June 20, 2019

June 20th is World Refugee Day – a day set aside each year to honor the courage and determination of those who have been forced to flee their homes. With record numbers just released 6/19 by the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR, it is also a day to challenge those of us with the freedom to impact the lives of refugees through advocacy and action.

In advance of World Refugee Day and Refugee Awareness Month, our Resettlement Director Karissa Pletta travelled to Washington D.C. to represent Tennessee and World Relief Memphis for Refugee Advocacy Days on the Hill, sponsored by Refugee Council USA. The goal was simple: spread awareness and advocate for refugees in line with God’s call to welcome the sojourner and treat them as our own. World Relief Memphis’ position is somewhat different when compared to some of the other 33 states that were represented, as our state government is not entirely behind our cause. But instead of being deterred, this simply illustrates the need for our advocacy.

In Karissa’s meetings with members of Congress, she led discussions on exactly who we are and what we do. While some discussions confirmed informed understanding of the issues, others revealed gaps on the topic of refugees. This gap manifests itself most clearly in the misunderstanding of commonly used terms. For example, the words asylee, refugee, and illegal immigrant were frequently used interchangeably by people with the ability to impact policy. Understanding these terms is critical to navigating the nuances of these policies and our organization’s programs and goals as a whole. For example, there are no “illegal refugees” in the U.S. as all refugees living in the United States are formally invited to the country by the government after in-depth vetting from both the UNHCR and the U.S. State Department. Asylees are people in the U.S. who formally sought protection from the same causes of conflict and persecution as a refugee and were then invited by the U.S. to permanently settle and pursue a path toward citizenship.

Once key terms were understood and agreed on by both parties, Karissa moved to discuss RCUSA’s “big asks.” With the number of refugees being allowed into the country at an all-time low (30,000 ceiling for the U.S. this year, which we are not on pace to meet), we are asking that the administration be held accountable to reaching the refugee ceiling this fiscal year, and to raise the ceiling to 75,000 refugees for fiscal year 2020. This is still below the pre-2016 annual average of 95,000 that had remained steady since the Refugee Act was unanimously approved by both parties in Congress in 1980.

Our second ask was inviting members of Congress to cosponsor two new pieces of legislation. The GRACE Act would set a minimum refugee admissions goal at 95,000 each year (the average referenced above) and mandates quarterly reports on refugee admissions, which would increase accountability. The NO BAN Act would repeal the refugee bans, asylum ban, and Muslim bans and would prevent the administration was setting such bans in the future. The third ask was that members of Congress would support robust funding for refugee related accounts in order for organizations to continue not only working with refugees here in the United States, but also overseas in refugee process and resettlement. Finally, the fourth ask was encouraging members of the House to join the Bipartisan Congressional Refugee Caucus.

This was Karissa’s first opportunity to meet with government officials, and the opportunity reinforced how important it is for residents and citizens to communicate vital, reliable information to better inform representatives as they consider and influence legislation. As Christians and as citizens, it is our responsibility to change the ongoing narrative about refugees, to tell the correct story, and to encourage the ongoing education of our communities. However, this is a big task, and we alone cannot complete it. With the help of friends like you, a movement can begin that will change the trajectory of the path in which we are headed.

How can people actually participate in promoting the true narrative of the refugee and immigrant community?  World Relief Memphis has multiple onramps for all people to engage, no matter where they are on their journey of understanding:

  1. A simple yet important step in this process is first educating yourself. Without sound knowledge, the passion for serving refugees could be squandered with confusing dialogue. Follow @worldrelief, @wrmemphis, @matthewsoerens, @jennyyang318 for updates on refugee matters. Read Welcoming the Stranger by Matthew Soerens and Jenny Yang, who have researched, written and advocated for refugees and immigrants for over a decade.  Consider attending a future class or seminar series on Migration in Light of Scripture by World Relief Memphis staff.
  2. Speak with your close friends and family. Sharing what you’ve learned and expressing your feelings and passions about this cause to those who understand and love you the most is both cathartic and helpful for gaining a more rounded understanding of how other people feel about welcoming refugees and immigrants.
  3. We believe fully in the power of prayer. Pray for refugees awaiting resettlement and family reunification. Pray for individuals and families we have welcomed to Memphis who are seeking stability and in early steps of holistic integration. Pray for our office and the other organizations that work with the refugee and immigrant community. Pray for our government officials who are in positions to create positive legislation.
  4. Prayer and action work congruently. Be a friend and neighbor to immigrants and refugees around you. Let them know you respect their strength and resiliency and want their stories to be heard. Need to be introduced? Become a volunteer for World Relief and work hand in hand with us in answering God’s call to assist the foreigner and sojourner. Click here to learn more about our volunteer opportunities.
  5. Call your representatives: Ask that they hold the administration accountable to the 30,000 cap this Fiscal Year. Invite them to cosponsor the GRACE Act which would ensure that the refugee ceiling won't go below 95000 (the historic average). Encourage them to also cosponsor the NO BAN act which would repeal the refugee ban, Muslim ban, and asylee ban. Ask for them to support robust funding for refugee programming.
  6. You can donate monetarily and/or compile welcome kits of necessary items or gently used furniture that refugees desperately need when they first arrive in America. Click here to learn more.

After the events on Capitol Hill were over, Karissa had this to say: “I am thankful for the beautiful reminder of how powerful God is in orchestrating all things. I am thankful for the conversations we had with five different members of Congress. I am thankful for the opportunity to join others and learn how advocacy can be done by every single one of us.”

 

By Nathan Spencer

June 17, 2019

The first time I celebrated World Refugee Day was June 20, 1997, along with thousands of others in Nyarugusu Refugee Camp, Kigoma, Tanzania. A child at that time, I did not really know what it was for or why people celebrated it. Looking back, I realize that the children’s poems and plays, speeches from the camp community, government leaders, and U.N. officials spread a message of hope and a call to action to the nation and the globe. Since the world’s response to this humanitarian crisis had been effectively crippled, this day helps to create awareness. Telling my own story is part of raising awareness – and that’s why I’m here, writing.

Over the course of my life, I’ve lived in several places and countries – so I didn’t expect to experience anything particularly new or different from what a refugee or an immigrant normally feels upon arrival in a foreign country. But nothing could have prepared me for my experience arriving in Memphis.

It was completely different than I imagined. I was welcomed into a friendly environment that continues to have a huge impact on my life to this day. As a Christian, I was afraid of the challenges that I could face and the impact of living in a secular country could have on my faith. But World Relief, the resettlement agency through which I was resettled in the U.S., connected me with volunteers and other community members who share the same faith. These people opened their arms and homes to me, inviting me to share meals and stories with them. It was a huge contrast: Before being invited to the U.S., I lived in South Africa for about 4 years, and during that time, I never entered a South African friend’s home.

I will confess, I was not greatly impressed by the city or buildings when I first arrived in Memphis. What did impress me was how people welcomed me and the love they showed me. I never felt lost on my first days in the U.S., thanks to the opportunity World Relief gave me to connect and hang out with new friends. They made my transition very smooth, and I am grateful for that. 

That said, not everyone has an easy and smooth transition when they move to a new country. The majority of the refugees in my current community in Memphis came from refugee camps, where they lived for an average of about two decades. These camps are like living in an open-air prison. Not only are the medical system, nutrition and education poor, but people there are kept in the dark about almost everything. They have no idea what is going on around the world.

Arriving in the U.S. after spending many years in the refugee camp is a shock. The amount of new information and the pace at which you have to learn it is overwhelming. Some refugees have limited knowledge of the new language and are unable to navigate the public system on their own after the orientation services provided by their resettlement agency end.

Having been once in their position of vulnerability and confusion, I see it as my duty as a human being and a member of their new community to care for and support them as much as I can. It is a means of giving back. It is a means of serving my community. It is a form of showing love. It is a form of showing there is always a place they can run to for help – a hard lesson to learn after living in a refugee camp.

This is what all of us are called to and what all of us should be doing. If you’ve grown up outside a refugee camp or if you’ve lived a comparatively comfortable life in America, it can be hard to imagine how a small gesture of kindness and love can eternally impact the many broken lives out there – but it impacted mine. In fact, gestures like these are one of the reasons I decided to buy a house in Binghampton, the most diverse community in Memphis. I believe that the first step of commitment in serving a community is to live within the community, so that we can strive and face challenges together.

With the world in constant crisis – wars, natural disasters, persecution, famine and the mass migration of refugees resulting from these – it is inhuman to cross our arms and say, “This is not my problem.” If it is not your problem, whose problem is it? It is the responsibility of all of us to care for and offer our support to those who are suffering around the world. Not one refugee desired to be in the situation they are now. They simply wanted to live and be free – just as Americans do.

Twenty-two years after that first celebration in the camp, World Refugee Day remains very important to me. Just like the children in the camp singing their songs and the U.N. officials making their speeches, I raise my voice to tell the world about the refugee crisis and demand a collective response. There will never be a better time to act than now.

 

Basuze Gulain Madogo was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and first fled with his family for refuge in 1996. He was invited to be permanently resettled in the United States in 2014. Since being welcomed to Memphis, two brothers have joined him here, and two additional brothers have been resettled in Massachusetts and Wisconsin. He was hired by World Relief Memphis as a Resettlement Specialist in 2016, graduated with an Associate Degree from Southwest Tennessee Community College in 2017, and is studying Accounting at the University of Memphis. Join Basuze and World Relief by supporting our work of welcome. Visit HERE to learn more. 

May 17, 2019

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 17, 2019

 

CONTACT

Lauren Carl

carl@pinkstongroup.com

(703) 388-6734

 

As the U.S. government reduces the number of refugees admitted into the U.S., resettlement agencies, including World Relief, are forced to make difficult decisions regarding staffing and capacity, even in areas where the need for services for refugees and immigrants is increasing. Given this decline, World Relief Memphis regrets to announce additional cuts to its staff this week.

Since January 2017, World Relief Memphis has reduced its staff by 31%, including the two most recent layoffs this week on the direct services and church and community mobilization teams. These cuts do not reflect Memphis’ need for the services that these roles offered or World Relief’s commitment to serving the vulnerable and empowering the local church in this community. In fact, since 2017, the number of refugees and immigrants served by World Relief Memphis has increased 167% to about 800 people in 2019. Rather, these reductions reflect the decreased funds provided through the public-private partnership with the State Department and local private funding. These changes do not affect other World Relief locations in the U.S. nor the work continuing around the world.

World Relief is incredibly grateful for the support and partnership we have been blessed with in the Memphis community, and prayerfully encourage community members to consider giving their time and resources to help World Relief support the newest members of the Memphis area. For more information about the ongoing ministries available at World Relief Memphis, visit https://worldreliefmemphis.org/

 

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About World Relief:

 

World Relief is a global Christian humanitarian organization that seeks to overcome violence, poverty and injustice. Through service and action, we bring hope, healing and restoration to millions of the world’s most vulnerable women, men and children through vital and sustainable programs in disaster response, health and child development, economic development and peacebuilding, as well as refugee and immigration services in the U.S. For 75 years, we’ve partnered with churches and communities, currently across more than 20 countries, to provide relief from suffering and help people rebuild their lives.  World Relief opened the Memphis office in 2012 and has since served over 3,000 immigrants and refugees in the city.

 

Learn more at worldrelief.org

April 15, 2019

Looking to get a taste of delicious global foods? Searching for ways to welcome and empower immigrants in our community? Join us May 3rd at our Taste of Migration Benefit Social happening at our Connect Language Center! At this event, attendees will be treated to delicious appetizers, meals from three different culinary regions (Mexico, Venezuela, and the Democratic Republic of Congo), sweet desserts, and fresh regional coffees.

As you journey through the tastes of each culinary region, you will learn all about our Connect Language Center and the important role it plays in the Memphis community. Meet our team members, learn about our mission, and come ready to donate towards strengthening this program, all while enjoying delicious global food.

Support from the Memphis community is vital in continuing our commitment to welcome and serve our immigrant neighbors. With your ticket purchase, you will be contributing to that calling! Reserve your spot today for just $35. (Details below)

Details

  • When: Friday, May 3rd, 6 pm to 8:30 pm
  • Where: Connect Language Center, 5340 Quince Rd
  • Tickets: $35 available here

Schedule of Events

  • 6:00 pm - Check-in, Appetizers
  • 6:30 pm - Journey to your first of three culinary regions (Mexico, Venezuela, and DR Congo)
  • 7:00 pm - Second culinary region
  • 7:30 pm - Third Culinary Region
  • 8:00 pm - Desserts, Coffee, Drawings and Last Chance to Give

Want to donate but can’t make it to the event? No worries. Visit our page here.

Learn more about out Connect Language Center here!

By Nathan Spencer

April 4, 2019

"Welcome" looks like something: it is love in action.

What is happening in our nation around immigration can be overwhelming. We see refugees and immigrants bravely leave behind everything familiar to seek safety, a life free from fear, and the chance for a new start. They are eager to learn English and American culture, enroll their kids in school, secure employment, and begin contributing to their new community. And yet how can the average person express welcome and support?

We want to help people in Memphis demonstrate Welcome in a tangible, practical way. Perhaps this isn't the season where you can volunteer regularly. Or perhaps you volunteer but want to do even more. That's why we are launching a new program: Welcome Partners!

Potential Welcome Partners like you can help us continue our services to refugees and immigrants in the Mid-South. For a suggested $25 a month, you will not only be assisting continued refugee resettlement services, you will be investing in the resiliency of refugees and immigrants in Memphis through all our programs and services. Simply put, your monthly gift will change lives.

To thank you and keep you connected, Welcome Partners will receive a new World Relief Welcome Partner T-shirt, and also be the first that we contact for any special upcoming World Relief events here in Memphis. One such event takes place this week!

On Friday, April 26th, we will be at Comeback Coffee for downtown’s Trolley Night! Meet World Relief staff sharing stories of welcome and ways to join us as you walk through select images from our "Welcomed. Welcoming Others." exhibit! Visitors will get a chance to meet two of our partners: Sarah Brubaker and Emily Frazier. Treat yourself to great food, drinks, and live music. The downtown atmosphere is always fantastic on trolley night so there is no better time to learn and fellowship with us.

Emily is a Humanitarian Photographer who has committed her time to working alongside us in capturing refugees’ and immigrants’ stories through the unique visual power of photos. Our joint photo exhibit with her will be on display in the store’s gallery for you to experience yourself. She will be present to talk more about her work as a whole, and the particular stories that she is presenting.

Sarah has recently launched her hand crafted “Hope Mugs” with a portion of the proceeds going to World Relief. Her main goal is the importance of spreading joy and hope in the midst of the darkness of our world. You will be able to visit with her there and learn more about her story! Her mugs will be available for purchase at the event.

This event will be a great opportunity to learn about World Relief's work in the Memphis community and just how impactful becoming a Welcome Partner can be.

Details:

April 26th

  • When: Friday, 4 pm to 8 pm
  • Where: Comeback Coffee, 358 North Main
  • Check out the event link here.

To learn more about our Welcome Partners, click here!

To learn more about Comeback Coffee, follow them on Facebook!

 

By Nathan Spencer 

March 8, 2019

Sarah's Unique Way to Bring Hope

            Many times in life there are certain issues that one may feel passionate about yet are left lost in inaction, wondering how to help. God’s call to help the foreign-born is one oft mentioned in the Bible. But knowing how can be difficult. If you’re looking for inspiration, look no further than Sarah Brubaker and her HOPE mugs.

            Sarah’s passion for ceramics grew thanks to taking a class in college followed by a pottery vacation, after which her fire for the art was burning bright. She later moved to Memphis to help refugees by interning with Christ Community Health Center's refugee ministry services. Afterwards, she helped run a creative business (Ekata) for five years where she employed local refugees to craft unique jewelry, developing their entrepreneurial creativity and self-sufficiency. She now works at the Belltown Artisans as the Studio Manager, and runs her own business, Brukie Studio, a virtual shop of custom ceramics for remembering, celebrating, and living slowly. Reflecting on her varied experiences, she realized that running a creative business on her own could be possible.

   

         Still, her calling to help refugees remains. Using her skill and love of ceramics, she has launched her HOPE mugs. “I wanted to be able to extend the hope and freedom to dream to others.” When daydreaming about ways she could help, that word “hope” kept forming at the front of her mind. She elaborated on their stark black and white look by stating, “the light and darkness in the world. It’s hard to have hope in the darkness, but there can still be light, hope, and joy.” She decided that with every purchase of her hope mugs, she would donate $5 to World Relief. When gifting one of these mugs, you are spreading that message two-fold: The person who receives it is reminded of hope with every sip, and the proceeds help our ministry continue to serve refugees and immigrants here in Memphis.

            When asked, Sarah stated that she hopes her story can spread the message that while big donations are important, if you’re looking to help within your means, the little things matter just as much. Alone, a few dollars here and there aren’t going to change the world. But with many across the city doing their part in unique ways, change can come and help bring hope to those needing it most.

Check out Sarah’s Etsy page to purchase a hope mug today!

By Nathan Spencer, Communications Intern, University of Memphis

Photo Credit: Emily J Frazier, Emily Frazier Creative

If you want to learn about how your business can partner with World Relief Memphis, please contact our Mobilization Director Karen Spencer, kspencer@wr.org

March 8, 2019

Effective March 31, World Relief Memphis will be moving our Poplar offices out of the Deerfield Building and joining our Connect Language Center at Redeemer Baptist Fellowship, 5340 Quince Rd. We are incredibly grateful for the generous hospitality and missional alignment of Pastor Jeremy Wright and Redeemer Baptist, and we look forward to consolidating our ministry programs and staff in one location to better serve the diverse refugee, asylee, and immigrant communities throughout Shelby County as well as be more central for our various church partners.

Will you please join us in praying for the following in this transition?

  • Clear communication with all of our active resettlement and immigration legal services clients, that they know we will continue making every effort to better serve them throughout the move and afterward, and that confusion about our whereabouts be prevented

  • That our current landlord, Graber Investments, be blessed with a new tenant quickly

  • Wisdom and thoroughness as we map out the intricate details involved in a space renovation and move

  • Contractors who embrace our mission and vision as they serve both Redeemer as our new landlord, and World Relief Memphis throughout the space renovation needed to accommodate our offices

  • Financial provision for the construction materials and labor (framing, electrical, HVAC, drywall, painting). You can donate HERE.

  • Willing volunteers who will come alongside us and Redeemer for clean out and construction where possible (see photos!)

  • Protection, safety, and provision for packing and moving days at the end of March

  • Increased energy, effectiveness, and unity as a ministry team as we begin anew under one roof

 

Milam Services & CoBuilt's "CoServe" teamed up 3/2 for Bellevue Loves Memphis, installing insulation, sheetrock, and taping.

Above Left: Milam Services and the "CoServe" team from CoBuilt "CoServe" teamed up for Bellevue Loves Memphis 3/2, installing sheetrock and insulation as we convert church classroom space into new World Relief offices. 

 


Above Right: Serve901 and Grace Community School (Tyler TX) Juniors and Coach Norm Thompson finished hanging sheetrock 3/5-6. 
Top Photo: Teams from Fellowship Memphis and International Christian Fellowship came together in February to clean out the new office space and get it ready for rehab. Most participants have been attending a multi-week "Migration In Light of Scripture" class offered by World Relief and Fellowship Memphis.
 

We are personally grateful for your show of support at so many critical points in the past, and gain great confidence from believing you will be praying for us and coming alongside us during this transition as well.

If you have any questions regarding the move or connections that you believe would be helpful, please do not hesitate to reach out to us!

Grateful,

 

PJ Moore, Executive Director

February 2, 2019

Heart + Art {Celebrate Christ City's Work Around the World}

World Relief’s mission to empower the local church to serve the most vulnerable offers broad ownership and creativity to churches as they discern their unique expressions of awareness that breed love in action. So we get excited when “what if” conversations generate inclusive ways to invite others into the story of welcome.

Next Saturday, February 9, World Relief Memphis’ long-time partner Christ City Church is hosting their second annual Heart + Art banquet to celebrate and benefit their work with both World Relief Memphis and Christ City’s ministry partner in London UK! From 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm guests will be treated to beautiful art work, live music, tasty food and wine, and a live auction. Dinner will be served by Memphis’ Global Café, which not only has some of the most delicious global food in the city but entrepreneurial opportunity for several immigrant and refugee chefs to share their love of cooking.

Be sure to come out for a fun night while also supporting Christ City’s hope of pursuing justice and showing mercy at home and abroad! World Relief will have a table with more information on upcoming ways to get involved. Check out the Heart + Art ticket prices and location details down below:

Details:

When: Saturday, February 9th

Where: Central Christian Church, 531 South McLean Boulevard

Tickets: $30 for an individual ticket. $200 for an 8-person table.

Note: All ticket sales close Wednesday, February 6th so get yours today!

 

By Nathan Spencer, Communications, University of Memphis

 

August 5, 2018

When we think of biblical stories or passages about time, few of us turn to Esther. We’ll turn to Genesis, where God makes time by separating the dark from the light and the sun from the moon. We’ll look at Ecclesiastes, where the Preacher meditates on the times and seasons for everything. We’ll consider the birth of Christ, an event that, according to Paul, occurred “in the fullness of time.”

But Esther offers deep insights on timing as well. When it becomes clear that Esther will need to take a stand for her people at the risk of her life, her uncle Mordecai wonders: “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

It’s a question which resonates with many of us. “What if I am called to this ministry, this role, this position, this job, this relationship…for such a time as this?”

Important as such personal insights are, however, we must consider the context of this story if we want to thoroughly understand how it applies to us today.

During the time before the story unfolds, the Jews had been in exile, forcibly displaced migrants across borders – much like modern-day stateless refugees. In the times of Ezra and Nehemiah, many returned to Jerusalem to rebuild and resume their national identity.

But not all did. For many reasons, some remained displaced. Migration is arduous. Thousands of years later, we still see refugees trudging by foot for weeks in search of safety. And some are simply unable to make the journey, preferring the known risks of staying over the unknown risks of running.

The situation in Esther’s time was similar, if not worse. A sizeable population of immigrant Jews remained in the land of Persia, where Ahasuerus (Xerxes in some translations) was king. They were sojourners, temporary residents, foreigners or aliens without the rights of citizens.

We know the story: After the king dismisses his queen, Vashti, he begins the hunt for a new bride. Esther – an orphan in the care of her cousin Mordecai – emerges as the ideal candidate. But Esther has a secret: She is not Persian. Mordecai advises her to keep her immigrant status hidden, and Esther becomes the king’s new bride.

The plot thickens when Haman, who despises Mordecai, is promoted as the second-highest authority in the land. When Haman discovers that Mordecai is an immigrant, he devises a plan to not only execute Mordecai, but to kill all his people as well.

Imagine the fear among the immigrant community as they heard rumors about what would happen. Imagine the racial profiling that would have to take place to determine if a person was Jewish.

Mordecai, however, sees a way out. He asks Esther to reveal her identity as an immigrant and to plead with the king for her people.

Her first response is fear, but Mordecai, at the tipping point of the story, asks her to consider – is it possible that she came to the throne “for such a time as this”?

Esther listens. She advocates for her people – even at the risk of her life.

The story concludes with a happy ending, commemorated every year in the Jewish feast of Purim. The king hears her counsel, decides not to exterminate the Jews and sentences Haman to death.

Esther, a member of an immigrant community, has spoken up and defended herself and her people. And because of her fortitude, the community grows. The story concludes with many people converting to Judaism, inspired by the fasting, prayer and courage of the people.

Fast-forward to modern times. As a Christian, I don’t have any sort of physical crown or temporal royal power – but I believe I have a different type of royal position. I read the New Testament, and it tells me that I have unbelievable worth and identity as a child of God. But with that identity comes responsibility: I must speak up and put love in action.

And when I look at the book of Esther, I see many parallels to today.

I see refugees around the globe running from oppression and suffering, remaining stateless while the world watches.

I see immigrants in my community being racially profiled for the color of their skin and asked to reveal their citizenship status.

I see politicians at every level listening to unwise, unjust counsel.

I see a Christian community not taking time to listen to immigrants and learn why they have risked crossing borders to survive.

I see us choosing simplistic explanations, saying things like, “Take down the doors or walls at your house and see what that feels like” – uncharitably caricaturing the perspective of those with whom we disagree.

In short, I see us not following the way of Jesus.

Jesus fulfills all the instruction of the Old Testament on welcoming, loving and caring for the poor, the widow, the orphan and the foreigner.

Jesus never asks how anyone became hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, widowed, sick, orphaned or imprisoned.

Jesus reminds us that as His children, we have a royal duty to comfort all those longing for His compassion and mercy.

Above all, He says we will encounter Him and serve Him in the process.

In Revelation, we see Jesus as an outsider and stranger, knocking on doors and looking for shelter. “Behold,” he says, “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him and he with me.” A few verses earlier, he warns the church against sitting on the fence of indifference.

I challenge my royal brothers and sisters to understand we cannot be lukewarm. We cannot sit in comfort and complacency when God has called us to something different.

There is a time to speak up – in our families, in our friendships, in our churches, in our government – and that time is now. Join us.

 

Karen Spencer is the Mobilization Director for World Relief Memphis. An immigrant, a student of the Bible, a world-traveler, a wife and mother, she connects the dots between the beautiful people she has met the world over and the Biblical call to love them. Contact Karen at kspencer@wr.org

 

June 12, 2018

"If You Plant Early, You Harvest Early"

 

The first son of a large family, Dawood’s father raised him implementing the Afghan Proverb that "if you plant early, you harvest early." Dawood apprenticed in his father's trade and was entrusted early with responsibilities in his father's store. He married young, grew the family business, had children, went back to finish school, and started studying English. Following carefully laid plans, his life was on track: he was beginning to harvest early.  

But new conflict and war came to Afghanistan. Dawood’s business suffered and the harvest was no longer abundant. In order to provide for his family, Dawood took a risky job translating for the Coalition Forces. His careful plans to study English proved beneficial, even though those years were fraught with uncertainty. As time went on, it became evident that his family’s safety was precarious. He learned his job with the Coalition Forces made them eligible to apply for resettlement in the United States, so once again, they began making plans. It took two years for all the paperwork, background checks, medical checks, and security clearances to be completed, but Dawood and his family were relieved to receive their visas to relocate to the USA, to Memphis.  

Dawood knew before moving to the United States that America is the land of opportunity and that if he worked hard, they would make it. He remembers the night they arrived in June 2014; they were greeted by World Relief caseworkers, volunteers and new neighbors, all welcoming them. As modeled by his father, Dawood immediately began planting seeds to succeed in the United States. Step one was to support himself and his family financially. He started working full time in a warehouse loading trucks. Although he had skills to do so much more, he understood finding your first job in the United States is not easy and he was determined to do whatever required. Not long after he began working, Dawood had to have major surgery. Even though it was a setback, he sees it as a blessing that he was in the United States when he got sick and was able to receive medical care. Back home it would have gone untreated.  

Once Dawood recovered, he began "planting" and working again. He found full-time employment at another warehouse and took on another part-time job. Soon he was able to progress to step two: buying a house. After living in America for only two and a half years, Dawood and his family began to harvest from their plans and hard work. “We have experienced a better life here compared to Afghanistan. For example, our kids are in schools, we own a house, we got our rights, we have vehicles, all positive things that have happened. I am living the American dream. I never thought I could become a homeowner in two years!”

Dawood is continually motivated by his family. “Every parent hopes for their children to get an education, go to college, get a good job. My dream is for them to go to college and get a major that lets them serve the United States and Afghanistan.” He is teaching them to plant early for their future and prays that war does not disrupt their harvest. Dawood has also decided to return to school to complete his bachelor's' degree. He knows education is important and is applying what he is teaching his children to himself.  

Before arriving in the United States, Dawood was afraid that he would not be able to worship freely here, that it would be challenging to be an immigrant and begin a new life with his family. But resettling in the U.S. was a blessing they never imagined possible. With help from World Relief, intentional planning, planting and hard work, they have adjusted well to life in the U.S. and this new culture - including new freedoms - discovering a community filled with friendship and love. Their journey has been long. Things did not all go as planned, but he and his family are thriving in this new place. They have been able to worship freely and Dawood’s family never take their new freedom for granted. “Freedom is a gift of God for humans,” he reflects. And only four years after setting foot on American soil, his family is harvesting early.

 

Catherine Gross, World Relief Memphis

Photos by Emily Frazier Creative

 

June is Refugee Awareness Month and Immigrant Heritage Month. As we share stories about our newest residents in Memphis, help us welcome refugees and immigrants by joining us as an Advocate. Learn more at bit.ly/WRMAdv6.