When I consider the new year, I’m struck by how little we know about what it will hold. In 2019, we had no idea that the pandemic would shut down the world in 2020. Before 2020, we had no idea that Afghanistan would fall in 2021. In 2021, we had no idea that Ukraine would be invaded in 2022. As we face 2023, we have no idea what might lie ahead.
Beyond these more public events, it is an unfortunate truth that the world is riddled with conflict, poverty, corruption, and environmental realities that have been driving people from their homes for generations. The People of Myanmar, Venezuela, Darfur, Iran, Eritrea, and other places are forced daily to display a resilience many of us will never know.
So, what do we do with these realities?
What do we do with the certainty we can’t know the future and the heart-breaking crisis of mass displacement? It can be overwhelming and we can find ourselves focusing on what we do not know. In these moments I ask myself, “Who am I becoming?” “How will I lean into trusting God this year?” “How can I be a person of faith in the year ahead?”. Questions more easily asked than answered.
But in my life, I have found that amid uncertain futures, it is vital that we hold to our core values. It is vital that we lean into learning to trust God and others. When tethered to truth, we can navigate the uncertainties ahead with grace, confidence, and hope. When bound to one another, we can endure challenges, create lasting solutions, and make the world a better place.
Values We Hold
All people have sacred worth.
For those of us who follow Jesus, we believe that every person is created in the image of God and worthy of welcome. There are no qualifiers here. As a popular quote from an unknown author says “You will never look in the eyes of a person that God does not love.” This means that every person who comes to the US is someone God loves. Every immigrant, refugee, or asylum seeker has unspeakable value and potential. To not extend welcome is to dishonor the image of God in them.
We are made for connection.
John Donne’s poem “No man (or woman) is an island” captures this reality beautifully. We are not made for isolation. Each of us is a part of something bigger. Each of us has a part to play in this world. We are designed to be together. This means at least two things. First, the work of welcoming immigrants is something we do together, relying on each other’s strengths and resilience. And second, building relationships with those around us, immigrants and native-born alike, is sacred work. When we build relationships with one another that are meaningful and mutually transformative, we are participating in a broader multigenerational journey toward a more just world.
We are more powerful together.
My first encounter with the work of World Relief was as a volunteer. I remember a wide range of emotions when I started. Hopeful, eager, anxious, overwhelmed, grateful . . . the list could go on. But one thing that jumps out to me from that time is how much of an impact the whole community of World Relief was having. Sure, I was giving a few hours a week. But alongside others, we were giving so much more. Over my years serving and leading here, I have seen the power of a community to make lasting change. One example of this is a recent study showing how more evangelical Christians are now looking to scripture for their views on immigration, an area of concerted advocacy work for World Relief. We can create something far more beautiful than we can on our own, together.
We All Have a Part to Play
When we hold space for these values to form us, I believe we will find ourselves ready for the year ahead. In the midst of economic uncertainty and a longer-then-we-would-like pandemic recovery, we remain ready to welcome.
In 2023, I anticipate discovering new challenges and witnessing new successes. I embrace the reality that I can’t know the future. I hold to the truth that no matter what comes, we are not alone. We have hope, and we will continue to serve as we have over the past 43 years. I am grateful beyond words for you and the whole World Relief community. And I know that together, we will continue to embody welcome, provide vital services for immigrants, and create a community we can all be grateful for.
Find Your Part to Play
Susan Sperry is the Executive Director of World Relief Chicagoland, a faith-based organization committed to empowering the church and community to serve immigrants in vulnerable situations. She leads World Relief’s three locations in Chicago, DuPage County, and Aurora to provide vital services, bring people together, and build welcoming communities. Susan has served at World Relief since 2001, facilitating the resettlement of thousands of refugees and mobilizing hundreds of volunteers and churches to serve their neighbors. She has her MS in Learning and Organizational Change from Northwestern University, and her undergraduate degree from Wheaton College. She loves working alongside teams to navigate the human side of change and aspires to be a life-long learner.