Thank God for Women — A Conversation with Rhona Murungi

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Thank God for Women is a blog series rooted in gratitude for the strength, courage, and incredible capacity women demonstrate.

 

Rhona Murungi was born and raised in rural western Ugandan by a single mother—who, Rhona says, was her biggest cheerleader while she pursued an education. After finishing graduate school at Vanderbilt, Rhona was looking to begin her career in economic and country development. With a passion to address the needs in her home country, she was connected to World Relief, where she now serves as Program Officer for the organization’s Developing Countries Unit. Recently, Cassidy Stratton, World Relief’s Marketing Coordinator, spoke with Rhona about her story and her passion for working with women around the world:

Cassidy Stratton: From Uganda to Taylor University, and then to Vanderbilt. How did you get connected to World Relief?

Rhona Murungi: I had just finished graduate school at Vanderbilt, and I was looking for a job! And I knew that I wanted to do development work. I knew that I wanted to do work that was in some form or fashion directly connected to Africa, because that’s where I’m from. That’s what I know. That’s what I’m passionate about.

I got this email from World Relief, looked it up and got really excited about the Program Officer role and applied. The rest is history.

 

CS: Could you tell us more about your work within World Relief?

RM: I was a Program Officer, stationed in the U.S., working for the East African region for close to 3 years. And then I was itching to get back to [Africa]. I had been away from home for 9 plus years. I really wanted to go back home. I wanted to grow and be challenged, and get the opportunity to do this work in the African context. So, when the [Directors of Programs] role became open again, I jumped at the chance to fulfill it and go to the region, and the Rwanda office welcomed me for 2 years.

I’m doing a PhD program at the moment, so I decided to come back to [World Relief’s Baltimore] office so that I could better balance my school work and the service opportunities within World Relief—sort of similar to the Program Officer role, but in the Developing Countries Unit.

It’s really exciting to plug back in. I’m grateful that the role that I’m in at the moment still allows me to have a significant opportunity to support programs in the region. I [now] oversee Haiti, Rwanda, Burundi, and Kenya.

 

CS: What work have you done with women throughout your time with World Relief or even before?

RM: I could talk about that for ages! Our work, actually, is very heavily focused on—and targets—women. Women and children, in many ways, make up a significant portion of beneficiaries.

 

CS: Why is it important for our work to intentionally address the needs of women?

RM: If your programs are intentionally involving and welcoming the participation of women (not at the exclusion of men by the way) it’s most likely to not just succeed, but actually benefit beyond the individual woman to the household and entire community. It’s proven, but I can also really attest to that from my own personal upbringing. Women glue the home together.

 

CS: Could you provide some examples?

RM: For example, one of my favorite programs in World Relief—and to be honest, I have a little personal bias to it—is our Savings For Life work. Seventy-two percent of our beneficiaries are women in this program. Which, in a way, makes sense because women are—at least in the communities in Africa that I’m from and have been exposed to— the backbone of households. And when you target women, when you empower women, when you engage women, and bring them in and allow for their participation, it actually benefits the entire household—not just one individual.

 

CS: Has there been a particular experience within the Savings For Life group you can recall?

RM: A few months ago, I was doing a field visit in one of our Church Empowerment Zones in Rwanda, and visited a savings group. I shared with these women that this [moment] took me back to when I was little. My mom was part of a savings group growing up—saving a little at a time, investing in setting up a small business, putting food on the table for my siblings and I, and sending us to school. I am, in many ways, a product of this program.

And I tell the women, “Look, I’m a product of what you are doing. And the Lord remain, 15 or 20 years from now, your kids, that are running around your feet, are going to be me—approaching the very work that you’re diligently doing in order for you to feed them, send them through school, and support your family.”

This particular program brings me to tears because it is a full-circle moment—that I have the privilege and honor to approach work that actually transformed my family and my life.

 

CS: You’re very passionate about the work you’ve done with women, children, and men. Has there been a specific time when your life has been transformed because of a woman’s impact?

RM: There is not two ways about it for me; by far the most impactful woman in my life has been my mother. She is just an incredible example. To be honest, we could sit here for a couple of hours and I would be able to exhaust the stories about my mother and the ways in which she has shepherded our family, and brought us so far and as single mother, too.

 

CS: You said yourself that “evidence shows that women tend to think beyond ourselves, beyond our own interests—to the interests of others.” That’s powerful. Why do you thank God for women?

RM: I thank God for the resilience of women and the way God has and continues to use women to be the backbone and the lifeblood of many households, communities, and nations—in ways that go both recognized and unrecognized.

You too can make a difference in the lives of women around the world.

Thank God for Women — The Remarkable Story of Beatrice, A Tangible Experience of Joy

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Thank God for Women is a blog series rooted in gratitude for the strength, courage, and incredible capacity women demonstrate.
 

Occasionally, in life, we are blessed to experience joy in its purest, most unadulterated form. It can come in a quiet moment of prayer, an incredible experience, or even through a person.

For me, one of these precious moment of joy came in the form of a beautiful wife and mother, named Beatrice, who lived in the Bushenge district of Rwanda. Beatrice is an individual who radiates the love of Jesus. When I think of her, I immediately think of Proverbs 31—clothed in strength and dignity, laughing without fear of the future.

For Beatrice, however, that was not always the case. For years, she longed to repair the broken relationships within her family to prepare her children for their future. Beatrice spoke with a tangible sadness when she explained how isolated she was from her children. “I was too shy to talk to them about their health and their bodies, or to counsel them on difficulties of being a teenager. They were lost, and I continued to build a wall between us, higher and thicker with each passing year.”

As Beatrice struggled to understand how to relate to her new adolescents, she joined a parenting group run by a local church as a part of World Relief’s "Mobilizing For Life” program. She began learning about God’s vision for family, and the opportunity and gift she’d been given in motherhood. Beatrice learned to rise above her embarrassment and enter into discussions with her children around health, dating, sex, and HIV/AIDS. And it wasn’t long before Beatrice broke through yet another social barrier—encouraging her husband, Gracian, to join her.

Less than five years later, Beatrice and Gracian are pillars of inspiration and faith in their community. Today, Beatrice and Gracian lead kids-clubs throughout their community. Each week they spend time with nearly 100 adolescents, counseling them and fostering a safe and open environment where kids from all walks of life can share their struggles and ask questions. And what they have achieved is truly remarkable. In her own words, through a smile that reached ear to ear, Beatrice told us about their work.

“In 2014 we started a kids club counseling youth. We teach the kids the word of God, but we also talk about how to make good decisions. We focus on how to pick good friends, to stay away from drugs and alcohol, and avoid HIV and early pregnancy. We even started hosting soccer games and offering free HIV testing at matches. Last match we had over 80 kids come to play and get tested!

It is truly amazing, and our initiative is only growing. We are fostering an environment of openness where everyone comes to us for advice. We are so happy that we’ve been able to learn and share so much and be a part of change in our community.”

I truly believe that supporting, celebrating, and investing in women like Beatrice is the most effective and impactful way to change lives. To watch a once-struggling wife and mother in rural Rwanda be transformed by a renewed understanding of God’s calling for her life has an unparalleled beauty and power.

To be in her presence is to experience God in a beautiful and tangible way.

Beatrice is why I Thank God for Women each day.
 

Women of incredible faith, uniquely and purposefully placed to experience and reveal God’s plan for the world in the most unexpected ways and places.

Capable of restoring brokenness with one smile.

Laughing without fear of the future. Rather, embracing it. Transforming it.

These are brave kingdom warriors, beautiful and courageous women of God, stepping out in faith to transform their families and ultimately, their entire communities.

Give to World Relief today. Together, we can create a better world for women like Beatrice.


Francesca Albano currently serves as Product Development Lead at World Relief. With a background in strategic marketing communications, she connects her interests in brand strategy, audience engagement, and storytelling around her passions—children, disaster and humanitarian relief, human rights, and poverty alleviation. Francesca best describes herself as a storyteller, writer, foodie, globetrotter, and humanitarian.

Thank God for Women — You Have Taught Me

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Thank God for Women is a blog series rooted in gratitude for the strength, courage, and incredible capacity women demonstrate.
 

World Relief’s calling does not single out women.

And yet, each year our work impacts around 7 million people, some 80% of them women and children. In sub–Saharan Africa, where the impact of climate change is accelerating and the ravages of severe drought are increasingly common, destroying even the meager livelihoods of the rural farming community, it is women and primarily young girls who suffer the most. In the Middle East, as in many other conflict zones, the violence women have suffered or seen is almost unimaginable. And for those who have courageously left behind all that is familiar, journeying to a new land where culture, faith, language, and economic viability are all unknown, the burden of anxiety—even in the midst of hope—can be crippling.

This picture, the very fodder of non-profit fundraising efforts, tells only half of the story. It does not tell the story of the amazing courage, strength, resilience, selflessness, dignity that I encounter in the midst of such suffering. It does not express the capacity for joy, laughter, and love even in the midst of unspeakable hardship. It does not speak to the role I see women playing in helping transform lives through our savings group programs or acting as outreach volunteers in our Church Empowerment Zones in Africa. It does not speak to the expertise and selfless commitment of our staff here in the U.S.A., the majority of whom are women. Nor does it speak to the fullness of creativity and intelligence that is manifest in our organization when men and women labor side by side in this Kingdom work.

And yet, the reality still stands that we live in a world that continues to give precedence to men and boys over women and young girls. Nothing justifies these injustices nor the denial of equal opportunity to women.

These images give me pause for reflection about the women in my own life and their influence upon the man I am today. I look back on my life and I ask myself: If love is the greatest calling, where and how did I learn to love?   Where and how did I come to understand the limits of worldly success, of competitiveness, and of ambition? Where and how did I learn to see strength as Jesus saw it?

I cannot speak for other men, but for me I learned these things because of women.

Because of a mother who courageously brought up four boys on her own after my father deserted us. Because of my wife, Michele, who always seems to access a deeper wisdom than I can—even when I think I “won the argument.” Because of three daughters, each expressing their own uniqueness and joy of life, while all wired with compassion in their DNA.

So, I thank God for the women in my life, unique in their manifestations of strength and dignity, intellect and wisdom, industry, compassion and generosity of heart, gentleness, and care. And for the life-giving spirit they share so selflessly and often sacrificially.

You have taught me.  

More than 80% of the beneficiaries of World Relief's programs are women and children. Give today to help create a better world for women. 


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.

CHURCH LEADERS: A Prayer of Protest for the Church — Thy Kingdom Come

 

The current refugee crisis (the 65 million around the world, and the current discourse in the U.S.) has brought to the surface one of the hardest things about following Jesus—at least for me. As Christians, we believe that Jesus has already defeated evil, sin, and death. As Christians, we also know that evil, sin, and death still persist in the world. We often don’t acknowledge evil, but the scriptures are rife with passages about it—our battle is not against flesh and blood but against every evil thing we could imagine (Eph 6). As Christians we know that while Christ is victorious over evil, His victory over these things has not yet been fully realized or implemented at the present time. This is the classic question asked to pastors all over the world: ‘why do bad things happen to good people?.’ You can easily argue that refugees are good people fleeing the worst evil humanity has to offer. 
 
Our answer as pastors usually goes something like this. We know and believe that one day Christ will rule the new heaven and the new earth. He will wipe away every tear from our eyes. There will be no more death, mourning, crying, or pain. But we also know that this just rule has not yet started, that there is still suffering, pain, and injustice. In heaven, there will not be a refugee crisis. In heaven, the sanctity of all life will be protected. In heaven, those who are suffering will have their burdens put to ease. But that is not the case today. 
 
When Jesus taught us to pray, He took this hard reality head on. He taught us to pray, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  It is a prayer acknowledging that things on earth are broken. It assumes the Christ follower will be up against some pretty evil things, and in light of this evil, be forced to pray that God would intervene.  With this acknowledgement, Jesus teaches us to implore God to bring about His kingdom—to literally bring heaven into our midst, in our day. Jesus taught us to pray, “God, things here are not right, they are not of you, please let there no longer be a discrepancy between what you want your Kingdom to look like and what the current realities are.” 
 
This is of course a prayer. But it is a prayer of protest. Protest is simply to cry out against something that is wrong and to advance what is right. God invites us to call out the things that are not right in the world—to let our light expose darkness—and to declare in prayer and in our public acknowledgement: God, lives are not being protected, born and unborn. God, people are fleeing their homes and not being protected. God, there are 65 million people that don’t have basic safety.  God, make this right, bring your Kingdom right now. 
 
Regardless of political views, it is safe to say that any follower of Jesus who does not see the problem of 65 million displaced people as evil in some way—and something the Church should address—is seriously lacking in understanding of what God has done for them and of God’s purpose in the world.

However, we know that the people of God in the Old Testament had to constantly be reminded that this was in fact something they should care about.  In the Old Testament, God called His prophets to speak directly to this suffering, pain, and injustice with boldness. The prophet Jeremiah was called by God to literally stand at the gate of the temple and declare that the Israelites change their ways and stop oppressing the foreigner, fatherless, or widow(Jeremiah 7:5-7). Zechariah issued the same call during the reign of foreign King Darius (Zechariah 7:10), and Ezekiel powerfully called out action that oppressed and mistreated the poor, denying justice(Ezekiel 22:29).
 
In the current climate, it is the role and responsibility of the Church to pray prayers of protest—pointing out and crying out about anything that is not of God’s Kingdom, and calling on Him to make it right.

Separating Fact from Fear in the Refugee Ban


[The following post was written by Tim Breene, CEO of World Relief.]

In today’s connected world, the rapid dispersion of half-truths—and even blatant lies—is disturbing. This is especially true as it relates to the discussion around the ban of refugees to the United States.

As Christians, we should care about this. If truth is malleable, the very foundation of our faith is undermined. The words of Saint Augustine, “Let every good and true Christian understand that wherever truth may be found, it belongs to his Master,” are often paraphrased to say “All truth is God’s truth.” Careless disregard for the truth should be unacceptable to us.

For some people, the refugee ban seems an assault on Christian and American values. As former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright put it so succinctly, “There is no fine print on the Statue of Liberty.” At the same time, others see the ban as eminently sensible and a necessary step to protect us from terrorists.

I don’t aim to impugn motives to one group or the other. People hold different views, and the right to those differences and the freedom to express them is not only part of our American tradition, but the very essence of what makes us unique as a nation.

However, what is important is that the opinions that shape government policy are based in truth.

When this administration says we don’t know who refugees are, is this true? When it focuses on the threat of terrorism, is it exaggerating risk and distorting our individual and collective judgment so that we deny those who deserve our compassion?

Experts can debate and disagree as to whether the ban will keep us safe or actually lead to further radicalization and increased risk. However, these are the indisputable facts about refugee admissions, and experts’ judgments need to be informed by them:

  1. The refugee admission process is the most thorough of all entry processes into the U.S.

  2. We do know who these refugees are. They go through a multi-step process that generally lasts anywhere between 18 months to 3 years, and includes fingerprinting, biometrics, retina scans, and multiple interviews by different agencies, including the United Nations, State Department contractors, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. World Relief—the organization I lead that resettles refugees—receives a thorough biographic report compiled by the U.S. State Department on each refugee we receive before they enter the country.

  3. The effectiveness of the process is demonstrated by the fact that, of the roughly three million refugees admitted since 1980, none has ever killed a single American in a terrorist attack.

  4. The Cato Institute’s research puts the annual risk of a refugee-committed terrorist killing on U.S. soil at 1 in 3.6 billion.

  5. Nothing within this executive order would have prevented 9/11, nor the more recent attacks in San Bernardino or Orlando.

  6. At least 5,700 fewer persecuted Christians will be allowed to come to the U.S. as refugees in Fiscal Year 2017 than in Fiscal Year 2016 as a result of the order’s dramatic cut to the overall number of refugees allowed, despite the president’s stated concern for persecuted Christians.

  7. In the past decade, the U.S. has never received more than a fraction of one percent of the world’s refugees annually, and it has received more Christian refugees than those of any other faith background.

  8. Of the 19,324 Syrian refugees admitted to the U.S. since 2012, 47% have been children thirteen years of age or under, while just 13% have been men aged 21 through 40.

There are lots of opinions around these issues, but those are the hard facts. So, let me ask you, how afraid do you think we should be of this program? We cannot let fear overpower truth.

As a Christian, I do not believe Jesus died for us so that we could live comfortable lives behind walls, indifferent to the suffering of others. In fact, he explicitly modeled through his life radical compassion for the poor, the vulnerable, the stranger, and even for his enemies.

Today let us choose to do as he did—especially for those in desperate need. Let compassion and truth be our guide. Let us not succumb to fear any longer.


Tim Breene is the CEO of World Relief, a global humanitarian relief and development organization that stands with the vulnerable and partners with local churches to end the cycle of suffering, transform lives and build sustainable communities. With over 70 years of experience, World Relief has offices in the United States that specialize in refugee and immigration services, and works in 20 countries worldwide through disaster response, health and child development, economic development and peacebuilding.

 

 

UPDATED: 3 Things You Can Do Right Now to Show Support for Refugees

Over the past few days, we’ve seen an outpouring of responses to the resources we have provided on how to stand in solidarity with refugees. During this critical time, your efforts mean the world. Here’s an updated list of ways you can show support for refugees right now:

support refugees


1. Advocate
Sign this petition expressing your support for refugees. Or call your elected officials on behalf of refugees at 1.866.940.2439.

2. Donate
Make a one-time donation or commit to $15/month to Unlock Hope.

3. Engage
Follow us on Instagram and Twitter and join the conversation.



How to Advocate on Behalf of Refugees

Your voice is needed now more than ever.

On Friday, January 27, the new presidential administration issued an executive order that suspends the Refugee Resettlement Program for 120 days, cuts the United States' current commitment to refugee arrivals by over half, and bans Syrian refugee arrivals for an indefinite period of time (with other nationalities potentially on the line).

We need an outpouring of signatures, calls, and emails to your elected officials to say that this is not OK.

Would you do the following 3 things?

1. Sign a petition.
Sign and share this petition expressing solidarity with refugees.

2. Contact elected officials.
Email your elected officials here and call your U.S. Senators and U.S. Representatives by dialing 1-866-940-2439. Once connected, you can share:

  • Your name, city, and state

  • Your support for the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program

  • One or two reasons why you personally believe in welcoming refugees

Another great way to make your voice heard is by commenting on White House Facebook posts or submitting a message at whitehouse.gov/contact.

3. Use social media
Use the links below to tweet the following message to President Trump, The White House, and your senators and representatives.

My community stands with ALL refugees! The U.S. should continue to resettle #refugees! #wewelcomerefugees

Tweet @realDonaldTrump
Tweet @WhiteHouse
Tweet your senators
Tweet your representatives


Below, please watch a short video of Jenny Yang, World Relief VP of Advocacy and Policy, recorded shortly before last week's executive order.


Thank you for taking a stand at this critical time. Your voice is going to make a difference!


A Letter to President Trump on Executive Order on Refugees

Dear President Trump and Vice President Pence,

As evangelical Christians, we are guided by the Bible to be particularly concerned for the plight of refugees, individuals who have been forced to flee their countries because of the threat of persecution. Evangelical churches and ministries have long played a key role in welcoming, resettling, and assisting in the integration of refugees from various parts of the world. As such, we are troubled by the recent executive order temporarily halting refugee resettlement and dramatically reducing the number of refugees who could be considered for resettlement to the U.S.

The Bible teaches us that each person — including each refugee, regardless of their country of origin, religious background, or any other qualifier — is made in the Image of God, with inherent dignity and potential. Their lives matter to God, and they matter to us. While the U.S. has in recent years received only a fraction of 1 percent of the world’s refugees annually, we believe the refugee resettlement program provides a lifeline to these uniquely vulnerable individuals and a vital opportunity for our churches to live out the biblical commands to love our neighbors, to make disciples of all nations, and to practice hospitality.

Our faith also compels us to be concerned with the well-being of families. Most of the refugees admitted to the U.S. in recent years are family reunification cases, coming to join a relative already in the country. A temporary moratorium will unnecessarily delay families whose cases already have been screened and approved from being reunited.

We fully affirm the important role of the U.S. government in vetting and screening those considered for resettlement to our country; indeed, it is a God-ordained responsibility of government. However, the U.S. refugee resettlement program’s screening process is already extremely thorough — more intensive, in fact, than the vetting that is required of any other category of visitor or immigrant to our nation — and it has a remarkably strong record. While we are always open to improvements to our government’s screening process, we believe that our nation can continue to be both compassionate and secure.

We would ask that you reconsider these decisions, allowing for resettlement of refugees to resume immediately so that our churches and ministries can continue to live out our faith in this way.

We are praying for you and for all of those in positions of civil authority, that God would continue to grant you wisdom and guidance.

Respectfully,

Chad Hayward
CEO
Accord Network

Shirley V. Hoogstra
President
Council for Christian Colleges and Universities

Hyepin Im
President & CEO
Korean Churches for Community Development

Leith Anderson
President
National Association of Evangelicals

Rev. Dr. Samuel Rodriguez
President
National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference

Rev. Dr. Jo Anne Lyon
Ambassador
The Wesleyan Church

Tim Breene
CEO
World Relief

Richard Stearns
President
World Vision U.S.
 

Download PDF of this letter. 


Join us in urging Congress and local officials to end the moratorium and resume the resettlement of refugees as soon as possible. Sign the refugee petition now.

 

 

CHURCH LEADERS: A Call to Prayer for Refugees and Immigrants

For the better part of my life in ministry, churches, including that ones I have served in, have taken the very reasonable view that they should not dive into politics. Politics are divisive. Political rhetoric eschews with “alternative facts,” and our role as church leaders is to extend welcome to anyone seeking the grace of Christ—we do not want to alienate based on party. Pragmatically, this makes sense.

But what is the role of the Church when politics and clear Biblical teaching collide? How do we respond when the explicit commands of Scripture—to respect the sanctity of life, to welcome the stranger, and refugee, and care for the poor, but up against discourse in the public square? 

For many church leaders, including myself for many years, we choose to direct attention elsewhere, avoiding the thicket of these issues, citing with resolute pragmatism that we do not want to be a stumbling block. This has weakened our voice and done a disservice to our congregations.

When politics and the Bible collide, it is an opportunity for discipleship. 

I do not think that it is the role of the church to endorse politicians or political parties. But the Church must teach the Scriptures and provide practical ways for its community to reach the lost and hurting in the world. In this way, many of us have failed. I have failed.

Take the recent crisis with refugees and immigrants. Right now there are more people forcibly displaced from their homes than at any other time in recorded human history. The Bible speaks clearly to the issues of human suffering, welcoming the stranger, and the role of the Church to provide relief. But a recent survey by Lifeway Research shows that only 21% of American Christians have been challenged by their pastors to explore the Scriptures and to reach out and serve refugees and other immigrants in our midst. 

Let’s take the most uncontroversial thing that a church can ever do—pray. A survey conducted at the end of 2016 by World Vision, found that only 19% of committed Christians prayed for Syrian refugees in the previous 12 months. Only 1 in 5 people from the most well-educated, most well-resourced group of Christians to ever live, took a moment and prayed for the world’s most needy and violent areas last year. 

This is a crisis of discipleship.  

This is thorny, it’s complicated and like almost everything in life, there are many shades of grey. But what is clear, is that the Bible is clear. 

Church leaders—your job is hard and the number of things you have to navigate is astounding. So, we are going to make our call simple.  Will you sign this letter saying that you will commit to praying for refugees and immigrants during your services over the next few weeks? If you want to teach further on this—GREAT—and we have resources below for it. 

We cannot stay silent and abdicate our responsibilities as leaders of the Church to deepen discipleship in our congregations by addressing issues that the Bible clearly and unequivocally addresses—even if those issues have political dynamics.

Sign on now!

Name *
Name


Changemakers in South Sudan — Establishing a Place of Peace and Love

This month, we’re sharing stories from our work around the world.  It is our hope that these stories will inspire, encourage, and enrich your lives. The following post was written by Darren Harder, Country Director for World Relief South Sudan.
 

“Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me;
Let there be peace on earth, the peace that was meant to be.

With God as our Father, brothers all are we,
Let me walk with my brother, in perfect harmony.

Let peace begin with me, let this be the moment now;
With every step I take, let this be my solemn vow

To take each moment and live each moment, in peace eternally.
Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”

The lyrics to this beloved Christmas hymn seem to ring truer with each passing year.

Peace. Something that has too often seemed unattainable in 2016. A year that has been difficult, contentious, and violent both here in the U.S. and around the world. A year that has challenged us all as individuals, as parents, spouses, friends, colleagues, even as Christians. Now, as we draw near to the end of the year, we long for a more peaceful 2017, one filled with love and with hope for a better tomorrow. 

Amidst this darkness, what better time to look to stories of incredible hope where peace can indeed triumph against the odds? Stories that encourage and inspire us. Stories that show us we can rise above our doubts. Stories like the one of the Church in war-torn South Sudan. 

Though pushed from international headlines by the tragedy of Syria and the horrifying images streaming almost daily out of Aleppo, few places have more tragic histories or precarious futures than South Sudan. After decades of civil war with North Sudan, the world’s youngest country was born to great fanfare and hope in 2011. But that hope did not last long. In 2013 violence broke out, between supporters of the President and former Vice President of South Sudan. Over the last three years, ethnic-based killings have taken place on all sides, accompanied by growing demands for vengeance. According to the U.S. Institute for Peace, nearly 4 million South Sudanese face severe food insecurity, and more than 2 million have been displaced by the war. 

The stories circulating in international media, paint a bleak picture of South Sudan and its immediate future. Even bleaker are the suggestions from the diplomatic community that the situation could get worse before it gets better. Despite multiple efforts to broker peace, South Sudan, like too many other places around the world, now faces impending catastrophe. Militias are mobilizing along ethnic lines, hate speech is circulating on social media, and international human rights groups are now documenting widespread human rights abuses.

And yet, against this dark canvas of suffering, fear, and forced displacement, one area stands out, determined to be a place of peace and love. This place is Ibba, a county in Western Equatoria State, where World Relief South Sudan is partnering with Church leaders, determined to become a light amidst the darkness.

In Ibba, World Relief is working in collaboration with local Churches to build homes for the elderly and the sick, run agricultural trainings to increase harvests in order to feed the hungry, and start savings groups. We are training women and young mothers in fostering peaceful family environments and in other life skills. Above all, we are focused on working together to organize spiritual activities that help build the unity of the Church, enable them to share each other’s burdens and challenges, and share in peaceful solutions. 

On November 20, 2016 a joint prayer service was held at St. Charles Lwanga Catholic Parish of Ibba, which brought together more than 3,000 people from across the region for over eight hours of prayer and worship. It was the first time that four Christian denominations, namely ECSS/S, Roman Catholic Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church, and Seventh Days Adventists, have come together to worship in Ibba. Church leaders preached messages of peace, unity, and collaboration. Many announced it was the first time in their lives that they’d seen such unity, and challenged the congregation to take the message of peace home to their neighbors.

As I watched the church come together as a unified body of believers, to pray for their communities and to serve the most vulnerable, I reflected on how much we can learn from our brothers and sisters in South Sudan who are doing the hard work of peacemaking each day.  Even though insecurity exists in neighboring counties, Ibba has remained calm, and I have no doubt it is due to the leadership shown by the local pastors in Ibba. I thank God for them daily and pray that they will continue to find their voice as they become beacons of light in their suffering communities.

Now and in the coming New Year, let us stand up for change. Let us join together with these peacemakers. Let us come alongside them to learn from them, to stand with them, and to give to them, so that they may increase their capacity for peace in South Sudan and beyond. Let us find peace on earth, and let it begin with you.

Changemakers in Rwanda — A Story of Light Overcoming Darkness

The following post was written by Moses Ndahiro, Country Director for World Relief Rwanda.
 

Rwanda.

A country as magnificent as it is complex. A place of breath-taking beauty, and of an unthinkably violent history. A marvelous land of a thousand hills, still haunted by an eerie morning fog that sits atop the horizon and whispers of horrors passed; a genocide that shook the world so deeply, it promised, “never again”.

It is a country unlike any other, where God’s creation is on display in all its splendor and diversity. The warmth and hospitality of a people striving to rebuild and rewrite their story. The hope of a history overcome, and of a nation reborn.

And it is a country where God is at work in powerful ways. Where people’s hearts and minds are being transformed through Christ. Where the Church is stepping into its rightful place as the hope of the world. 

It is a story of light overcoming the darkness.


The Church established itself in Rwanda over 100 years ago, and today, more than 70% of the population is in a church building every week. How then, in 1994, did a genocide of such horrific proportions and unprecedented brutality take place? Volumes have been written on the underlying causes, on the immediate events leading up to the genocide and of the failure of the world to take heed of the warning signs. Little, however, was said of the failure of the Church to stand up and protect the vulnerable. Fortunately, that has changed. Today’s Church in Rwanda is quite different from the institutionalized Church of the past. It is vibrant, diverse, and growing. And step-by-step, it has begun to walk alongside its people in their journey from darkness and despair, towards hope and renewal.

World Relief first established its presence in Rwanda immediately following the genocide. Watching the international community respond with one-off emergency interventions, we became increasingly convinced that solutions needed to center on the resourcefulness and hearts of the local people, and that the Church had a unique role to play. Born out of that conviction, World Relief first pioneered its Church Empowerment Zone model in 2011. Founded on our strong belief that transformational change begins with the Church, we began teaching, mobilizing, and empowering local churches and their networks to serve the most vulnerable in their communities. Through sharing and building leadership capacity, we brought churches of all denominations together in one network to unite under a common curriculum and leadership development program, giving them the opportunity to wrestle with common problems, share resources, and join together in a common vision for their churches, families, and communities.

“We do not see one another as enemies anymore. Now we come together as brothers, bringing our strengths together. We are at peace.” – Pastor Museveni

Today, the Church Empowerment Zone model is unleashing the potential of hundreds of churches and communities across Rwanda, building a legacy of hope, generosity, and self-reliance that is sustaining progress. Local churches are no longer simply institutions for Sunday gatherings, but the epicenters of their communities—transforming hearts, minds, and attitudes. Rwanda is a vivid and timely reminder that there is more to religion than just turning up to church. It has revealed how essential it is for our faith to be strongly rooted in a holistic and meaningful understanding of the Gospel. 

One pastor in Bushenge, Rwanda said, “Now we are caring for the poor and most vulnerable. We are creating love where the Devil was bringing hate and division. We are bringing the Kingdom of God down to Earth. Our families are in harmony. And a family in harmony will prosper in everything.”

Over the last five years, we have seen families reunited and health and nutrition outcomes improved. We have seen neighbors, siblings, spouses, children, and friends overcome their challenges and experience renewed and strengthened holistic relationships.  We have seen the transformation of lives.

The story of the church in Rwanda is powerful and inspiring. But it is not the only nation where the church is catalyzing transformational change.

Now is the time for the U.S. church to join in this rebirth. We have a unique role to play in helping African churches increase their capacity, and they have much to teach us about what it means to truly trust in God. When we work together in harmony, uplifting one another, and placing God at the center of our partnership, we have the true potential to transform the lives of millions of vulnerable people.

Changemakers in the U.S. — Love is Our Mission

Gicheru Njoroge, Case Specialist at World Relief's Atlanta office, assists a recently arrived refugee family from Syria.

Gicheru Njoroge, Case Specialist at World Relief's Atlanta office, assists a recently arrived refugee family from Syria.

The Changemaker series features stories from our work around the world.  It is our hope that these stories will inspire, encourage, and enrich you. The following post was written by Emily Gray, SVP of U.S. Ministries, World Relief.


Over the last year, the word ‘refugee’ has come to symbolize much of the fear, uncertainty, and division plaguing our nation. As our country struggles to grapple with ever-evolving international complexities and rapidly shifting political tides, refugees have, in many ways, become synonymous with this messy, somewhat chaotic and confusing environment. Used as scapegoats, singled out as potential risks to our security, criticized as drains on our economy, and intimidated with threats, their presence in America has too often been devoid of the peace they’d hoped for. In seeking refuge, many have instead encountered hardship, isolation, and even overt hostility. And as the world confronts worsening headlines on a daily basis, often provoking greater impetus to stereotype, the plight of the refugee in America is intensifying.

Despite our nation’s long and proud tradition as an open and compassionate  society, many people now see refugees as a problem rather than as vulnerable people who have suffered horribly in often horrific circumstances. These are people who have needed considerable strength and courage to make the journey to a new beginning in a foreign land, people whose presence can enrich both our culture and society, as well as the individuals and churches that come alongside them in love and compassion. Refugee resettlement touches a deep nerve, but one all too often untouched by the personal experience of befriending and welcoming these vulnerable people.

But there is another narrative about refugees, one that we see everyday at World Relief. It is the story of churches who partner with us to welcome and befriend these refugees. It is a story of love and compassion, one that replaces fear and distrust. 

Because of Christ’s command to us, to love our neighbor and to welcome the stranger, churches across America are responding to the plight of hundreds of thousands of refugees with compassion and hospitality. Through joining Good Neighbor groups, donating welcome kits, and hosting ‘Refugee Sundays’, our church partners are providing hope, light, and transformational love to this uniquely vulnerable group of refugees and immigrants.

Glen Ellyn Covenant Church, in Illinois, answered God’s calling to step out in faith and welcome over 150 Burmese and Bhutanese refugees to their congregation in 2013. They did so in striving to follow the example of Jesus, who left the comforts of heaven for the messiness of this world. And something remarkable happened. Pastor Mike Langer explains,

“It was the most powerful thing I’ve ever been involved in. They taught me so much, gave me so much, and I am so grateful to God that He placed them in our midst. We love to see ourselves as a church become more aware of what it truly means to trust God, to be citizens of God’s kingdom, and to understand the radical implications of Jesus’s teachings. Our Bhutanese and Burmese friends helped us to do that.”

In this journey, lay the opportunity for positive transformation not only for immigrants themselves, but for the community that welcomes them and ultimately for the church and the growth of the Kingdom of God. 

Love is our mission. We are called by Jesus to welcome and to love. And we respond in love because we were first loved by Him and because we know that “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18.) We offer compassion for those who need our help, stand up as champions for those who are marginalized, and love sacrificially.

Now more than ever, we have the opportunity to answer God’s call to be good Samaritans, and to welcome the stranger. Regardless of what lies ahead, the church must always be ready to educate others about refugees and immigrants, advocate on their behalf, and give to organizations who work directly with these foreign-born individuals and families. We have the chance to step out in faith and literally change the future for refugees and immigrants. Let us answer this calling with courage and conviction.

“The Lord watches over the foreigner, and sustains the fatherless and the widow” (Psalm 146:9 NIV)


How Much Is Enough? Thoughts from Jeff Shinabarger

“It’s better to give than receive.” In a world that’s commercialized and in a season that’s oftentimes defined by excess, it’s important to get back to the heart of what the season is all about: Christmas is always a great time of the year to think about giving to others, to both family and friends, and to vulnerable people around the world. 

In the book More or Less: Choosing a Lifestyle of Excessive Generosity, author Jeff Shinabarger shares practical stories of people who combat personal excess with heartfelt and generous giving. Jeff is a social entrepreneur, a designer, and a creative director. He is the founder of GiftCardGiver.com and Plywood People, an innovative community addressing social needs.

At this time of the year, many of us want to do all we can to stand with the vulnerable. But it’s also easy to feel like we can’t do as much as we’d like—or anything at all. But what if, as Jeff suggests, our ability to make a difference could be impacted by asking ourselves the question, “What is enough?”

Out of our excess we can address needs. But it begins with defining what is enough. What is enough?

It’s a subjective definition that we all have to ponder at some point in life. Unfortunately we’ve diminished the idea of generosity to money; too often we think we are generous only when we are giving money.

But what might you have in excess that has nothing to do with money? Excess clothes? Excess social capital? Excess amount of square footage?

We can ask the question, “What’s enough?” in every aspect of life. And if we choose to live with less, we gain the opportunity to give more. 

Consider these easy moves:

  • Look into your kitchen pantry or cupboard and set aside five cans of food. Deliver them to the nearest food bank in your area, and have a conversation with the person receiving your donation. Chances are, you will learn something new, and it will make you think differently about your next meal. Share your experience with a friend. Food is a basic and essential need for survival, and it’s one of the best things you can distribute to those in need. In Africa, there is a concept known as ubuntu—the profound sense that you are human only through the humanity of others; that if you are to accomplish anything in this world it will be in equal measure due to the work and achievement of others. Part with your surpluses and overloads, and feed your soul.
     
  • Go to your closet and drawers and pull out every piece of clothing that you own. Count the items. Sort them. How many days could you go without wearing the same thing twice? Are you satisfied with your number, or do you have excess? If you feel you have too much, then decide what is enough for each category of clothing. Then pare down your garments to meet your reasonable number, and donate the rest to a charity or sell them at a resale shop and use that money to make a donation to help the vulnerable. Kelsey Timmerman says, “The people who make our clothes are poor. We are rich. It’s natural to feel guilty or apathy or reject the system that does nothing to help. This quest is about the way we live; because when it comes to clothing, others make it, and we have it made. And there’s a big, big difference.”
     
  • Dump all the change everyone in your family has accumulated. Count it up, organize it roll by roll, and give it to an organization that’s working to help lift someone out of poverty today. G.K Chesterton wrote, “There are two ways to get enough: one is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.”
     
  • Keep an ‘excess bin’ in your house. Keep it for anything that you are not actively using anymore, and that could contribute to fill the needs of others. This bin can then be used for garage sales to raise money for orphans or charities. Committing to a place to gather your excess on a consistent basis will challenge how you live regularly. “If we value things of the world, we will miss the things of true value,” Kim Biddle says.

Generosity is a chance to experience freedom in a world obsessed with gaining more. And as we near the end of the year, let's consider how making a few simple changes can increase our capacity to stand with the vulnerable, and to be changemakers in our world. As we bring significant change to others, we’ll be changed, too!

For more from Jeff, watch his TEDx talk and follow him, @shinabarger.

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Join a community of Changemakers—ordinary people who step out in faith to do extraordinary things. Visit worldrelief.org/change to double your impact during the month of December, and join us at World Relief as we stand with the vulnerable.

Changemakers in Haiti — Who is the Hero?

Changemakers in Haiti — Who is the Hero?

When people think of Haiti, they often think of incredible poverty, disaster, dependence, and despair. But there is another story. It is one of the church stepping into communities as beacons of light and agents of change, offering help and hope to struggling families.

A Unique Moment for the Church

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Since the presidential election in the United States on Tuesday, we’ve received many questions from church leaders and other concerned friends regarding the path ahead for World Relief’s work with refugees and immigrants. While this aspect of our work is only one part of our larger global mission to empower the local church to stand with the vulnerable—including our aid and development work in communities throughout Africa, Asia and the Middle East—we believe that this is a unique moment for the Church.

Tuesday’s election concluded a presidential campaign season that was uniquely divisive. That division is being felt within the U.S. Church as well. Despite differing on political issues, however, what can and needs to unite followers of Jesus is our commitment to living out His commands and the teachings of Scripture. While we respect and collaborate with governmental authorities, our ultimate trust is in God, who “watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow” (Psalm 146:9 NIV). Throughout the Old and New Testaments, followers of God are repeatedly called to “do what is just and right; rescue the oppressed from the power of the oppressor, [to not] exploit or mistreat the refugee, the orphan, and the widow” (Jeremiah 22:3 CEB).

The Church is called to “practice hospitality” (Romans 12:13 NIV)—literally, to practice loving strangers—mindful that Jesus Himself was once a child refugee, forced to flee from a tyrannical genocide. Whenever we welcome one of “the least of these” in Jesus’ name, we welcome Him (Matthew 25:40).

That’s why—even as we anticipate the impending Presidential transition in the U.S.—World Relief’s mission remains to empower the local church to serve the most vulnerable, including the displaced and the persecuted.

As has been the case for decades, today teams of World Relief staff and volunteers from local churches in cities, suburbs, and small towns throughout the United States will be gathering beds, sofas, and household items to furnish new apartments for arriving refugees. At airports across the country, our teams will welcome newcomers who are weary from their travel and nervous as they arrive in a country and culture they have never known. Our staff and volunteers will walk alongside these newly arrived refugees, helping them to rebuild their lives.

Many refugees and other immigrants feel uniquely vulnerable right now. We believe that this represents a unique moment for the Church. Today, local churches have the opportunity to demonstrate moral courage by standing with the vulnerable in new and unprecedented ways—offering a warm welcome, a reassuring smile, practical assistance, and consistent advocacy for more compassionate policy towards carefully vetted refugees and their families.

We deeply value our longstanding relationship with the U.S. State Department, and we look forward to working with the new administration to welcome and resettle refugees, just as we have with the past six presidential administrations. And regardless of the course the new administration sets, World Relief’s mission remains the same—to empower the local church to serve the most vulnerable.

President Reagan once called the U.S. “a shining city on a hill” for those searching for freedom. On one hand, we ought to be proud of our country’s history as a beacon of refuge for those fleeing persecution, and we pray that the brightest moments of our national history of welcoming refugees and immigrants are still ahead of us.

But we must also remember that when Jesus first spoke of “a city on a hill” (Matthew 5:14), he was not speaking about the United States. Rather, Jesus was addressing His personal followers, those who would become the earliest Church.

In the face of the greatest global refugee crisis in recorded history, World Relief’s prayer is that the Church—the largest social network on the planet—will seize this unique moment, letting its light shine like a city upon a hill, so that millions of displaced people around the world will find great love and compassion—both of which are at the heart of God.

Please donate today to help us seize this unique moment to serve refugees, immigrants, and the vulnerable around the world.

How To Make Sure We're Ready for the Next Crisis

What do you do when the tragedies of this world seem like they just won’t stop? What do you do when so many already-vulnerable people suffer even greater hardship?

I think I might already know what you do. Because I’ve seen you do it. And I’m hoping you might do it again. But first, a quick look back at the past few weeks...

When a Category 4 hurricane struck Haiti earlier this month, hundreds of our donors sprang into action, donating thousands of dollars, even as the initial damage reports and death tolls were still being reported.

Then, less than three weeks later, when Iraqi-led forces launched a military offensive to free the city of Mosul from ISIS,  donors once again jumped to the aid of those who were being displaced by the conflict, donating thousands of dollars even as the media was just beginning to report news of the attack.

Thank you, is an inadequate, yet a very sincere response. We are profoundly grateful that you have trusted us to extend your compassion to people in great need around the world. The only reason World Relief is able to so quickly come to the aid of the vulnerable in places like Haiti and Mosul, is because YOU make it possible.

At the same time, I know how critically important it is for World Relief to be ready for the next crisis or disaster.

I know from experience that we best stand with the vulnerable when we are prepared for disaster and crisis before it even happens.

How can you help us prepare to be ready wherever and whenever disaster strikes?

  1. Give a one-time gift to World Relief’s general fund. This allows us to earmark funds for future disasters, as well as provide health and child development programs, refugee and immigration services, economic development and peace-building initiatives to the devastated, the displaced, and the marginalized worldwide. 
     
  2. Commit to give to World Relief on a monthly basis, ensuring sustainable transformation in the areas we work. In over 20 countries, throughout Africa and Asia, we’ve built partnerships with over 5,800 local churches, allowing us to quickly deliver aid and recovery through these partnerships, just like we have over the past few weeks in both Haiti and Mosul.

Once again, thank you all you do on behalf of the vulnerable. Together, let’s commit to never give up, and do all we can to be ready to act.

Scott Arbeiter
President, World Relief

Diamonds of Haiti: The Aftermath of Hurricane Matthew

[The following videos and blog post are detailed updates we've received from Joseph Bataille, World Relief's Country Director in Haiti, about the relief efforts taking place in Haiti in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew.]

Every year, my wife and I choose a new part of Haiti to explore for our anniversary. Our country is a gem, full of hidden treasures. And every year, we celebrate by uncovering one of these treasures together.

This past July, we explored Grand’Anse. We began with one of the furthest reaches of the region, Anse d’Hainault. The two and a half hour drive from the entrance of the city of Jérémie was scenic, but to tell the truth, it was a bit exhausting. We had already driven 6 or 7 hours that morning to get to Jérémie. We could only hope that this additional 2.5 hour, slow-paced, rocky trek, would be worth it in the end. After all, we would still have to drive back in a couple of days. 

We came up on the main stretch of the town of Dame Marie. It was almost evening and the sun was preparing to set. The colors of the sky dancing and glistening as they reflected off of the sea made us forget all about our uncomfortable drive. The people of the town—not accustomed to receiving many outsiders—each watched from the front porch of their homes as we passed by. Life seemed beautiful and simple. Children played in their yards and in the streets. Men tended to boats and nets after a day of fishing. Women conversed and laughed as they finished various late-afternoon tasks or as they braided each other’s hair, while they relaxed on the front porch. All the while, the sun, the sea, and the sky danced in the background. Beautiful and simple indeed. We took in similar scenes for the last half hour of the drive to Anse d’Hainault. 

The rest of our visit in Grand’Anse was equally beautiful. From Anse d’Hainault, we traveled to the city of Jérémie. The family of Alexandre Dumas (author of “The Three Musketeers” and “The Count of Monte Cristo”) hails from Jérémie, as do other notable Haitian writers. This historic city is rightfully known as “The City of Poets.” Traveling further to a hidden cove called “Anse du Clerc.” We sat mesmerized by the crashing of waves into the bay as we drank in beauty that few have the pleasure of seeing. All this while enjoying freshly caught fish served over boiled plantains, and of course, fresh coconuts to drink.  

Even more beautiful than the scenery, as usual, were the people that we encountered. We met with our friend and my colleague, Esther, when we traveled back to Jeremie. She showed us around over the next couple of days. Each day, Esther’s aunts fought over the “privilege” of getting to feed us. Every home that we visited had a table prepared; they would hear nothing of the meal that we had just eaten two hours earlier. They showed us around proudly, wanting us to love their town and region at least half as much as they do. They would give us everything, if we would ask, but would receive nothing but good company in return. Each evening we stayed with Esther’s godparents, in their home, set proudly in a Garden of Eden by the sea.

Last Saturday, I visited that place again. The house was still there, and so was the sea, but the garden was gone. So was everything else. 

Haiti Relief Update

The town of Jérémie was full of piles of debris stacked high. All along the ride through other parts of Grand’Anse, I saw homes that I don’t remember seeing before. Each had lost the trees that had once shielded them from view. Nearly all had also lost their rooftops and many had lost walls as well. With Grand’Anse accounting for a major portion of the nation’s remaining forest coverage, it was devastating to see the hills and mountains, literally stripped bare by Matthew’s winds. At the time, with images coming slowly and rarely, I could only imagine what Anse d’Hainault at the tip of the island might look like in the aftermath. I couldn’t bear to imagine what happened to the people of Dame Marie and their simple and beautiful life.

Nothing was the same in the region. That is, nothing except for the people. Esther’s aunt was excited to see us, yet slightly upset that we surprised her, because she didn’t have a chance to prepare a meal for us. She gently scolded her niece for not calling her in advance (although telephone lines were mostly cut off). Esther’s godparents were still the king and queen of hospitality and, despite the devastation, her godfather still wore his usual smile that you can be sure he’s had on his face since childhood. His wife insisted on preparing a goat for us, despite having lost several goats and their garden in the storm and despite the fact that we had brought our own provisions. 

When visiting pastors in Pichon last week, the pastors, who had advance notice of our coming, would already have fresh coconuts ready for us to drink or something else for us to “taste” as we walked along the road. We would look to the few trees that were left standing to see if we could figure out where these gifts were coming from, but we found no sign that there was more to come. We were being offered their best. Their last. Their all. And they refused to be denied the opportunity to be hospitable. Wherever we went, there was a sadness in the air, but over and over we were awestruck by the palpable goodness that remained in the hearts of a people who still wanted to hope. 

That same charity and goodness has all but become a national phenomenon. Many miles away, on the first Sunday morning after the storm, churches in the capital were gathered as their usual custom. Surely, the faithful came with the usual personal desires that they wanted to ask God to fulfill, but that day, they also shared a common heaviness. Together, they lifted the burden of those suffering after the hurricane in prayer. Many also began collecting funds and items to send to the victims in distress. 

In Les Cayes, that same afternoon, our staff met with a group of pastors, all of whom have churches that have sustained damages. As we discussed with them the importance of preaching the gospel by loving acts, together they resolved to see to that the homes of their more vulnerable neighbors are rebuilt, even if it meant that their church buildings were the last to be repaired. We recently met with a group of pastors in Duchity (Pestel, Grand’Anse) who have agreed to do the same. 

Late last week, I participated in a meeting with more than 200 Haitian church leaders in the capital. The purpose was to join together collectively to reach out to the affected areas with short, mid, and long term relief efforts. We had similar conversations with our partners in the capital. All of them excitedly agreed that the primary responsibility for relief must go to the local church. In Belle Anse, church leaders are assessing the damages together, while reflecting on ways to help those who were hit the hardest. Immediately after the storm, some even worked overtime to finish a home that they had begun to build months earlier for a single mother of three. After many months of being stalled by various obstacles, they finished the project in only a few days.

Haiti Relief Update | Hurricane Matthew in Haiti

I could fill pages and pages with the difficulties and hardships that are still yet to come. But I would rather put a final exclamation point on what I have attempted say so far...

Haiti has a lot of good things. The best of all these things are its people. Haiti is gold. The Haitian people themselves are diamonds—hard-pressed but not hardened, and refined by many years of adversity. When they pull together, nothing is impossible to them. 

The local church is full of such gems, and across the country, near to and far from the disaster, they are pulling together. They are helping one another and looking out for the weakest among them. World Relief is privileged to know some of the best of them. They are a light to their communities. World Relief is working closely with these leaders as they help their communities to recover shelters, gardens, livelihoods, and autonomy. But we refuse to let our work to be the basket that covers and hides the goodness and the light of God’s love that is already present. Rather, we are working in such a way to put that light on the lamp-stand, where it belongs, that the world will see their good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:15-16).

The nation is full of people with hearts of servants who are more than ready and more than willing to carry the weight of their vulnerable neighbors. Our job in this time is to help them to find the resources that match the largeness of their hearts and to equip them with skills and knowledge to build back better. Our mission is to help them to accomplish their mission.

That has always been our mission, and it will never change. We empower the church. They seek out the least, the last, and the lost among them, and together we make a world of a difference.


If you have already donated, please consider a second donation to Haiti’s hurricane relief efforts, or a general donation to World Relief’s other work around the world. Also, we invite you to share a link to this page with your friends and family.

UPDATE: Relief for Haiti

Since Monday, when Hurricane Matthew struck Haiti, we've been getting reports from our staff and local partners in the country. The situation grows worse by the day. Please consider taking action and donating today.

Haitian officials are reporting that at least 400 people have died, and the death toll is likely to continue rising. The UN Office for Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs is also reporting that 350,000 residents are in need of immediate aid.

Because of our longstanding relationship with churches throughout Haiti, World Relief has a built-in system to deliver that aid, one that empowers local leaders in Haiti to lead their own relief efforts.

As the death toll continues to climb and reports of widespread damage and destruction pour in, now is the time to act.

For the sake of the men, women, and children of Haiti, please donate today.

How To Actually Welcome Refugees

World Relief Atlanta Office Director Joshua Sieweke welcomes Malik, a 9-year old Syrian refugee, at Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

World Relief Atlanta Office Director Joshua Sieweke welcomes Malik, a 9-year old Syrian refugee, at Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

For almost 40 years, World Relief has been proud to resettle over 270,000 refugees from across the world here to the United States. On average, our offices resettle 650 refugees each month.

Next month we are projecting that World Relief’s local offices will resettle 1,350 refugees.

That means that in October, we’ll be resettling over TWICE as many refugees as normal. The challenge ahead for our local office staff and volunteers in the next month is nothing short of monumental. Which means we’re doing all we can in the next week to make sure local offices have everything they need.

Why?

We know that when we welcome refugees to the United States, the lives and futures of refugees are—quite literally—changed forever.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your help.

Donate to World Relief by September 30 to help support the work of resettling refugees in the month of October.

 
 

This week, I was invited to attend President Obama’s Leaders’ Summit on Refugees. It was an invitation I felt humbled and grateful to accept, knowing that my attendance represented the tireless work of thousands of World Relief staff and volunteers for almost 40 years. And as I sat at the UN, surrounded by dozens of leaders from over 30 different countries, I was struck by a simple thought...

Without the dedicated efforts of the thousands of staff and volunteers from World Relief and other resettlement agencies, the commitment of these world leaders to refugees would go unfulfilled.

Without our local staff and volunteers, refugees would arrive at airports—often scared and confused—with no one to greet or guide them. But instead, small groups of smiling faces welcome them onto U.S. soil.

Just last month, staff and volunteers welcomed Hashim, Mariam and their two children to Atlanta’s international airport. Having fled their home in war-torn Syria, Hashim and Mariam arrived to the United States longing for safety, stability, and the promise of brighter future for their two children, Malik (9 years old) and Muna (18 months old). As Malik reached up to shake hands with World Relief Atlanta’s Office Director Joshua Sieweke, Josh leaned down and said, “Welcome to America. We’re so glad you’re here.” (pictured above)

We believe that compassion and security are not mutually exclusive. We can honor both. We know that after being displaced from their homes, refugees are vetted by multiple agencies, including the UN and U.S. Department of State, for up to two years. So when refugee families arrive, it is our great privilege to welcome them here.

We don’t just say refugees are welcome, we make sure they actually are welcomed, and feel welcomed.

In the next seven days, you have the opportunity to help us welcome refugees during one of our busiest months to date. If for any reason you’ve been waiting to become a part of the solution, now is your moment.

Since my time at the UN, I’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of attention refugees have been receiving in the news. At times I’ve felt discouraged, as voices of fear have tried to convince us that refugees should be seen only as a threat. But other times I’ve been profoundly encouraged, as voices of compassion and hope have risen up. These voices have reminded us that not only is it a moral and Scriptural imperative that we welcome refugees, but also that refugees have the potential to contribute to and enrich our country in countless ways. It’s simply unthinkable that we wouldn't welcome refugees.

Through all of the events of the past week, I’ve sensed that God is clearly at work, moving people in new ways to care for refugees.

I invite you—even as you read this email—to stop for a moment and prayerfully consider if God might be moving in you too.

If so, there’s never been a better, more effective time for you to give than there is between now and September 30.

Give today to ensure that we do all that we can to rise to the challenge of wholeheartedly welcoming refugees.  

For the sake of the refugees and the displaced,

Scott Arbeiter
President, World Relief

 

How Do We Help Our Kids Stand with the Vulnerable?

At World Relief, it’s in our DNA to stand with the vulnerable. With school back in session and all of the dynamics that come along with this season, how do we teach our kids to stand with the vulnerable?

This week, as many children in America start a new school year, I can’t help but think of the thousands of immigrant and refugee children starting the academic year at a new school, in a new country, learning a new language and adjusting to a new culture with the hopes of making new friends.

These kids may be scared, excited, happy, sad or—at times—all of the above. But, like all kids, they mostly want to feel included and welcomed in their new environment.

As a parent myself, the start of the school year always proves to be chaotic as we go from a free-for-all summer, to trying to assemble some sort of routine that will carry us through the day—from the morning mayhem to the afternoon witching hours of homework, hungry bellies, and dinner—before doing it all over again in Groundhog Day-like fashion.

As caregivers, we want the kids in our lives to do their best in school. We also want to raise children who help the world be a better place. And as engaged parents, even during this chaotic season, we can do this. We can envision our children to help those around them who may be vulnerable, so that their school is an environment where they and their peers can experience hope, confidence, possibility, growth and opportunity.

At World Relief, we talk a lot about standing with the vulnerable. In kid language, I would define a vulnerable person at school as someone that is being picked on or left out.

Amidst the chaos of a new school year, how do we help our kids think bigger than themselves as we try to raise global citizens? We pause the whirlwind—if only for a brief moment—to circle the wagons over dinner or pre-bedtime routines, to engage in intentional conversations with our kids. We help them understand how to identify a peer that may be vulnerable, and ask them if they’ve noticed anyone in their classroom or school who seemed vulnerable today. We ask how they can help make their classroom or school an environment where they and their peers can experience hope, confidence, possibility, growth and opportunity.

We know life is busy. So to help, we’ve created a free, downloadable, ready-to-print coloring page that we hope serves as a conversation starter for you and your kids. Together, we can help our kids not only be more aware and welcoming to the thousands of kids new to school in America, but also have the courage to stand with anyone who is vulnerable by simply being kind to them.

Who knows? Maybe plopping a few coloring pages and crayons on the table before dinner will help turn the after-school chaos into a meaningful evening, if only for a few moments.

I’m going to try this at our dinner table tonight.*


*Provided there isn’t too much homework.