Last week, we learned that vulnerable children and families are being detained in inadequate facilities and threatened with deportation. If you’re like us, you believe that families belong together, and that this is a grave injustice that we must fight back against. As Christians, and as Americans.
On World Refugee Day we want to shine a light on the individuals, from multiple countries who have been forced to flee their homes in search of safety and future.
Today, June 20th, marks World Refugee Day. According to just released data by UNHCR, there are more than 70 million displaced persons around the world.
Behind every journey is sacrifice, love and hope – behind every person is a unique story to be celebrated and honored.
For over 75 years, we’ve been coming alongside families displaced by violence, poverty and injustice — both in the U.S. and across the world.
Every year on August 19th, World Humanitarian Day, the United Nations shines a spotlight on the millions of civilians around the world whose lives have been caught up in conflict, honoring also those courageous men and women who risk their lives to provide humanitarian aid and protection.
My pre-school-aged daughter made a compelling observation as she played with our nativity set a few years ago, rehearsing the Christmas story as it appears in her children’s storybook Bible. “Dad,” she observed, her eyes fixed on the collection of wooden shepherds, animals, “wise men,” and the holy family of Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus, “We’re missing a figurine. We don’t have the ‘mean king.’”
It seems as if every couple of weeks we hear about a new conflict or disaster happening around the world. Our support efforts seem like a drop in a giant ocean.
“Love your neighbor as yourself,” Jesus taught us. So what does that mean for us here at World Relief? And what does it mean in the context of our work with refugees?
This Wednesday is World Refugee Day. For many, if not most of us, it will pass by largely unnoticed, especially in the midst of such turbulent times. We are in the middle of a global refugee crisis of unparalleled scale, yet often, it seems we have become accustomed to the pictures and stories of suffering and immune to the pain. Perhaps this is understandable.
When violent extremists burned down his mother’s medical clinic and attempted to kidnap him, Al and his parents fled Iraq and were eventually resettled in the U.S. Watch his incredible journey, then join the campaign to help refugees rebuild their lives.
This past March marked the 7-year anniversary of the war in Syria. It is a grim anniversary, marking seven years of loss, suffering and displacement for millions of people across the Middle East.
It’s been over a full year since the first Executive Order that began a time of chaos and reductions in the refugee program – and kicked off a wave of anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies.
Today marks the one year anniversary of the refugee travel ban. Hashim, Mariam and their children (pictured) arrived before the ban took effect.
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.
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
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.
Reports from multiple news sources have confirmed that the Trump administration is poised to set 2018 refugee admissions levels at 45,000—the lowest in the nation’s history. Here’s what the administration has said in its report to Congress to justify these historically low numbers, at a historically high time of need, and the facts you should know:
There is no way to securely vet all refugees who come to the U.S.
FACT: The integrity of security procedures in the U.S. resettlement program is evidenced by the fact that, while over 3 million refugees have been admitted to the U.S. since 1980, not a single refugee has committed a lethal terrorist attack on U.S. soil.
Refugees are a security risk as demonstrated by the fact that the FBI is investigating 300 refugees for connections to terrorism.
FACT: 300 refugees is an immensely small fraction of resettled refugees in the U.S. and is not representative of the population writ large. According to CATO, 300 refugees represents less than 0.009 percent of all refugees admitted to the U.S. since 1975. It is a far cry from a statistically significant portion of the refugee population and should not have any bearing on our understanding of the resettled refugee population. Even if those 300 refugees were resettled to the U.S. in a single year, they would represent less than 1% of the total number of refugees accepted on average per year since 1980. 
Refugees are not terror threats; they are fleeing terror. Refugees are civilians who have fled their country due to fear of persecution or violence. By definition, refugees have not engaged in violence, persecution of others, or serious criminality. Persons believed to have engaged in war crimes, crimes against humanity or serious non-political crimes are disqualified from refugee status.
It is more cost-effective to help refugees in the region, in their first countries of asylum*.
FACT: Refugee resettlement in the U.S. is a solution with one-time, up-front costs that ultimately result in net fiscal gain to the U.S. as refugees become taxpayers.  Resettlement requires a short-term investment, but allows refugees to become full-fledged members of our society and economy, providing the refugee with a path to self-sufficiency and benefiting the American economy.
In 2016, over 72 percent of refugees resettled to the U.S. were women and children.  Many are single mothers, survivors of torture, or in need of urgent medical treatment. Women and girls are subject to heinous forms of persecution in wartime (such as gang rape) and suffer severe trauma that cannot be addressed in camps or difficult urban environments. Survivors of rape are often ostracized in their host countries, making them priorities for resettlement. For these women, resettlement is the only solution. No amount of aid in their host country could guarantee their safety and psychosocial recovery.
12 refugees can be helped in the region for every one refugee resettled to the U.S.
FACT: The comparison of one-time costs associated with resettlement with the long-term costs of assisting refugees for many years on end is not a reasonable one.
Refugees spend an average of 10 years displaced outside their countries of origin. For those refugees displaced for more than five years, the average soars to an astonishing 21 years. Refugees in these protracted situations require assistance over many, many years.
In stark contrast to the 21 years that some refugees spend in host countries dependent on temporary assistance, over the same period, resettled refugees rebuild their lives and contribute $21,000 more to the American economy than they receive in benefits.
The aim of U.S. refugee policy is for refugees to return home.
FACT: Of the world’s 22.5 million refugees, less than 1% have access to resettlement. In 2018, 1.2 million face extreme vulnerabilities or family reunification needs for which they are in need of resettlement. Yet fewer than 200,000 resettlement slots are available annually.
Refugee resettlement of a few is necessary for the successful local integration or return of the majority of refugees. Refugee resettlement relieves pressures on host communities and contributes to overall regional stability—contributing to the conditions necessary for the majority of the refugees that remain in the region to either integrate locally in their host countries or return home when it is safe to do so.
Conversely, retreating from resettlement commitments can have dramatic consequences for the eventual safe return of refugees—prolonging and sometimes even reigniting conflict.
Today, this risk exists in the premature return of Syrian, Afghan, and Somali refugees, which could further destabilize fragile and conflict-ridden countries. Over 600,000 Afghan refugees were induced to return from Pakistan in 2016—a six-fold increase from 2015—as Afghanistan struggles with growing insecurity, instability and gains by terrorist organizations. Such premature returns come at a time when growing instability in Afghanistan has required an increase in U.S. troop levels to reverse gains by terrorist organizations.
The number of refugees resettled is of no consequence to American interests abroad.
FACT: Refugee resettlement is not just a humanitarian program and a moral choice, it is a strategic imperative that promotes regional stability and global security in some of the most challenging parts of the world. Refugee resettlement is a critical foreign policy and national security tool—alleviating pressures on critical allies, helping ensure the international community maintains its humanitarian obligations, encouraging responsibility sharing, maintaining cooperation with allies for U.S. diplomatic and intelligence operations, and sending the message to terrorist groups that the U.S. welcomes those who reject terrorist ideologies.
Maintaining resettlement commitments is critical to the effectiveness of military, diplomatic and intelligence operations abroad and the safety of U.S. troops. Tens of thousands of Iraqi and Afghan nationals have put their lives on the line to support intelligence gathering, operations planning and other essential services, especially translation. These individuals and their families are often targeted by terrorist groups as a direct result of their cooperation with Americans. Resettlement is instrumental in ensuring their safety—a testament to the U.S. military’s commitment to leave no one behind.
Refugee resettlement signals support for those who seek liberty and reject ideologies antithetical to American values. Just as the U.S. offered refuge to those fleeing communist regimes during the Cold War, so too must the U.S. open its arms to those standing against terrorist ideologies, many of whom refused to join or be conscripted into terrorist groups, militias and state security forces persecuting fellow citizens.
The last thing that terrorist organizations like ISIS want is for the U.S. to be a beacon of hope, acceptance and inclusion for Muslims.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) cannot safely vet more than 45K given that improved security vetting being put in place during the 120-day ban is more resource-intensive.
FACT: Even in the face of the worst terrorist attack on our nation’s soil on Sept. 11, 2001, President George W. Bush set an admissions ceiling of 70,000 refugees and continued to do so in the years that followed. Doing so signaled that the U.S. would remain a humanitarian leader and demonstrated that the administration understood the critical role resettlement plays in supporting our allies.
The global context was also different under President Bush. The global refugee population was nearly half of what it is today (12 million in 2001 vs. 22.5 million in 2016).
Refugees are too costly; they are a drain on local economies and take jobs away from Americans.
FACT: All evidence points to the fact that refugees benefit local economies and fill empty jobs in the workforce.
A July 2017 report by the Department of Health and Human Services, commissioned by the Trump Administration, found that over the past decade refugees have contributed $63 billion more in government revenues over the past decade than they cost. 
Even with an admissions ceiling of 45,000 refugees, the U.S. will remain the world leader in refugee resettlement.
FACT: The average annual admissions ceiling since 1980 has exceeded 95,000. A refugee admissions ceiling of 45,000—the lowest level ever set—is a drastic departure from historic tradition, signaling a retreat in leadership on the world stage. Presidents from both parties in the past two decades have set robust refugee ceilings as a proud humanitarian tradition of welcome.
Last year, Canada resettled 46,000 refugees, more than the new cap. Canada is roughly one-tenth the size of the US population and economy (smaller, in both regards, than the single U.S. state of California)
Refugees are imposed upon unwilling and overburdened communities who wish to care for their own people first and foremost, not the foreign born.
FACT:. The private sector, faith institutions and local communities are all deeply invested and involved in welcoming refugees and helping them achieve successful integration in their new homes. They do so with a commitment and desire to reflect the values of America, and build better, stronger, more vibrant communities here in the U.S.
Communities are enriched—spiritually, socially, and economically—through diversity. Immigrants and refugees have enriched our nation, our community and our churches for generations through the unique cultures and traditions they bring. Hundreds of employers around the country work closely with resettlement agencies to systematically hire refugees (mainly in the manufacturing, hotel and food industries) in many industries that native-born Americans will not work in. Employers look to hire refugees because they find refugees to be among their most stable, reliable employees.
Thousands of volunteers and members of congregations donate tens of thousands of hours and in-kind contributions each year to support refugees, lowering costs to the federal government. Community members donate household items to help furnish a refugee family’s first apartment, teach financial literacy and cultural orientation classes, help new arrivals prepare for job interviews, mentor refugee families to help them adapt to the American way of life, and much more.
* UNHCR says "The ‘first country of asylum’ concept is to be applied in cases where a person has already, in a previous state, found international protection, that is once again accessible and effective for the individual concerned."
 “Trump’s claim that ‘more than 300’ refugees are subjects of counterterrorism investigations,” Washington Post, March 2017
 “These researchers just debunked an all-too-common belief about refugees,” Washington Post, June 2017
 “Fact Sheet: Fiscal Year 2016 Refugee Admissions,” U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration January 2017.
 “Rejected Report Shows Revenue Brought In by Refugees,” New York Times, September 2017
While living in the south Asian country of Bhutan, Pabi’s family was forced to flee their home due to political and ethnic persecution. At a young age, Pabi became a refugee. And like many refugee children, Pabi’s education risked coming to a halt. When her family fled to nearby Nepal, Pabi received some education, but the conditions of the school proved too harsh for her to flourish.
Eventually, the UN selected Pabi’s family for resettlement in the United States—specifically in the western suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. As World Relief’s Dupage/Aurora office began to resettle Pabi’s family, staff and volunteers carefully considered how they could help provide Pabi with the tools she needed to thrive in her education.
Pabi was only in 5th grade when she began schooling in the U.S. She remembers not being able to speak English and feeling fearful. “It was really scary, and I was worried every day,” Pabi recalls. “For a month I cried every night because students were not nice. I used to cry under the blanket so my parents couldn’t find out that I was crying.”
Thankfully, Pabi was able to join World Relief’s after-school program at an area church where she quickly found friends and academic assistance. She also befriended Nepali students, who were in higher level classes in school and helped her quickly learn English.
With a strengthened foundation because of the support Pabi received in the after school program, Pabi was poised to flourish in her academic pursuits. She continued to excel throughout middle school and high school. In fact, her academic achievement has resulted in a college scholarship through philanthropist Bob Carr’s Give Something Back Foundation (GSBF); Pabi was selected as only one of seven scholarship winners out of over 40 applicants. The scholarship, along with government financial aid, will allow Pabi to attend college tuition-free.
Pabi’s education could have ended the day she and her family fled Bhutan. But by the grace of God, Pabi’s tireless efforts and the help of World Relief and partner churches, Pabi will become the first in her family to attend college and is now filled with hope for her bright future.
Pabi’s story is one of many. Around the world, World Relief has made it a priority to partner with local churches and organizations to provide safe spaces for refugee children to continue learning, especially when formal education is not a viable option. In the U.S., we help newly arriving refugee families enroll in schools, provide school supplies to children and conduct after-school tutoring—ensuring that refugee children like Pabi can not only restart their education but thrive at every level. You can play a critical role in supporting refugees like Pabi through the work of World Relief.
Join us as we invest in the future of refugees around the world.
Children across the U.S. are returning to school. Recently resettled refugees will be among those children. Tabitha McDuffee, Communications Coordinator for World Relief Dupage/Aurora (WRDA) sat down with both Malita Gardner, Children & Youth Program Manager at WRDA, and Deborah, a former refugee from Southeast Asia and staff member at WRDA, to discuss what the back-to-school season means for refugees.
Their conversation addresses the challenges refugee children face in their education and the ways World Relief and our partners come alongside them, working to ensure a bright educational future for each child.
Tabitha: What happens to a child’s education when his or her family is forced to flee their home and country?
Deborah: When a family is forced to flee their home and country, a child’s education is interrupted. In some cases families may have to flee on such short notice that they do not have time to gather school documents or transcripts before leaving their home. This can make it difficult for children to enroll in school in the country they flee to.
What are some of the challenges refugee children face when they arrive in their temporary host country, before they are permanently resettled? Do they even have the option of going to school in these other countries?
Deborah: Oftentimes, the classes are very large, and the teachers are not well trained. The quality of education is very poor. Parents often do not encourage their children to attend school in the host country or refugee camp because they view their situation as temporary. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees [UNHCR 2016 Global Trends Report], refugees remain in a host country for an average of 17 years before returning home or being resettled. This means that refugee children may miss out on large portions of their education while in a refugee camp. If a child escapes their home when they are 12, and then they spends ten years in a refugee camp before coming to the U.S., when they get here they are too old to attend school.
When a refugee child’s family is resettled in the U.S., is public education immediately available to them?
Malita: Yes. U.S. resettlement agencies like World Relief assist refugee families to enroll their children in school, usually within 30 days of arrival.
And what are the greatest challenges refugee children face as they restart their education in the U.S.?
Malita: Refugee children’s biggest hurdle is learning English. They must progress in their language ability in order to thrive and succeed in school. However, children tend to learn a new language very quickly, so they may become fluent in as little as 18-24 months after arriving in the U.S.
Deborah explains that schools are operated very differently in different parts of the world, so refugee children must adjust to this as well. Co-ed schools may be a new experience for some children. For her own children, the differences in grading systems were confusing.
Deborah: “I wish that teachers were more direct when telling me about my children’s progress. One of my kids was struggling in a class, but his teacher did not sound very serious or urgent when she told me, so I didn’t realize how important it was.”
Refugee children can become isolated when they begin school in the U.S.
Malita: Refugee children are enrolled in an ESL (English as a Second Language) track so that they can improve their English while they attend school. While they benefit from spending much of the day with their assigned ESL teacher and other refugee children, it may isolate them from the rest of their classmates.
In the Middle East, World Relief works alongside local partners to host Kids Clubs, safe spaces for children to learn, play and grow. How does World Relief help refugee children arriving to the U.S.? What ongoing help and support does World Relief and its partner churches provide as children continue their education?
Malita: World Relief assists refugee children by enrolling them in school. Some local offices and partner churches organize after-school clubs or one-on-one tutoring for students. In some cases, ongoing help and support may include regular follow-up visits during the first year of resettlement to make sure that refugee children are adjusting well. Refugee families may also be connected with an individual or group of volunteers from the local community who visit them weekly to help the kids with homework, practice conversational English with the parents and answer questions they might have about American culture and practices.
What is the outcome when a refugee child begins to thrive educationally here in the U.S.?
Malita: Refugee children have a lot of potential. For instance, I think of a high school girl who was nominated as the school district’s “Student of the Month,” just four years after arriving in the U.S. She gave a speech to the school board and did an amazing job. It was so encouraging to see her success. When refugee children learn English, become involved in extracurricular activities and have access to academic support and resources, they begin to thrive. Through our youth programs, World Relief is privileged to play an important role in many success stories like this one.
World Relief’s work with refugee children and youth plays a vital role in their adjustment to new schools and their success in their new communities.
If you would like to donate to the work of World Relief during this back-to-school season visit our Refugee Crisis page.
Some time ago I spent a week in a Middle Eastern country visiting with Syrian refugees. Day after day on that trip, I sat on concrete floors in crumbling urban apartments with Syrian women and their children. Each time I looked into the women's faces, their empty eyes told the silent stories of losses and grief.
In Syria, these women had been comfortable, middle class women, just living their day-to-day lives. Then suddenly, one day, they were running for their lives. They had watched their friends and family members die. They had seen their communities exploding, literally. So they did the only thing they could. They grabbed their kids and crossed country borders in the middle of the night, sometimes with bullets chasing them, in search of some kind of future. In search of some kind of hope.
Fortunately, many of those women ended up safely in the neighborhood where I was visiting, where a church I knew very well was providing food and basic necessities for these refugee families. On the last day of my visit, the pastor asked if I would speak to 200 of these women. He explained how they came to the church once a week to get bags of food and to let their children play in a safe place. While the children played, the mothers attended meetings where they’d learn how to deal with grief, how to help with their children’s trauma, and how to adapt to a new culture.
With the help of a Palestinian Christian friend who translated my words into Arabic, this is what I said to the women:
“I wish I didn’t have to stand up here in front of you. I would much rather sit beside you on a cushion on the floor and have a cup of tea with you. I would love to snuggle your baby in my arms. And I would love to hear your story. I know you each have a sad story, and if I heard it, I know I would weep. I know you are good and loving women. And I’m sorry you have lost so much. I am sorry you had to flee to a country, a city, and a house that’s not your own.
I can imagine in your own country, you were strong women who graciously served others.
I can imagine you making delicious food and sharing it with your family and friends.
I can imagine you caring for your mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, sisters and brothers and friends, just like I do.”
That’s what women do. We are compassionate. We give. We serve, protect, and work hard to make the world better for the people we love.
Wherever I go in the world, I discover we women are a lot a like. We may have different clothes, hair, religion, culture or skin color, but in our hearts we are the same. That’s why we can look into each other's eyes and feel connected. We can talk without using words. We can smile, we can hug, we can laugh. And sometimes we can feel each other’s pain. While I was with those women, I prayed that God would help me feel their pain. And oh how I wished I could remove it, or help them carry it.
“Your Faith Has Healed You”
I told the women gathered before me that while I prayed for them the night before, I was reminded of the story in the Gospel about the woman who had been sick for many years. No one could heal her body or comfort her mind. People had given up on her and were ignoring her. But she believed Jesus could heal her if she could just touch his robe. So she pushed silently through the crowd that followed Jesus. She was afraid he would turn her away if he saw her, so she stayed quietly in the shadows. Finally, she reached out and touched his robe.
Immediately he stopped, “Who touched me?” He asked.
“Power has flowed out of me and I want to know who touched me.”
She was afraid, certain he was angry and would punish her, but she felt compelled to answer, “It was me. I am the one who touched you!”
The crowd hushed, anxious to see what this great man would do.
Jesus simply looked into her eyes and said, “Daughter your faith is great. Your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”
I told the women that when I read that story I wondered why Jesus stopped and made that frightened women speak up, and I prayed for God to help me understand.
This is why I think Jesus stopped: I believe Jesus wanted that woman to know he saw her.
She wasn’t just an anonymous person in a huge crowd. She was an individual woman and he saw her.
Jesus knew she was suffering and it broke his heart. He called her daughter so she would understand how much he loved her. He said she had great faith in her God and he honored her for it. And he healed the wounds of her body and soul.
As a Christian, I believe Jesus shows us what God is like. He shows us that God sees each of us as individuals. He calls us sons and daughters because he loves us. He honors our faith because he knows it can make us strong. He cares when we suffer. He wants to bring healing, comfort, and peace into our lives. Some verses in Scripture even tell us that Jesus weeps, which means that God weeps, too. He weeps for all of His suffering children.
“I Will Not Forget You”
Then I looked at the women seated before me and said this,
“I wish I could end the war that’s ravaging your country. I wish I could gather all the money in the world to make your lives easier. I wish I could bring back all that you have lost. I can’t do any of that, but I can do this: I can go home and tell others what I’ve seen. I can tell people how you are suffering and how amazing Christians are lovingly walking with you. Both you and your Christian friends need the prayers and support of Americans. And I will tell my friends that.
"I will also tell my friends how beautiful, strong, and loving you are. I will tell them you are women of deep faith, women who adore your children and grandchildren, just the same way I adore mine. Women who sacrifice willingly for those that they love.
"I will tell them that when I look into your eyes, I see that we are all a part of the same human family, all created and loved by God. I will not forget you. I will pray for you. I will tell your stories. I will weep when I hear anew of your suffering, and I will rejoice over any goodness that comes your way.
"Truly I will not forget you. God has placed you in my heart.”
It was over three years ago that I met those women. Since then I have told their stories many times. They and their stories continue to break my heart, but they also compel me to action.
One final story has impacted me greatly...
After their home was destroyed by rockets, Hana and her children fled Syria to relative safety in a neighboring country. There they found leaders like Saeed and Clara providing help and hope for refugee children. I hope that as you watch, their story inspires you as much as it inspired me.
More than 80% of the beneficiaries of our programs are women and children. World Relief works through local churches to protect, celebrate, and raise the value of women by taking a holistic approach—addressing immediate needs and harmful belief systems simultaneously. Learn how you can join us and create a better world for women.
Since 1975, when Lynne & Bill Hybels started Willow Creek Community Church, Lynne has been an active volunteer in the compassion ministries of the church. She has served with ministry partners in Chicago, Latin America, Africa, and more recently in the Middle East. Increasingly, Lynne is partnering with women in conflict zones who are committed to reconciliation, peacemaking, caring for refugees, and creating a better future for their children. Lynne is actively engaged with a grassroots organization, One Million Thumbprints, which raises awareness and funds for women suffering from the violence of war in Syria and Iraq, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In recent years she has traveled repeatedly to the Middle East to meet with Syrian refugees, Iraqis displaced by ISIS, and Israeli and Palestinian women working for security, dignity, and peace for all the people living in the Holy Land. Lynne and Bill have two grown children, Shauna and Todd, one son-in-law, Aaron Niequist, and two grandsons, Henry and Mac, who run the family.
We are called to care for our neighbor, both American and foreign-born.
“To care for both/and. Not either/or. But both/and.”
That’s the message Pastor Bill Bigger preached to his church, Hope Valley Baptist in Durham, NC, as the congregation underwent a 5-month discussion and discernment period on whether to build a temporary shelter for incoming refugees on the church’s property.
“I preached on the biblical call to welcome the stranger, and to be a neighbor to people regardless of their background…” Bigger recalls. And despite initial congregational concerns, 84% of the church voted in favor of building Hope House last year.
“It’s my faith in God that shapes my commitment to refugees,” Bigger explains.
Watch Hope Valley’s story in this video recently produced by UNHCR: