It’s been a year of difficult change. But at World Relief, we believe you were made for change — not just to survive it, but to thrive through it. In today’s story, Susie Fikse, Executive Director at Hope for San Diego, explains why, in a year so much letting go, she believes partnering with World Relief is something to hold onto.
First, can you tell us a little about Hope for San Diego?
Hope for San Diego is an independent non-profit with a mission to engage our community to care for and invest in our under-served neighbors. Our focus areas include refugees/ immigrants, sex trafficking, foster care and homelessness—all pressing issues in San Diego.
How did you first get connected with World Relief?
Twenty-five years ago, I was living in Atlanta. The church my family attended was involved with World Relief, and I signed up to bring Thanksgiving dinner to a refugee family. I remember standing at the door of this family’s small apartment. There were eight people living there. They had no furniture in the living room, but they welcomed me and my family and offered us drinks and fruit. We couldn’t really communicate because of the language barrier, but it was a really meaningful and eye-opening experience.
How did you help bring World Relief to San Diego?
Shortly after I took the job as Executive Director of Hope for San Diego, we began working with refugees in the area. Soon we realized that there were many organizations doing many different things for refugees — all of them great, but very uncoordinated.
For a long time, I felt the need for some kind of umbrella organization to help bring all our efforts together and to make sure the work we were doing was helping instead of hurting. I knew World Relief would be a great partner to bring us all together and help facilitate healthy ministry.
We connected with the World Relief SoCal office, and they did a few trainings with us and our church partners. But when the border crisis came to a head a couple of years ago, it became clear that we needed the expertise of World Relief in closer proximity to all these needs! It took some time to figure out how to make it work, but in March, we were able to fund the first full-time World Relief staff in San Diego, and a group of churches assembled to collaborate in building a more effective ministry to refugees.
Aside from funding, how else does Hope for San Diego partner with World Relief?
Our partner churches volunteer in different ways through the connections World Relief provides, whether that is building friendships with refugees, providing tangible support like furniture or shoes, or participating in tutoring programs.
We have also hosted World Relief speakers at educational events, which is a powerful way to help our community build a Biblical worldview of immigration. Likewise, we sent a select group of leaders on a Border Vision Trip, which opened eyes to the complexity of immigration issues facing people just 30 minutes from our homes.
In light of all that’s happened this year, what are some things you’ve had to let go of both personally, and as a ministry leader?
My family has been incredibly fortunate that the pandemic has had a minimal effect on our day-to-day lives. We have not taken the blows that I see many families suffering from. But I think what’s been most striking for me is letting go of the illusion of control. We all like to make plans and implement strategies, but ultimately, we’re in little control of anything. It’s a great reminder that God is the one who sustains our every breath.
Why is partnering with World Relief one of the things you’ve continued to hold onto?
The work of World Relief is more essential than ever before. The gaps between the affluent and the poor continue to widen and World Relief is helping to bridge those gaps. When I see a refugee family of nine living in a two-bedroom apartment and six kids trying to do online school while their parents are working two jobs, I know that we need to come alongside these families to provide support. Without organizations like World Relief, these kids are going to fall further behind, which has long-term consequences for all of us.
What is your vision for the Church in San Diego, and how do you see World Relief playing a role in that vision?
Our vision is to see God renew San Diego so that even people in the most vulnerable situations can thrive. Our city is not experiencing shalom in the way God intended unless all people are thriving, not just those within our churches. The Church is the vehicle God wants to use to bring renewal and hope to our city. But that means we have to step outside the church and outside our comfort zone to build relationships. In order to do that, we need the right opportunities and the right training. World Relief provides that for us.
Has working with World Relief shaped your view of what “lasting change” means? If so, how?
World Relief helps us understand how we can help people work toward self-sufficiency and a thriving future where they can use their gifts to glorify God and contribute to our community. The training and educational tools that World Relief provides give people a vision for what healthy ministry looks like and how to come alongside people in need that offers them dignity and respect.
Will you help us create lasting change?
Rachel Clair serves as a Content Writer at World Relief. With a background in creative writing and children’s ministry, she is passionate about helping people of all ages think creatively and love God with their hearts, souls and minds.