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Karibu: Welcome. Come Back Any Time.

By Kendra Guttridge, a World Relief Spokane spring intern

To be engaged with World Relief is to encounter the global, multicultural Kingdom of God. This intersection of so many dynamic communities, all created in the Imago Dei, is a powerful witness.

I’ve interned at World Relief Spokane since the beginning of February, and every day I have been enriched. Of course, that richness results naturally with World Relief’s mission and working with the refugee community, but it also comes even just being in the office space, surrounded by so much diversity. As I work at my desk, stationed in the middle of the Integration & Wellness department, I hear Yeva singing in Ukrainian from her office; I compare files I organized with Wahid’s and realize his default is right to left while mine is left to right; I cram into the break room with other staff as Morella teaches us to make arepas. At any given moment, I get to encounter a different way of being. I get to be reminded of my smallness in the vastness of creation and of what a holy thing intricacy is.

I am also reminded of my smallness when I work with our clients; it has been such an honor to be invited in and trusted to hold some of the many stories that refugees carry. Once, I was at the doctor’s office with a client and another World Relief staff member, and as we were waiting for the nurse, he wanted to practice his English. He began to tell us about his home country. Though he wasn’t able to find all the right words, he recounted to us how the Taliban mowed down his people. He held his hands as though they were supporting a gun, and with his mouth, he imitated the stuttered drilling of open fire. It was heartbreaking, and I looked to my coworker, only to realize her face was one of recognition because she is from Ukraine. When she expressed that to our client, there was a sacredness in their exchange. The deep lament over violence in their countries of origin—their homes—was a wound they shared. How terrible and beautiful that in that moment, they could share it together.

The World Relief Friendship Center is the “happy place.”

To say that there is a lot of heaviness in these interactions is an understatement. The brokenness of the world is never so clear as when I listen to all that refugees have faced, but in the midst of it all, the Lord is so near. Brokenness is interwoven with beauty. In the darker moments, I look to the light of community, like learning Swahili on a home visit with a family. I was just shadowing a case manager, I contributed nothing, but the mother was so gracious. She told me karibu. Welcome. Come back any time. Her face, full of laughter and joy, as she taught me the words for hello, thank you, and goodbye is a memory I hold tight to. In the same way, I hold tight to the daughter of a family I conducted a home visit with. She came home from school in the middle of my time there and sat down right next to me. She amazed me with her boldness – and she was so smart too. She helped translate for her parents, and whenever she had a chance in between, she told me all about her classes and her experience here in Spokane in comparison to all the other places she has lived. At the end, she asked me for a hug, and I saw in her eyes just how relieved she was that her family was heard. I will never stop praying for her.

Prayer is an integral practice for this kind of work, I’ve learned. There is so much entirely out of human control, on both institutional and individual levels. There are often times when every resource has been exhausted and there is nothing left to do but pray and surrender it all to God who holds all things, who cares for the oppressed, who was in this world as a refugee in the person of Jesus. And as I pray, I know that each department in the World Relief office prays for one another, and I know there is an entire network of churches praying too; it’s another glimpse into the Kingdom. I think of how it looked in Acts 4: “32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them.”

I continue to pray for this Kingdom come.

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