For the Women (feat. Amena Brown)

It's International Women's Day!

This year, we say “Thank God for Women” not only with our words but with our commitment to create a better world for women—a world where every woman and girl has the dignity, opportunity and security she deserves.

We’re incredibly grateful to author and spoken word poet Amena Brown, who wrote an original piece entitled For The Women. We invite you to watch and share this video as widely as possible, inviting others to join the dance and fight for justice.

Will America Stand Again With the World’s Refugees?

Will America Stand Again With the World’s Refugees?

Today marks the one year anniversary of the refugee travel ban. Hashim, Mariam and their children (pictured) arrived before the ban took effect. 

Enough is Enough

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Writing in 1921 after the first World War, English poet WB Yeats wrote a poem entitled “The Second Coming,“ in which he wrote:

Things fall apart, the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.
The blood dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Yeats expresses a sense of the social crisis of that time and as I reflected on my thoughts and emotions on our own divisions in America today, on the immigration debates and the ease with which we descend into ugly stereotyping of whole groups of people, I could not but feel a sense of things falling apart in this nation, so richly blessed, to which I brought my own family in 2001. I could not but reflect with sadness on the ugly racist undertones in the discussion over immigration and refugees—especially on the weekend when we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and the progress I used to believe we had made towards racial reconciliation.

As leader of a Christian organization serving the most vulnerable in Haiti and Africa, as well as supporting refugees and immigrants seeking refuge from violence, disaster and oppression, how should I react to the demeaning of whole groups of people? How do I stay true to the convictions of my faith and the call to love one another in a debate that at times seems devoid of hope and nobility, a debate that seems to embrace a dystopian view of the world we live in, a debate that seems to simply divide the world into winners and losers, into my people and ‘other’ people?

As a Christian, I believe that all humans are made in the image of God. And that we are all called to care for the vulnerable and to welcome the stranger. The bible is replete with such stories as was the teaching and example of Jesus.

I have been fortunate to come alongside communities and families in some of the hardest places in the world, to talk with men, women and children who desire the same things we desire, to talk with parents and grandparents who, despite grinding poverty and lack of opportunity, often demonstrate compassion and care for one another that puts me to shame. I have walked the dusty roads of towns and villages in the nations we too easily look down upon from our perch of privilege. I have sat in the homes of people and have heard their stories of suffering, seen their resilience and seen how they can find joy and be thankful to God even in the most challenging circumstances. They have taught me what it is to love, what it is to have faith and what it is to have hope in things as yet unseen. They have taught me humility and blessed me with their friendship.  

To have these people, and in fact their entire nations reduced to a coarse and derogatory narrative grieves and offends me.

Both Old and New Testament Scripture is clear. Our God desires peace and joy for all his people, irrespective of nation, race or tribe. The vision in Revelation 7, the last book of the Bible, is unambiguous: “After that I looked and behold, a great multitude that no one could number from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues standing before the throne and before the Lamb clothed in white robes with palm branches in hand crying out with a loud voice, “‘Salvation belongs to to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb.’”

Unfortunately our politics today appear to promote partisan divisions rather than promoting civility, understanding and reconciliation amongst people.

At World Relief, we respect that many of the issues where we have expert knowledge are complex and that it is possible for people of good conscience to disagree and so we have always sought to elevate not coarsen the debate—to be grounded in both conviction and civility. We have been careful not to further division in our response to policies we believe are contrary to the teaching of Jesus or simply ill–informed.

But when is enough enough? When do we reach a tipping point that requires a different response?

The teaching of Jesus is clear. Each one of us must consider this as a question of personal conscience rather than from the perspective of tribal loyalty or group identity.

And as we do so, we would do well to remember the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose life we commemorate on Monday.

All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.
— Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Tim Breene served on the World Relief Board from 2010 to 2015 before assuming the role of CEO in 2016. Tim’s business career has spanned nearly 40 years with organizations like McKinsey, and Accenture where he was the Corporate Development Officer and Founder and Chief Executive of Accenture Interactive. Tim is the co-author of Jumping the S-Curve, published by Harvard Publishing. Tim and his wife Michele, a longtime supporter of World Relief, have a wealth of experience working with Christian leaders in the United States and around the world.

Love Never Fails

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Sometimes it feels as though the world is on fire.

Each day of 2017 brought a new story that reminded us that we live in a world seemingly settled on top of tinder, full of angry people running around with match in hand. We see the flames of war, terrorism, sexual violence, racism and continued violence against the refugee and immigrant raging around us and growing in intensity.

It could be easy to lose heart, to curl into a fetal position, to pull the covers over our heads and opt out of the whole mess.

Except for this promise: “Love never fails.”

We believe this promise is true because love is the very nature of God and God is eternal. We believe it is true because Jesus lived it and died expressing it. We believe it is true because the resurrection vindicated love and releases it with power in the lives of those who know him. And we believe it because we see it every day in virtually every corner of the world. It is His promise that motivates us to charge into the world with hope, courage and even a fierce determination to fight against the flames.

For nearly seventy-five years and in over 110 Countries we have seen love conquer hatred, evil and indifference. We see this work first in our own lives as God changes our hearts. And then, with your help, we extend this love to literally millions of people around the world.

We see love conquer and endure:

  • In the faces of those from U.S. Churches and communities who step out of their comfort zones to welcome a newly arrived refugee family who have known only trauma, displacement and the deep pain of being unwanted.

  • Expressed through the work of churches throughout the world who bring flourishing where there was despair, and peace where violence ruled.

  • In the heroic work of our staff in the Middle East seeking to meet the needs of the refugee family who will likely never return home, whose children have no school and whose parent(s) have no work, no peace and no hope.

  • In the aftermath of natural and manmade disasters where a blanket, hygiene kit and basic food and water mean survival—and hope.

  • In places like the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, where love breaks through the pain and isolation caused by sexual and gender based violence, where rape is commonplace and the dignity of women and female children is denied.

Love never fails because it is rooted in the nature of God, it is empowered by the Spirit of God and it is alive in the people of God. People like you who have heard the call to run towards the flames engulfing our world when most, understandably, want to run away.

Love brings courage, resolve and lavish generosity of spirit. This year, we have been humbled once again to be an extension of your love and generosity to the world. Together, we have kept the promise alive: Love Never Fails!

Will you join us once again in 2018 as we extend your love to places and people longing for a tangible expression of the love of God?
 


Through the end of the year, we'll be featuring stories of individuals and communities putting Love in Action—bringing hope to the hurting and shining light in the darkest hours.

Learn more and put your Love in Action today.


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Scott Arbeiter’s proven marketplace skills, pastoral experience, passion for mission and history with World Relief uniquely equip him for his role as President of World Relief. Scott was a partner at Arthur Andersen serving in a variety of functions over his seventeen-year marketplace career. In 2001, Scott resigned from the partnership to serve at Elmbrook Church in Milwaukee, where he became Lead Pastor. Scott has also served on World Relief’s Board of Directors for nearly a decade, including three years as Chairman. After finishing his term on the board in 2015 Scott became a consultant and advisor to World Relief Leadership. Scott has been married to Jewel for thirty-three years and together they have raised three daughters, Kelsey, Jacquelyn, and Karis, all of whom have grown to love and serve Christ in their own remarkable ways.

17 Moments We Saw Love in Action in 2017

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As we reflect on 2017, it’s impossible to deny that the past year brought a lot of pain, destruction, tension and misunderstanding to people in all corners of the world.

While it’s important to acknowledge the hardships faced in the last year, we find it even more crucial to focus on stories of hope, kindness, mercy and selflessness.

To celebrate the good we saw in each other, and in you, the World Relief community, here are 17 moments in 2017 we witnessed Love in Action.

Nine year-old boy pays for Irma evacuee’s lunch
Landon Routzong of Alabama, with the help of his mother, paid for the lunch of a man who had evacuated his Miami home and was traveling to stay with family. "I didn’t want them to waste their money on food because they’re trying to escape the hurricane," Landon said.

Walmart Cashier Helps Nervous Elderly Man Count Change
Spring Herbison Bowlin observed a Walmart cashier patiently help an elderly customer as he nervously struggled to count change to pay for his items. “This is not a problem, honey. We will do this together,” she told the man. The post was shared over 40,000 times on Facebook.

Over 500 evangelical leaders join World Relief in support of resettling refugees in the U.S.
A full-page ad published in the Washington Post signed by 500 evangelical pastors and 100 evangelical leaders expressed concern over the president’s executive order temporarily banning refugees. A wide range of leaders across many denominations, regions of the country and theological philosophies signed the letter in a strong support refugees, some of the most vulnerable people of our world.

Over 200,000 donors give $37 million for Hurricane Harvey relief
On August 26th, J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans announced a goal of raising $200,000 for his Houston Flood Relief Fund. As word spread, the donations soared past his original goal and reached an astonishing $37,132,057 from 209,431 donors. “When times are the toughest, humanity stands at its strongest and you have all helped to prove that emphatically," Watt said.

Washington Post publishes open letter of repentance written by World Relief President Scott Arbeiter
In response to the act of hatred and terrorism which took place in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12, 2017, World Relief President Scott Arbeiter penned a reflective open letter, grieving the affront of racism and committing to advocacy for just laws and rejection of unjust systems that perpetuate poverty, exclusion and bigotry.

Terminally ill woman writes dating ad for her husband in New York Times
Amy Krouse Rosenthal only had weeks to live, but she wanted the world to know how amazing her husband was in hopes that he could find love again. On Valentine’s Day, she wrote “You May Want to Marry My Husband.” Amy passed away five days after the piece was published.

Tens of thousands of you stand publicly with Dreamers
In response to the president’s decision to rescind the DACA program, over 20,000 of you shared our Facebook post in support of the Dreamers who would be affected. We thank you for standing with our immigrant brothers and sisters!

Supermarket employee has ‘dinner date’ with elderly man who has no friends or family
Ellie Walker, 22, invited widower Edwin Holmes, 86, to dinner after she heard he spends most days alone. “He said it was his first ‘date’ in 55 years and he was as nervous as a schoolboy. It made me cry because I could see how much it meant to him. For me it’s the most important part of my job to speak with customers and see how their day is going,” Walker said. Holmes showed up in his best suit and the two meet for coffee regularly.

Thousands of you advocate for refugees by calling your representatives
In response to the administration’s decision to limit admission of refugees into the U.S., you—thousands of World Relief supporters and others around the country—made your voices heard to stand with the most vulnerable and marginalized. Bestselling author Ann Voskamp and others joined the effort.

Foster father chooses to only take in terminally ill children
Mohamed Bzeek cares for his six year-old foster daughter knowing her time with him will be short. "The key is, you have to love them like your own," Bzeek said. "I know they are sick. I know they are going to die. I do my best as a human being and leave the rest to God."

NBA owner allows player to borrow team plane to fly relief supplies to Puerto Rico
Dallas Mavericks owner, Mark Cuban, allowed Mavericks guard and Puerto Rico native J.J. Barea access to the team plane in order to fly supplies to those in need in the wake of Hurricane Maria. “I was really proud of J.J. and how quickly he got involved and how hard he worked to make all of this happen,” Cuban said.

Strangers on subway throw ceremony for student who misses graduation
When Jerich Marco Alcantara’s train broke down and caused him to miss his graduation ceremony, passengers on the New York subway decided to celebrate him by throwing a mock ceremony in his honor.

Your donations aid those affected by the African food crisis
In response to the devastating food shortages across multiple countries in Africa, inviduals and churches from all across the U.S. have sprung into action, donating to provide food and water for those in desperate need of it. Your support also allows us to continue developing long term solutions to combat the factors that have led to the crisis. Thank you!

Heroic man protects others during Las Vegas shooting, survives bullet to the neck
Jonathan Smith risked his life to save others as bullets flew through the air during the October shooting in Las Vegas. A bullet caught him in the neck and doctors have decided to leave the bullet in his body fearing that removal may lead to more damage. Some estimate that Smith saved up to 30 people during the shooting.

Four year-old girl donates piggy bank money to police officer with cancer
A Colorado police officer battling Leukemia received a surprise donation from an unlikely source. Sidney Fahrenbruch, a local 4 year old girl who frequently visits police officers, decided it was “the nice thing to do” to give the money in her piggy bank to Officer Kyle Zulauf to help pay for surgery. Sidney’s proud mother, Megan Fahrenbruch, said “She wanted to save the money for a toy but decided someone needed it more than her.”

22 year old rapper and 81 year old woman form unlikely friendship
Spencer Sleyon of East Harlem, New York and Rosalind Guttman of Palm Beach, Florida struck up an unlikely friendship after chatting with each other through the Words With Friends app. Sleyon said “A lot of people I saw online said, ‘I needed a story like this, especially with the race relations in this country right now.’”

Millions celebrate International Women’s Day by sharing our short film, Proverbs 31
Last March, World Relief debuted the Proverbs 31 short film on Facebook to celebrate and honor International Women’s Day. Viewers shared the film over 25,000 times and its message of strength, grace, grit and love of women has been viewed 1.6 million times.


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For the past month, we've been featuring stories of individuals and communities putting Love in Action—bringing hope to the hurting and shining light in the darkest hours.

Learn more and put your Love in Action today.

 

Love Endures All Things

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"You have to keep holding on to HOPE to keep holding on.
You having to keep finding your HOPE when you’ve lost it, or you lose your way.
You have to breathe HOPE to keep your lungs and your dreams from collapsing.
You have to let HOPE always carry you or fears will carry you away.
And these days? The world needs less fear mongers and more HOPE Mongers.
Fear says our only choices are either fight, flight, or freeze, but HOPE says we always have the choice of optimism, options, and optimizing all things for good.
HOPE mongers knows there will always be obstacles in the way, but there is always still a way.
HOPE mongers believe The Way forward is always greater than any obstacles in the way.
HOPE mongers know there is always a way to get from here to there."


Ann Voskamp


Love in 2017

As I read these words by Ann Voskamp over the weekend, I couldn’t help but think about the unprecedented year we’ve had at World Relief, and the love, hope and tenacity of our staff. I reflected on what we had been through together as an organization—as colleagues and as friends, often in the midst of hardship and uncertainty. I reflected on this love that has endured all things. And I was reminded of the deep pride and gratitude I have for our staff and volunteers around the world.

Love that "endures all things" is love that hopes in the face of circumstances that often seem dark. In the last year in particular we have faced a world which in many ways seems to have lost its bearings, but we have placed our faith in the Lord and we continue the work in the face of adversity, overwhelming challenges, and even hatred and physical danger.

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
— Hebrews 11:1

A Defiant ‘Nevertheless’

We do this following the example of the Apostle Paul.  When Paul writes his letter to the church at Philippi encouraging them to “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil. 4:4), he is writing from a dark cold prison cell, where painful chains, cramped quarters and the sickening stench from poor sanitation made sleeping impossible and waking hours miserable. And yet his focus is not this misery but his joy in seeing the gospel flourish. In fact, the words “joy” or “rejoice” are used 16 times in Philippians as Paul calls us, his brothers and sisters, to serve selflessly.

Of course the very same Person who inspired Paul to write those words and to overflow with love and joy in the midst of hell on earth is the risen Jesus. And if you believe in Him and are one of His own, He is with you to give you the very same supernatural, invincible, unconquerable and undefeatable joy and strength that Paul had.

Few of us will likely be called to such sacrifice. Nevertheless, this year across the globe our staff have endured imprisonment, been separated from their families and confronted famine, disease and suffering on a scale we have not seen in many years. At times they have even risked their own lives to serve the most vulnerable. Here in the U.S. in the wake of cutbacks in refugee resettlement, our staff have seen their friends laid off due to office closures, received hate mail and endured threats to their families and homes. As an organization, we have been the target of a constant barrage of vitriol from those who believe that security and compassion cannot co-exist, and that our security is more important than loving our neighbor or welcoming the stranger.  

And yet, we endure all things, in love. And we claim joy as our “defiant nevertheless.”

Hope Mongers

We live in hope. We live on the shoulders of the saints. We live confident in Jesus's victory over the world as we know it. And so we hope, and we endure.

We choose to be “hope mongers” and people who "let our footsteps be our preaching."  We choose optimism and the belief that there is always a way. We choose the path forward, the path of enduring love. Because to us, there is no other path worth choosing.

Whether in the midst of conflict in places like Yemen, South Sudan or Congo where our staff encounter genuine threats to life and limb, or in drought-stricken regions like Turkana, Kenya, where staff spend months at a time separated from families and loved ones to bring hope to communities in crisis, or even here in the U.S., where staff selflessly give of themselves in an environment  that—after years of bipartisan consensus on our obligations to refugees—has in many places turned hostile to our ministry of helping foreign born vulnerable people, we choose enduring love.

Our staff chose to be defiant in the face of adversity and to be bold in faith. To, in spite of their circumstances, choose His joy. They dare to believe in our God, saying, as Swiss Theologian Karl Barth wrote in 1934:

“I will NOT let this beat me. I will make the choice to praise Him all day, every day. Yes, Jesus has allowed this into my life but I will trust Him. What the enemy means for evil, He intends for good. I will not deny that I am in a rough season. I will face it head on in the strength and power of His Name. For as long as I need to walk this difficult path, my spirit will be marked with a blazing NEVERTHELESS for all of earth and heaven to see. Jesus has never known defeat and I will not either as long as I am clinging to Him. He always leads me in triumph!”

Love Endures

All over the world our staff and volunteers choose to get up each day, to come alongside the most vulnerable, to touch people with compassion, to love, and yes, to hope as they serve them, resisting the currents of our time, believing in the goodness of our God and Jesus' call to "love our neighbor as ourselves," choosing the narrow path, choosing hardship in the face of skepticism, hostility and even danger.

And so I want to say thank you. Thank you for your choice. Thank you for your brave and defiant nevertheless. Thank you for your enduring love. The world is a better place because of it.


Through the end of the year, we'll be featuring stories of individuals and communities putting Love in Action—bringing hope to the hurting and shining light in the darkest hours.

Learn more and put your Love in Action today.


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Tim Breene served on the World Relief Board from 2010 to 2015 before assuming the role of CEO in 2016. Tim’s business career has spanned nearly 40 years with organizations like McKinsey, and Accenture where he was the Corporate Development Officer and Founder and Chief Executive of Accenture Interactive. Tim is the co-author of Jumping the S-Curve, published by Harvard Publishing. Tim and his wife Michele, a longtime supporter of World Relief, have a wealth of experience working with Christian leaders in the United States and around the world.

Love Hopes All Things

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What happens when an affluent, conservative, and mostly white church’s neighborhood is suddenly inundated with hundreds of international people?

That’s what happened to us.

In May of 2016, I was called as senior pastor of South Tulsa Baptist Church, a prominent Oklahoma church with strong denominational ties to the Southern Baptist Convention. South Tulsa is well-known among the one million people in our metro area as the destination for Tulsa’s “white flight.” It is a relatively homogenous area, and our community boasts dozens of gated neighborhoods filled with luxurious homes. We are adjacent to the most popular retail stores, desirable restaurants and high-end gyms.

In the last few years South Tulsa has also become the temporary home of nearly 10,000 resettled refugees and immigrants. Families from all over the world now reside within blocks of our well-manicured church campus and first-generation children have begun attending our very best schools. Our community is no longer homogeneous.

And there is no doubt in my mind that we are better off because of it.

An Opportunity to Love

As I began to examine our changing community, it was obvious that there would be significant needs, as well as missional opportunities amidst the newly arrived families. Here in South Tulsa, God was bringing the nations to us, and the prospects of serving people from at least five different continents were promising.

The most glaring needs were among adult refugees and immigrants. At the time, new families were arriving weekly. Their children were thriving in South Tulsa’s local schools. Yet for many adults, integration was far more difficult. These families provided us with a unique opportunity to love and serve our most vulnerable neighbors, and to direct hope toward them in expectation and trust of God’s plan.

Our church is constantly looking for ways to improve our ministries. Initially, I pursued help from many organizations who were ahead of us in the field, but ran into several roadblocks. That’s when I reached out to World Relief. Even though they have no office in our city, they graciously jumped into the fray with us and began to share information, strategies, personal support, invitations to refugee events, advocacy support and even overseas training to help us become educated and equipped for the growing challenges we were facing.

Soon after our relationship with World Relief began, however, our most formidable obstacle emerged.

Internal Conflict

As the presidential election was heating up last year, so was the topic of refugees. The rhetoric on both sides grew quickly intolerable, and any space for reasonable dialogue fell by the wayside. When the executive travel ban was announced in February, we went through several weeks of conflict and distraction. I heard phrases like, “we are voting on whether or not ISIS gets a free pass into our country,” and I saw the difficult impact of those opinions on our ministry. One family organization who had been using our facility terminated the relationship with less than a week’s notice because they felt we were putting children in danger by holding English classes and serving Muslim people in the building.

Of course with several families from the Middle East now connected to our church, tension was building rapidly inside our walls. It was in the midst of this that I chose to advocate for welcoming refugees publicly.

One Sunday morning, I asked the congregation to affirm with me, out loud, that we would not let this one issue distract us from our call to the Great Commission. I also asked them to agree that we not allow the current political climate to infect our congregational unity. In both services, there was a hearty “Amen.”

Becoming A Congregation of Hope

As more members of the congregation stepped out in faith and began to welcome refugee and immigrant families, loving relationships began to form. Our congregation and these families realized they could learn a lot from one other, that each of them had something unique to give. The depth of those connections surprised them. And we were reminded once again that God is constantly at work in changing all of us. After six weeks of very intentional reconciliation of church members, we emerged stronger than ever.

Today we are becoming a multi-cultural church. Our international families are involved in nearly every part of our church life. We translate sermon notes into four languages and our Scripture reading is done regularly in multiple languages. Several international adults and children have been baptized or have dedicated their families to the Lord. And the surprise exodus of that family organization mentioned earlier? Well, it opened up rooms for us to serve even more refugee and immigrant families in our church.

Through God’s grace, hope is alive in South Tulsa. Our prayer is that God will continue working in and through us, and pull us forward, so that we might demonstrate His love and the hope of Jesus to those from the nations who are coming to us.

As I reflect on the changes in our church, I am amazed that all this has happened in less than a year. It is a testament to the fact that love always hopes, in all things.

For those who would prayerfully seek to take on similar endeavors in their own churches, I hope our story provides encouragement to you.

 

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. - Romans 15:13


Through the end of the year, we'll be featuring stories of individuals and communities putting Love in Action—bringing hope to the hurting and shining light in the darkest hours.

Learn more and put your Love in Action today.


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Eric Costanzo has served as Pastor at South Tulsa Baptist Church since May 2016. Eric has a B.A. in Bible from Oklahoma Baptist University, and both a Master of Divinity and Ph.D. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. In 2013, he published his first book entitled Harbor for the Poor. Eric is married to Rebecca (2001) and they have four incredible children—\Adin, Noah, Abigail, and Kynzleigh. In his spare time he enjoys being run ragged by his four children and all of their activities (which includes coaching), traveling, reading, and collecting antique books.

Love Bears All Things

 This is Fatima, a 30-year-old Afghan woman and a mother of four. On the first day of World Relief Seattle’s inaugural Women’s Sewing Class, Fatima clutched her pencil and laboriously copied her name on a pre-test.  She had gotten her children ready for school, walked nearly a mile to the bus stop and arrived at her first official class—EVER.   

This is Fatima, a 30-year-old Afghan woman and a mother of four. On the first day of World Relief Seattle’s inaugural Women’s Sewing Class, Fatima clutched her pencil and laboriously copied her name on a pre-test.  She had gotten her children ready for school, walked nearly a mile to the bus stop and arrived at her first official class—EVER.

 

The Formation of The Sewing Program

In 2016, World Relief conducted a focus group with recently-arrived Afghan families in Seattle, WA.  In it, we discovered that while many of the Afghan men are well-educated and fluent in English, most of the women, like Fatima, are pre-literate, meaning they cannot read or write in their own language. In Afghanistan, where women are culturally bound to stay at home surrounded by friends and family, this presents few issues. Isolated and alone in a new nation, and unable to communicate with others, however, this tradition was hugely damaging to these newly arrived women who were clearly suffering, and in some cases even struggling with depression.

Husbands in the focus group identified this isolation as an insurmountable challenge and sadness, and wanted an opportunity for their wives to participate in activities with other women. As we brainstormed solutions together, the group raised the idea of sewing. As we talked through the potential of a vocational ESL and skill-building sewing program, we realized that not only would it give the women the opportunity to learn new skills that are prized culturally, but that it could also pave the way for them to learn English and join together in community with other refugee women, supported by one another.

The barriers to developing a sewing program however, seemed insurmountable. Where would we find volunteer teachers, sewing machines and adequate space to provide a sewing class for this especially vulnerable group of women? How would we address the issues of transportation and childcare?

Enter Jeanine Boyle.

Jeanine attends Hillside Church, a partner of World Relief Seattle, and is also a national educator for the Singer Sewing Machine company. Three years earlier, Jeanine had felt strongly about starting a sewing class for women. She asked her company for some donations and received ten sewing machines for her class at a local non-profit, yet sadly the logistical issues did not work out. Consequently, Jeanine had 10 machines sitting in her garage.

With the help of Hillside Church and other volunteers, we cleared out space at the church that could be used for a sewing classroom, with an adjoining room for childcare. Two retired members of the church with carpentry experience helped to build four beautifully designed cutting tables, saving several thousand dollars. Our English (ELS) teachers at World Relief helped design the English portions of the class. And Jeanine, with her vast sewing education experience, developed a sewing curriculum.  Volunteers came from churches all over, and in February 2017 we enrolled our first cohort of students.

For many of the volunteers this would be the first time they had ever interacted with refugee women, especially Muslim women. Even Jeanine herself had deep reservations about this new experience.

“My life did not include any contact with anyone of the Muslim faith. I had a lot of apprehensions about starting this whole journey. I had a fear of what I did not know. But teaching this class has been a life changing experience. I love these women.”

For highly skilled volunteers like Jeanine, this service is a sacrificial labor of love. Jeanine owns an interior design business and has to juggle her extremely busy business schedule to spend time teaching and preparing for the sewing classes.  Yet Jeanine is motivated by love, and by her desire to help bear the burdens of these women, coming alongside them in support.

Debra Voelker, Missions Director at Hillside Church, also volunteers by managing the day-to-day operational details of the class. Debra drives over an hour to volunteer each week.

Like Jeanine, Debra realizes the burden these women face and seeks to ease it through love. She drives long distances and coordinates the many time consuming details each week in a tireless effort to foster and preserve the gift of life-giving relationships for these women.

“I’ve realized that women are women - wherever they are from. Our life circumstances are vastly different, but we have the same concerns – wanting to create a loving home for our families, wanting to provide for our kids, the joy of being in a safe community, and sharing with like-minded women,” Debra says.

Mutual Transformation

The impact of our sewing program has been transformative. Many of the volunteers, including both Jeanine and Debra, have been invited into the homes of the participants and have reciprocated in kind.  The sharing of food and friendship outside of class has formed lasting bonds. It has been a beautiful and mutually transformative journey for all the women involved.

Several weeks ago, I ran into Fatima at the local grocery store. She called out my name and we enthusiastically greeted each other in the bulk section. She asked about my children, my husband and my health.  We compared our carts and asked each other what we were going to cook.  We hugged goodbye and I got a little teary eyed as I reflected on the power of a simple conversation, which wouldn’t have been possible even five months before without the investment of amazing volunteers like Jeanine and Debra.

Yet our sewing program is just one example. Whether it be in the classrooms of Hillside Church, in local community gardens, in hospital waiting rooms, in social security lines, or simply in our living rooms at home, the loving relationships between our volunteers and newly arrived refugees and immigrants has been a joy to witness.

Jeanine and Debra’s story is one of so many, and it’s hard to put their dedication and sacrifice into words. We have volunteers who have sacrificed friendships and even jobs as they’ve embraced God’s call to welcome the stranger, put their love into action, and lighten the burden of others. Oftentimes they are fearful. Oftentimes they are reluctant. Oftentimes it just seems too difficult. Yet they listen, they trust, and the fruits are transformative not only for those they serve, but also for them. It is an example that inspires, and one that should encourage each one of us as we think about how we might continue to live lives of love in the year ahead.

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” – Galatians 6:2


Through the end of the year, we'll be featuring stories of individuals and communities putting Love in Action—bringing hope to the hurting and shining light in the darkest hours.

Learn more and put your Love in Action today.


Tahmina Martelly serves at the Programs Manager for World Relief Seattle. Originally from Dhaka, Bangladesh, Tahmina lived in Yemen before arriving at a farm in Idaho. A registered dietitian by education, Tahmina has worked with refugee and immigrant resiliency projects for the last 25 years. Most recently, she taught at the University of Utah, division of Nutrition and developed and taught computer literacy classes at the Utah Refugee Education Center. Tahmina has been with World Relief Seattle since 2017 overseeing the new resiliency project multiplier and managing state-funded employment and case management programs.

1 Corinthians 13 (Love in Action)

2017 has been a difficult year. Mindful of this, we choose today to celebrate the undeniable ways in which we have witnessed kindness, patience and resistance to hate. That is Love in Action.

As you watch the film, we hope you'll be encouraged and inspired by the ways in which you and others have put love in action this year.

We also hope that you'll consider ways you can put Love in Action as 2017 comes to a close and we begin a new year.


This holiday season, bring your love to life. Take what you have and use it to transform lives. Give to those who have little, serve those in need—love in action.

Love Rejoices with the Truth

Love Rejoices with the Truth

This is a story about a small village in Mzimba, a northern district in the small Southern African country of Malawi. It is a story about love and the relentless pursuit of the truth—a truth that has set the village of Jenda free and paved the way for love to flourish.

2 Ways to Put Love In Action This #GivingTuesday

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Love feeds the hungry.
Love welcomes the stranger.
Love knows no limits.

This #GivingTuesday (November 28), put your love in action in one of two ways:


1. LOCAL — Give to change the lives of refugees and immigrants in the U.S.

  • Help meet the needs of refugees by providing compassionate and holistic care from the moment they arrive at the airport through their journey to self-sufficiency.
  • Help immigrants maneuver through the U.S. immigration system, reunite with family members left behind and gain access to economic and educational opportunities.


2. INTERNATIONAL — Give to change the lives of vulnerable families in Africa, Asia and Haiti.

  • Help meet the immediate needs of those affected by natural disasters, regional conflict, drought and famine.
  • Help empower local churches to break the cycle of poverty by loving, serving and extending the mercy of God to the most vulnerable around the world.

5 Words That Can Change a Nation

 Photo by Marianne Bach, Thomas Busch

In 2008 my wife and I were in her childhood home of Kenya when violence after the country’s election broke out—resulting in the death of over 1,100 people and the displacement of thousands more. As we witnessed the devastation in the lives of our friends and the Kenyan people, we felt called to act. And in 2013, ahead of the next elections, we returned to Kenya to participate in peace and reconciliation workshops and a peace march with local pastors. In the Kibera slum of Nairobi, and in Molo, in the White Mountains—two places where some of the worst inter-tribal violence took place—we saw communities embrace forgiveness for acts committed against one another. We saw tears shed and commitments made to be followers of Jesus first, Kenyans second and tribal community leaders a distant third. The subsequent elections were largely peaceful and celebrated as an important step forward. And so it was with great sadness that we learned this year’s elections in July had once again been disputed—largely along tribal lines. Following the Kenyan Supreme Court ruling that the elections needed to be re-run, the country was plunged into an economic crisis as investors and others fled the resulting uncertainty.

Coincidentally, this weekend found us back in Nairobi just days after the re-run election, only to find the country more deeply divided and polarized than ever and facing an uneasy peace. The root causes of the turmoil are being hotly disputed amongst factions and there is little desire for compromise amongst the political elite. Meanwhile, the working poor—those living barely above the poverty line—are seeing their already fragile lives caught in the political cross fire,  escalating rhetoric and disappearing livelihoods. Tales of violence and killing abound, though much of this will never surface in the mainstream media because what happens in and around the slums of Nairobi and the most rural parts of the country is only partially recorded.

A Challenging Question

So what, you might ask, has this to do with America?

On Sunday my wife and I listened to a Nairobi pastor preaching into the crisis, explaining the ways in which we as individuals can either calm or inflame a crisis. He laid out five characteristics that he believes make this current Kenyan crisis perhaps more profound and harder to resolve than previous ones. After all, Kenyans stared into the abyss in 2008. They are naturally peace-loving and optimistic people. Surely it could not descend into serious open conflict again?

As is often the case here in Africa the Pastor used a colorful metaphor to catch his congregation’s attention – and ours. He identified five characteristics that polarize and inflame crises, characteristics that each one of us can too easily embrace. And he called us to examine our own hearts, challenging us with this question:

“Are we promoting unity, as we are called to do by Christ and the apostle Paul, or are we so entrenched in our own beliefs and self righteousness that we are actually promoting division and fueling crisis?”

The 5 Characteristics

  1. An attacking mouth — Insensitivity to the reasons others might hold a different view, and worse, an incapacity to understand how our positions and words might make them feel. By our words we don’t just express disagreement, we attack, discredit, inflame, and in so doing—polarize.

  2. Blind eyes — Ignorance. An almost wilful blindness to the complexity of issues that often underlie people’s different views; a willingness to accept the narrative that corresponds to our own preference without examining facts that would be uncomfortable.

  3. Cold shoulders — Indifference to the plight of others, so long as “I am all right”. The opposite of love, this Pastor suggested, is not hate—it is indifference. His argument? At least if you hate someone your emotions are engaged. It is worse to be relegated to the status of non-person, someone whose concerns and views are simply irrelevant to you and your view of the world.

  4. Dead ears — Inflexibilty. An unwillingness to re-examine one’s own views, a preference for certainty, even when it is misplaced, over inquiry and uncertainty.

  5. Empty Hands — Irresponsibility. Denial that one might have contributed in any way to the crisis, instead searching to always put the blame elsewhere, and to always find scapegoats.

Does the Shoe Fit?

In the most sophisticated nation in the world we might assume that none of this applies. But I must ask, can we truly open the newspaper each day, watch the news, or scroll through twitter, facebook or other social media and not recognize that perhaps “the shoe does fit us too?”

Disagreements in human relationships are inevitable, yet just as marriage disagreements do not have to lead to breakdown, neither do they have to in civil society.

But genuine reconciliation requires a heart that is open and a willingness to forgive and reconcile. Indeed, the ability to reconcile is one key sign of a maturing Christian faith.

And so I challenge us as we look to the deepening divisions in our own society. Do we have something to learn from this courageous Kenyan Pastor, challenging his followers to recognize their own part in the crisis and examine their own hearts, attitudes and behaviors?

“Little children let us not love in word or talk, but in deed and in truth.”
John 3:18   


(ABOVE PHOTO: Marianne Bach, Thomas Busch)


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Tim Breene served on the World Relief Board from 2010 to 2015 before assuming the role of CEO in 2016. Tim’s business career has spanned nearly 40 years with organizations like McKinsey, and Accenture where he was the Corporate Development Officer and Founder and Chief Executive of Accenture Interactive. Tim is the co-author of Jumping the S-Curve, published by Harvard Publishing. Tim and his wife Michele, a longtime supporter of World Relief, have a wealth of experience working with Christian leaders in the United States and around the world.

#GivingTuesday 2017

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This year for #GivingTuesday, you can make a tangible difference in the lives of refugees and immigrants.

How?

  1. Below, find the local World Relief office closest to you.
     
  2. Click the link to learn what you can do on or before November 28 to welcome refugees and immigrants from around the world.

VIDEO: Roots of the Tree — Addressing Belief Systems

Elias Kamau is the World Relief Country Director for Kenya. In the video below, he discusses the World Relief approach to sustainable change.

We at World Relief often spend 2-3 years in a community before introducing technical programs, because we believe and recognize that transformation must happen from the inside-out. We know that in order for behaviors to change, belief and value change must first lead the way. And that that change must be rooted in local leaders, addressing local challenges, with local solutions.

Too often, Elias notes, the international community expects instant and easy solutions to massive challenges. But it is vital that we take our time in finding the right solutions, rooted in culturally appropriate lessons, in order to address causation, not just effect. We must come alongside communities, at the right times, with the right local voices, seeking not to solve, but to understand. We must understand the unique values that drive action. That spectrum of understanding, Elias says, is vital for success.

Single-focus, short-term interventions fail to ensure sustainability – in fact, they often breed dependency. Yet through a holistic, nuanced, roots-based approach, harmful beliefs and behaviors can be changed, driving sustainable life-giving results.

We believe the video above gives insight, and helps bring to life, how this kind of transformation happens. And at World Relief, we believe this approach is the only way to achieve lasting change in a community.