Volunteer

Hope Is in the Details: A Story from Malawi

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Ntchisi, a district located in the heart of Malawi, is among the most vulnerable places where World Relief works. Forty percent of the population lives on less than $1 a day. Most people make their living as farmers, but the difficult conditions they work against make for poor harvests and profits. Preventable diseases like malaria and diarrhea are common here, but healthcare facilities and doctors are extremely few and far between. Some say Ntchisi is a place to drive through – but not to linger in for a visit.

But this is precisely what World Relief Malawi intern Stephen Blazs did. Once he was able to take a closer look at a village in Ntchisi, he noticed small signs of transformation despite the deep injustices that existed.

Much of his role over the summer was to develop new ways to monitor the progress of World Relief programs. But one day, he set out from the office in the capital city to visit a “model village” in Ntchisi. Here, World Relief volunteers and staff worked to improve the health of mothers, orphans and vulnerable children younger than five. Because of his studies in public health at Johns Hopkins University, Blazs understood the magnitude of the vulnerabilities of the region, but he could also see the signs of hope and progress that the untrained eye overlooks.

In this village, children wore shoes and socks hung from clotheslines – displaying the purchasing power families had built from joining savings groups. Clean pots and pans sat out to dry, preventing germs from spreading at the next meal. Yards were dotted with latrines and hand-washing stations, protecting the entire village from water-borne illness – and reducing the chance of having to travel to a distant health clinic.

“It was encouraging to see an example where community development was working,” Blazs said upon his return to the US. Thanks to the commitment of volunteers who share life-saving health lessons with their neighbors, lasting changes were taking root in this village and many others in three other districts across Malawi.

Interested in learning and standing with the vulnerable through a hands-on internship? Check out World Relief’s domestic and international opportunities today!

Stephen Blazs is completing a Master of Science in Public Health degree through Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. As a World Relief intern, he developed monitoring and evaluation tools for various health and social development programs in Malawi and Mozambique.

3 Ways to Give on #GivingTuesday

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#GivingTuesday is in full effect, so we’re keeping it simple and sharing three ways you can be a part of this movement of giving. You can give your time. You can give your talent. And you can give your treasure.

  1. Time. Are you a college student who can barely afford a nice meal, let alone give extra to others? Or maybe you’re someone who simply wants to find other ways to engage in the world around them. Fortunately, time is something we can all carve out for others, no matter how little we may have. To find ways to invest in this realm, check out opportunities at World Relief.
  2. Talent. What are you good at? What do you enjoy doing? What do you spend most of your time doing? In this season of giving, you can invest your talents, skills and passions for the good of others. Learn how you can do this with World Relief and local churches near you by visiting http://worldrelief.org/us-offices.
  3. Treasure. In the book of Acts, we see the early church making sure everyone in their midst had enough. Those who had more made took care of those in need. At World Relief, we partner with local churches to serve many people here in the US and around the world who have need. But we can’t do this without your help. Do you have the resources to make sure others have enough? To learn who has need and how you can give a gift that fulfills a need rather than a wish list, visit worldrelief.org/coh.

There are many ways to engage, invest and give, and we might even feel overwhelmed by all the options. But as Mother Teresa reminded us, “It’s not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.”

How will you give on this #GivingTuesday?

"Resurrection Rescue": Reflections on Easter in Malawi

Roberta Nagel, volunteer Church Partnership Coordinator for Malawi, shares her reflections on Easter and the work of the Church in Malawi.

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We are just a few short days from Easter. As I remember and reflect upon relationships formed half a world away from my birthplace, I am captured by the intimate analogies between what I have personally witnessed in lives here, and the miracle of our Lord’s resurrection.

Time after time, I see firsthand a life at the brink of poverty-induced despair or death from HIV/AIDS, but which now presents the picture of joy and health – all because of the love of God made manifest through World Relief servants who extended a small kindness – a cup of cold water - their lives have been “resurrected” from death to life.

Because a volunteer visited, and later accompanied her to get tested for HIV, a woman whose village was planning her funeral as they saw her wasting away from an AIDS related illness, is free from any symptoms and serves her neighbors as the leader of the very group who reached out to her with love in action. This, just one of hundreds, perhaps thousands of stories from World Relief venues the world over.

Just think, because of His Resurrection, we are in the unparalleled business of bringing resurrection rescue to those in our circles of influence as the extension of the hands and feet of our Lord Jesus. What a blessing and what a responsibility!

If you think this language is too dramatic, I invite you to ask them for yourself and see how they describe their transformation. They will assure you it is nothing short of a resurrection day miracle.

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Easter Blessings to all – HE IS RISEN INDEED!

second photo by Marianne Bach

Fingerprints.

by Maggie Utsey

fingerprints.They tell a story all by themselves.

Anointed and blessed are my days. His fingerprints are all over them.

This week began in a 15-passenger van packed with 8 languages and 7 eager faces ready to put their best foot forward. Hours and interviews later, I’d picked up new words in each language and forgot for a moment that people actually get paid to do this. I love teaching our clients and learning from them; the city is our classroom and it always feels like recess.

I love racing a child on his tricycle in the rickety WR van; rearranging car seats and buckling kids; making faces when words are few, lost in translation and teaching me to value the quiet. I love feeling like a mom as we adopt every person in love, as Christ adopted me. I love realizing that we’ve moved from strangers to family.

Looking through pictures of the refugee camp, S’s whole family, and his best friend’s wedding, my heart does not pity but rather swells as I see in his eyes that these are good memories, and this new season is good too. It’s amazing what our eyes can communicate without a word from our lips.

I love how much I’m learning and how much I still don’t know - about people, God, the world and its stories -and the hunger for more.

I love authentic Ethiopian food, eaten only with your hands, and the way I speak refugee on accident these days.

I love the story that unfolds over three glasses of peach punch around the dining table. The one that I’m so careful not to ask about. I love that the laughter is more powerful than the pain and loss - which are being redeemed. He is already made new, restored; he’s just figuring it out one day at a time.

Today I helped one of my favorite people apply for jobs, spent time looking at a map, meandered the international farmers market, wrote a letter in spanrwali (a delightful language that fits me perfectly - Spanish, Kinyarwanda, & Swahili), and tucked away a few smiles. I love those moments - when you don’t want the other person to know how much they make you smile so you wait until they’re not looking to let it light up your face. It’s a special kind of secret with God, and He smiles with me.

These are good days. He is in the details.

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Maggie Utsey is a volunteer with World Relief in Atlanta.  You can follow her blog here.

So Much Happening in Twenty-Thirteen...

by Larissa Peters, World Relief Communications Liaison I don’t know about you, but I have an especially good feeling about 2013. I admit, I keep a journal, and on the first of every year, I wonder what will fill its pages. The same is true in managing this blog – what will be the stories, reflections, and prayers that fill this year?

So many things are happening at World Relief, and so many great things we get to be a part of this year as more and more stand for the vulnerable! So I thought I would share 13 of the ones that I’m personally excited about and that others could even join:

In no particular order, here they are:

  1. Immigration Reform: From publishing the book Welcoming the Stranger in 2009 to speaking at Willow Creek Church and the G92 Summit, Jenny Yang – Vice President of Advocacy & Policy  and Matt Soerens – US Church Training Specialist are truly affecting change for the immigration system. We believe this is the year for reform. Want to keep up to date on the issue? Follow Jenny and Matt on twitter at:  @JennyYangWR and @MatthewSoerens.
  2. Peace building in the Congo: Village Peace Committees are changing their communities in the DR Congo. Conflict still abounds, but the grassroots movement of the Church is transforming lives. This is something to be a part of!  Follow updates and watch our video.
  3. Our partnership with Pure Charity: if you haven’t checked this organization out and you shop online or use a credit card (which should cover most of you), click here now. Here is a creative way to raise funds: shop and the stores you shop at will give to your charity of choice. World Relief has a few projects of their own there, and you’ll find Pure Charity at the Justice Conference. I already wish I knew about them earlier – I have to admit I’ve become slightly addicted to online shopping.
  4.  Fighting the battle of slavery: more and more people are taking on the cause of anti-trafficking. Currently, there are 14,500 people trafficked into the US each year (this is a low estimate). But our offices in Spokane, Tampa, High Point (and even internationally in Cambodia) are fighting to prevent that number from going up. Follow World Relief’s efforts on twitter and find out how you can promote awareness through races, workshops, or advocacy.
  5.  Church Partnership: Churches around the US have partnered with World Relief with a commitment of investing in a country or program for 3 to 5 years. Building relationships with the field and giving opportunity for long-term sustainable development, partnership is about wholistic mission. More and more churches are signing on, and we are excited about the changes it is bringing! Want your church to be part of this?
  6. Catalog of Hope: This year, our Catalog of Hope has a new section: fair trade items that benefit refugees in the US, empower women in Burundi, Rwanda, and Indonesia, and provide a monster for children in the US. A monster? Yes! See what this is all about.
  7. Stand Together Project: The premise is simple: Empowering women who are heroes in their own communities around the world. Check it out here: www.standtogetherproject.org.
  8. Savings for Life: A woman in Rwanda had never held a 5000 Franc note (worth $8 USD).  For the first time in her life this year, she saved up SIX of them because of her Savings group! How much more exciting can that get? Savings for Life is making credit available to those even the microfinance institutions can’t consider.  Watch a video on what Savings group is here: www.savings-revolution.org .
  9. Reviving and strengthening marriages in India: There is a quiet and unique program in India. One that is saving marriages, helping couples to be faithful to each other, and actually preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS.  Check out the story on India.
  10. Volunteering with refugees in the US: more and more people are asking, “What can I do?” Our US program with refugees provides tangible volunteering. I can promise you that your 2013 will be incredibly enriched by befriending a refugee and welcoming them into your home and life.
  11. Volunteering with refugees in Indonesia: you have to check this unique opportunity out:  living in Indonesia and ministering to refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and Sri Lanka. You can read about some of the volunteers’ experiences here: www.worldreliefindonesia.com .

12   AND 13

Tis the season for conferences! So I’ll have to just wrap them all up into the last two: Churches and organizations are stepping out and bringing awareness to issues of injustice, educating their communities on how to respond. World Relief is privileged to be a part of these conferences with other Justice advocate hall-of-famers:

My hope is that these 13 (and then some) inspire and encourage you.  And may this year be full of all that is more than we can ask or imagine!*

*Ephesians 3:20

A quiet, yet brave mother

At her upstairs apartment, Fardowsa greeted us at the door — a young Somali lady, tall, dressed in a flowery hijab. She invited us into the living room of the apartment she shares with her mother, Rukiya, who was seated on the carpet and covered with a pile of blankets in the chill of February. Their home is simple, only a small couch along the wall in the living room, a few rugs and mats to provide more seating on the carpet, but they smiled at our arrival and welcomed us in from the cold.

While Fardowsa busied herself in the adjoining kitchen, Rukiya began to talk to me through the Somali translator. As a volunteer for World Relief and a freelance writer, I had expressed a willingness to write the story of any refugee who wanted to share, and Rukiya had stepped forward. She had taken my beginning English class the previous year, was always one of the quieter, more hesitant students, and I was surprised to discover she was the one I would be interviewing this day. My perception of her hesitancy proved to be incorrect, however. With the translator relaying her words to me and Fardowsa making interjections in Somali and English, Rukiya conveyed the details of how she and her daughter came to this part of the U.S.

Rukiya lived with her husband and four sons in Kismaayo, Somalia, where he was a teacher in a madrasah. In 1991, though Rukiya was eight months pregnant with their fifth child, the family was forced with many others to flee during civil war. They made their way on foot toward the border of Ethiopia, Rukiya carrying their infant son on her back, her husband carrying the 2-year-old on his shoulders, the 3-year-old walking hand-in-hand with his father, and the 4-year-old boy walking separately with a group of relatives. The trek would be difficult for Rukiya at this stage of her pregnancy, but they had no choice but to leave their home.

As they walked toward Ethiopia, their group was hit by a round from a mortar. Life changed in an instant for Rukiya. She saw that her husband and the two boys with him were killed by the blast, and she herself was injured in the left leg. It wasn’t until later that someone nearby told her the baby on her back had been killed as well. When she was reunited with the relatives caring for her older son, she found out that he had survived the blast, but he had later been bitten by a snake and died. Her entire family was gone.

Rukiya continued walking with other refugees toward Ethiopia for another month. Shortly before they reached the border, she gave birth to Fardowsa with the help of the ladies in her group. They arrived in Ethiopia while Fardowsa was a newborn, and for the next 19 years their refugee camp was the only life the girl or her mother knew. During that time, they never had enough food rations to keep them from being hungry. Rukiya collected and sold firewood to buy more for them to eat, but it never seemed like enough.

In late 2010, World Relief helped resettle Rukiya and Fardowsa in Eastern Washington, where Fardowsa now attends ESL classes at the local college. Because of a disability in her hands, Rukiya can’t easily perform many basic tasks, such as holding a pencil or cooking meals, and Fardowsa is her care-giver. World Relief helped them find low-income housing and get the assistance they need from the government, and both ladies are grateful that they are able to live here in this apartment together.

When she finished telling me the details of her story, Rukiya shifted the blankets on her lap. The sound of pots and dishes came from the kitchen. Rukiya continued to speak.

She said people often tell her that she must be a very strong lady to endure the circumstances of her life — many people would go crazy if the same things had happened to them. But, she says, the events in Somalia and Ethiopia did change her. She is a different person now from who she was before. The trauma damaged her ability to remember things, making learning English even more difficult for her, and she isn’t able to speak as well as she once could in her native language.

Without my having to ask her the question, Rukiya explained that the reason she wanted to share her story with me and with others is so that she can find justice for what happened to her and her family. She said she doesn’t know who killed her husband and children, doesn’t know who launched the mortar round — but telling people what happened to them is her way of declaring this is not right, and it needs to be made right. Rukiya hopes her story will help other people, not just Somalis, get the help they need in unjust situations. Over the course of an hour on the floor of her living room, Rukiya transformed from the quiet, hesitant student I knew in class into a brave woman who isn’t afraid to share her story to benefit others.

Written by Rebecca Henderson, World Relief Volunteer

M. Chey - A Story of Transformation

M. Chey has witnessed Cambodia’s many changes over the past few decades, and his own story of transformation is a powerful witness to what the Lord can do with a committed life. As a young man, Chey says that Buddhist teachings showed him he was a sinner, but even though he prayed to the gods in every season, his life was still filled with worries and emptiness. During the 1970’s, when the Khmer Rouge was in power, Chey survived by being forced into the army. He was treated badly, forced to work hard and only given potatoes to eat twice per day. His wife and children were all separated from him, and forced to work in various camps. Amazingly, they were reunited after the war.

When a World Relief volunteer came to share the Gospel with his family, Chey wasn’t interested in hearing about it. But, he says, they just kept coming back to talk with him, and eventually Chey asked about Jesus. He studied with the volunteers, learning more and more about God.

Finally, Chey realized he could know the real God. He prayed and began following the Lord, asking for blessings in daily life, and desiring to know more about Him. Now, Chey and his whole family follow the Lord.

At age 74, Chey now has nine children, too many grand-children to count, and seven great-grandchildren.  He is a leader of his cell church in Andong village, teaches the Bible, prays for the people in his group, and encourages those living with HIV/AIDS. Even though many of his Buddhist friends tell him he is too old to believe something new, he hopes for many opportunities to share the Gospel in this village of 500 people. “I will not be a backslider,” he says. “I am committed to the Lord forever.”

World Relief celebrates with Chey. We thank God for the volunteers who brought the gospel to Chey and his family.