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Reflections on 2021 from Executive Director Susan Sperry

Susan Sperry, Executive Director of World Relief Chicagoland

The following letter is from Susan Sperry, World Relief Chicagoland’s Executive Director, who oversees World Relief’s work across three offices in Aurora, Chicago (Albany Park), and DuPage County (Carol Stream) and shared her leadership reflections at the close of 2021. Read more of Susan’s thoughts by following her on Twitter!


To all of World Relief Chicagoland’s generous supporters, partners, volunteers, and advocates,

As I reflect on 2021, I want to share my heartfelt thanks for each of you. I am continuously inspired and amazed by how you, a community of faithful volunteers, partners, supporters, and advocates, show up to love our immigrant and refugee neighbors well. You give your time, talent, material resources, and of yourselves.

Our Shared Calling

In Matthew 25, Jesus directly links himself with people in vulnerable situations. He tells the disciples that when they welcome the stranger, they welcome Him. For those of us who follow Jesus, this call is for us to recognize the image of God in all people. It asks us to see that when we welcome refugees and other immigrants in tangible ways, we welcome Jesus.

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.

Matthew 25:35 (ESV)

You Answered the Call in 2021

In 2021, we saw you answer this call again and again.

  • You helped World Relief Chicagoland welcome more new arrivals than in the previous two years combined. Together, we began new relationships that will continue as we walk with families for years to come.
  • You mobilized family members, churches, and workplaces to generously share the essentials that newly-arrived refugee families need when they start to rebuild their lives.
  • You volunteered – showing up on Zoom calls, in church gymnasiums, at apartment complexes, and to airport pickups. And by showing up, you offered friendship to our new neighbors and contributed to creating a community of welcome.

This year, the Abadi* family arrived in the U.S. unsure of how they would be received. They knew that in many ways, their home country, religion, and ethnicity would set them apart from their new neighbors. And yet you showed up to welcome them. You provided furniture, household essentials, and helped set up their new apartment. When the Abadis went to take a tour of the school their children would attend, students walked up to greet their new classmates. The teachers welcomed them warmly.

These small actions of students and teachers walking alongside the Abadi family reflected the power of community and of coming together to welcome and help one another.

Though rebuilding a life in a new country is never easy, the Abadis marveled, “We never expected a welcome like this.”

Thank You

In these and so many other ways, we saw you give generously. You brought your creative ideas to the table. You committed to welcoming immigrants and refugees in Chicagoland and beyond.

I am humbled by the ways that you have joined World Relief Chicagoland to serve families in vulnerable situations. And I am abundantly grateful to partner together with you in this work. Thank you. As we move forward together into 2022, I pray that we continue stepping into many opportunities to love and serve our neighbors. And that we can receive and reflect God’s love in vitally important ways.

Along with the entire staff of World Relief Chicagoland, I wish you and your loved ones a peace-filled season and new year.

Susan Sperry, Executive Director of World Relief Chicagoland

*The name of the family in this story was changed to protect their privacy.

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