In tumultuous times it can be tempting to feel helpless. What can one person do against an onslaught of existential circumstances and fears? Sometimes, it simply requires asking God for direction and purpose. His plans may not be clear initially, but with a leap of faith, beautiful things can happen. This is true for our amazing volunteer Cindy, who through many small leaps of faith and unrelenting prayer, has become a catalyst of hope for refugees in Memphis.
Born and raised in the 901, Cindy was first introduced to local refugees in early 2017 when friend Vickey Smith (a World Relief volunteer) called asking if she could bring three Muslim Afghan women to a concert Cindy was performing at. Around the same time, as she was reading through her One-Year-Bible, Cindy realized how often God calls us to assist the orphans and foreigners. Inspired, she began searching for ways to reach out in Memphis. Soon after, she learned more about World Relief through Vickey and reached out to inquire about our volunteer orientation. Unsure of how next to become involved, she began asking God for guidance. “'Show me if, and how, you want me to help with World Relief.' I prayed this for a year and then they opened (ESL classes) down the street from my house,” she recalls.
She felt clarity in that moment and became involved with us through our Jobs Readiness English classes. She began fostering relationships with clients through providing transportation. After a client’s English tutor was diagnosed with cancer, Cindy stepped in to help. When our Connect Language Center opened, she continued supporting students through transportation, but also earned her ConnecTEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate through our program. As she got to know the ladies she was driving and interacting with in ESL classes, Cindy went beyond her volunteer commitments to regularly check on families she was befriending. Connect Language Center Operations Manager Bailey Longserre shared that because of Cindy’s faithful friendliness, she “has turned into someone these women truly see as a friend they can count on. So much more than just a ride, but the person they call for connection. Cindy's peaceful presence I know has been a gift for so many women!”
Earlier this winter, Cindy championed our “Resilient” sewing career training course by generating client interest among the refugee ladies she had befriended. With the Covid-19 outbreak, the in-person sewing classes are temporarily on hold, but for Cindy, it was just another opportunity to trust God.
When the Safer-At-Home orders went into effect, Cindy committed the women in this sewing program to prayer. One night, she found a YouTube video explaining how to sew facemasks to help protect against the virus. She shared this video and by the next day, two of her refugee friends in the program were hard at work sewing masks for themselves, their families, and others. She shared that the women lit up at the opportunity to sew these masks and have greatly enjoyed doing so over the past several weeks. Cindy has also helped deliver these masks to those who have asked for them. Through her faithfulness, Cindy has stimulated a meaningful at-home activity that has blessed hundreds of people across this city.
When asked for reflections about her volunteering experiences with us, Cindy shared the following: “What God is doing in my life with these refugees, it has been the hugest joy in my life. I’ve known the Lord since I was 26 and have had a lot of ups and downs since then. But this has been one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done.”
In a time of bleak circumstances and increasing uncertainties, knowing we have ultimate security in God and his divine plan is a comfort we should never take for granted. Thankfully, we have people like Cindy who have shown us beautiful things that come by prayerfully looking for the path the Lord has invited us to follow. Her willingness to search for refugee neighbors to welcome and serve have brought about transformation in both her life and theirs.
By Nathan Spencer
(Read another volunteer spotlight story HERE.)
Join World Relief Memphis HERE as we respond to the local impact of the COVID19 Crisis, equipping and coordinating volunteers and churches (like Cindy) seeking to love their neighbors by responding to urgent refugee and immigrant community needs. Want to learn more about volunteering? Learn about our current volunteer opportunities HERE.