Today was our last Exchange! After a beautiful Mother’s Day weekend in Denver… Sandi with her daughter and family, and Cherie with an old college friend who is a mother of 2… we were ready to wrap up our official tour. We met at Light of the Nations Church where 13 different ethnic groups gather to worship. There were 12 of us for this morning Exchange and we hosted community leaders from six different organizations. One of them was DenverRescue Mission, a homeless ministry that partners with a resettlement agency to provide support for new refugee families. And International Neighbors Network who match international students with refugee kids to tutor and help with homework. We heard lots of other great ideas too!
Colorado resettles 1000-2000 refugees every year. There are 5 different resettlement agencies– Ecumenical Refugee Services, African Community Services, Jewish Family, Lutheran Family Services, and Catholic Charities. And there are almost a dozen Christian organizations reaching out to these new Americans.
We are headed home now, and while we are not looking forward to the hundred degree temps that await us, we are excited to finally unpack and sleep in a familiar bed. There is still lots more work to be done as we follow up on these important new connections we have across the US. We also plan to hold a Tucson Exchange in early June when we can bring all the folks in our desert city together to hear some of the good ideas and best practices we have recorded, and perhaps to discover new ones among refugee workers who we already know and love but never get to see. (more…)
(from Cherie | Kansas City)
(Side note…to paraphrase Cherie’s disclaimer before writing this particular update… she wanted to note: I can’t really think straight tonight I’m so exhausted. So this is me offering what little i have before i crash. Please keep the ladies in prayer as they wrap up the end of the tour and face a solid time of reprieve, recuperating, processing and debriefing with their homebase team in Tucson.)
Tonight it was another small, intimate gathering, and that was okay with us because we are pretty worn out. But what a neat group of folks! They are all followers of Jesus who have deep relationships with refugee families. There were 3 organizations represented, including a huge church who invite 32 different nations to worship with them, and a couple of folks who do incarnational ministry among Nepali refugees. A couple planning to move to Africa also came to join us for the Exchange. It gave them new insight to the value of international outreach in America. They were delightful contributors saying they gained so much and also learned about the Nations coming here. We all shared some ideas and stories and some really great fellowship.
We also got to visit a restaurant today that is a business to help refugees and to share Kingdom truths. One of the employees is a Muslim follower of Jesus and comes from a family of generations of bread bakers. He bakes the bread, and they sell it to several international restaurants and businesses in town, and now they have opened a cafe as well. It was the best shawarma I have ever tasted! May God make this business prosper.
After a long drive and lots of delays, we found our way to Faith Church in Indianapolis, Indiana. We walked in and were greeted warmly by Steve & Joan Eisinger. Eight years ago they returned from living in Turkey and were surprised and blessed to find a whole community of Meskhetian (Ahuska) Turks who were refugees and just happen to live right across the street from their church. Steve & Joan are fluent in Turkish, so they really found fast friends in this international neighborhood and made lots of visits and drank a lot of tea. Then they started an English class for their Turkish friends, recruiting church volunteers to teach and take care of children. Now, eight years later, their English class program has grown quite a bit. They welcome 244 adults and 162 kids who all represent 32 countries, and this is all accomplished through 99 volunteers who give their time once a week to be a friend to refugees and help them learn basic English language skills. Wow… it was a beautiful sight to see! So many people, so many countries, so many languages, so many religions all in one place learning and laughing together. A glimpse of heaven! God is so good.
(a few more thoughts about this experience from Sandi)… (more…)
Today was the best Exchange yet! We met in a small apartment that a refugee ministry has rented in an apartment complex where refugees live, and they use it as an office. It was the perfect size… nice and cozy. We had about 20 attend, and they were all excited to share with each other and to hear what we are doing. It seemed like most of them didn’t know each other, and it was exciting to watch them learn what one another was doing. Today we also had an opportunity to share more about what we are doing in our hometown, and people seemed to really like to hear it. We have been playing around with our agenda and tweaking it each time and it seems to get better.