, then not caring about people in the same position on Mondays. He began visiting a young man in detention and then, after the man tried to take his own life, at a mental health facility.
Realising that refugees need a safe sanctuary on release from detention, Jarrod, his wife Teresa Lee and their son set out to help provide just that. They found a 1970s Gospel Church that had been an Aboriginal centre, a childcare centre and then, after being abandoned by a property developer, a seedy meth lab. It was in Midland - the Perth suburb that is the last stop on the train heading east. Using crowd funding to help with the mortgage, Jarred and Teresa bought it. They first welcomed one refugee into their home, then slowly learnt what was needed.
They still live at what is now the First Home Project centre, sharing it with an Afghan family of seven and several young Hazara guys who have come out of community detention. But they are not the only ones who have opened up their home.
Jarrod says "there is something contagious about compassion; friends bought the house next door to join the project and others rented in the same street. Another group moved in to volunteer to teach English and conduct driving lessons for the refugees. The street now has five homes with 24 refugees, not to mention a number of chickens, ducks and gallahs that wander around."