On Saturday, December 8, 2012, more than 200 refugees gathered at our Welcome to the Neighborhood photography event to celebrate their different cultures and build relationships with volunteers. The afternoon featured free photographs of refugees, food, and a talent show.
As refugees arrived, they were greeted by roughly 60 volunteers. During the two hours of the event, refugees had their pictures taken by five different photographers, who freely donated their skills and time. They also performed in the talent show to showcase their cultures. The performances featured traditional Burmese dancing and song and music from Sudanese and other refugees.
The event was more than successful because God did immeasurably more than we anticipated. We planned for only 50 refugees to come, but more than 200 showed up at the event. Refugees were connected to our volunteers, who will help them continue to adapt to American culture, even after World Relief releases them. Also, Welcome to the Neighborhood served as a tangible example of how World Relief strives to partner with the local church to serve the most vulnerable.
This event would not have been possible without the help of the Church of the Good Shepherd, Cresset Baptist Church, and Vintage Church, all who gave their time, resources, and money to serve area refugees. These churches provided transportation for resettled refugees, facilities, door prizes and clothing and supplies donations. We are so thankful to all of our many volunteers and contributors who made so much of this day possible. Our photographers at the event were phenomenal: Nathan Clendennin, Emily Nycum, Brett Seay, Whitney Ford, and Nathan Mah.
The need for volunteers and resources here at World Relief of the Triangle is continuous. However, today we need immediate help. One of our refugee families, who is hard at work participating in ESL and job training classes, is in dire need of financial assistance. Family members recently lost their jobs, and need financial assistance to cover their basic life needs while in the process of searching for new employment.
If you would be willing to provide financial assistance, please contact our resettlement director, Lark Walters at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The UN refugee agency recently released a report on the status of refugees worldwide in 2011, noting some particular trends. I want to highlight two disconcerting trends. First, in the words of the report: "2011 saw suffering on an epic scale:" the number of displaced persons stayed above 42 million for the fifth straight year.
The report also shows that the number of people returning to their home country has remained low while the number of resettlements to a third country (like the USA) have continued to decrease.
As the summary says, "a person who becomes a refugee is likely to remain as one for many years – often stuck in a camp or living precariously in an urban location."
To draw all this together: at a time when forced displacement remains incredibly high and the ability to return home remains low, the only remaining option out of this precarious existence, namely resettlement, has been steadily declining.
We've felt this decline in our office, watching fewer refugees able to come over, especially families. The decreased number of arrivals, due to added security checks, came at a time of financial crisis and rising anti-immigrant sentiments, making the cuts seem desirable to many. Yet, the result, as the report shows, has been to leave more people stranded in precarious situations with no way out.
What should we do?
As Christians, we should reflect on our priorities. It is easy to give some out of our plenty but when resources are less abundant, generosity costs more. Yet, caring for the marginalized, persecuted, and displaced is central throughout the whole Bible: Jesus himself was a refugee in Egypt! We have to ask ourselves the very tough question: do the poorest and most vulnerable bear the brunt of our cutbacks? And, what does this mean when Jesus repeatedly identifies himself with the most vulnerable? We also need to get involved. Refugee programs depend on community support. So, find ways to give and get involved. If you are volunteering, please fill out and submit monthly volunteer logs so we can document the community support! Finally, advocate. We can use our voices to let government officials know that the refugee resettlement programs remain a vital humanitarian effort as well as a blessing to our country, state, and city. Karim, a refugee our office resettled, talked about all this in terms of friendship. In an interview, he said,
"the refugee is a tired person coming a long way who needs rest and support." Later in the conversation, when talking about the U.S., the theme of friendship returned: "I think the United States of America and the American people are looking for real friends." We prayerfully examine our lives, give, engage, and advocate, ultimately, because Christ calls us to be friends, to love our neighbors as ourselves.
It’s only May but think all the way to the end of August, when you realize summer is over despite the lingering heat. What will you have done with your summer? At World Relief, we are praying that God will put it on the hearts of many people to take some extra time this summer to think about and live into international missions, right here, with our refugee neighbors. As we always try to remind ourselves and our church partners in the Triangle:
Our Mission starts HERE and begins NOW. Join us on May 24th for an overview of our work with international refugees and details about how you, your family, your small group, and your entire church can embrace the mission on our doorstep.
When: Thursday, May 24th, 7-8.30p
Where: Church of the Good Shepherd (3741 Garrett Road Durham, NC 27707).
Please email me (email@example.com) so I can let you know the details (we’ll be in the conference room but you might need a map to find it!).
a Biblical perspective on loving all our immigrant neighbors." We have some other ways you can help us with the event, by volunteering:
Set-Up: at 6p, we'll start getting the building ready (putting note cards on every seat for people to write their questions, etc).
Greeters / Ushers: at 6.30p, we'll have greeters there to welcome people, answer questions, hand them a flyer with volunteer opportunities. The greeters will then help us pick up the note cards with audience questions and sort them for the Q&A time.
Clean-Up, 9-10p: Church of the Good Shepherd is letting us use their building for free. We'll be putting tables back where they belong, picking up trash, and otherwise straightening the building. Please email Tim McGee at TMcGee@wr.org to help.
We're excited and thankful to have Matt Soerens and local leaders gather together to talk about loving all our immigrant neighbors. But we need your help. If you are excited about this event, please take a few minutes and help us out by praying and spreading the word. Prayer: please pray for Matt's travels, for the pastors gathering together Friday morning, and for everyone on Friday night to listen and respond to one another in Christ's love. Please invite all your local friends to the event through our facebook event and ask them to invite others too.This is probably the easiest and best way to help spread the word. Here are a few more ways to help spread the word:You can use these tweets / status updates (or write your own):
- What does it mean to love your neighbor when 1 out of 5 Durham residents speak a language other than English at home? http://worldrelief.org/durham/welcomingthestranger
- If you love God, love the Bible, and want to love your immigrant neighbor, check out this event by @wrdurham: http://worldrelief.org/durham/welcomingthestranger
- What does the Bible say about immigration and loving immigrants? This isn't *the* answer but is a good place to begin: http://worldrelief.org/durham/welcomingthestranger
Flyers: we have full and half sheet flyers you can print off. Bring a stack to pass out to friends at church this Sunday. Blog: please re-post or re-blog either this or our previous post about why we're excited. Short blurb (to include in emails, facebook invites, etc):
Did you know that 1 out of 7 Durham residents are foreign born? World Relief Durham is hosting an event on April 27th (7-9p) to help churches consider what it means to love our immigrant neighbors, especially when “immigration” has become such a volatile topic. The event, called "Welcoming The Stranger," will be at Church of the Good Shepherd in Durham and will include a time for audience questions. Matt Soerens, a national speaker and author from World Relief (and the National Association of Evangelicals), will be the main presenter. Details can be found on their website: www.wr.org/durham/welcomingthestranger.
[if you are not in Durham and want a broader statistic you can let people know that 1 out of 8 US residents are foreign-born].
Volunteer: we will need people to help us set-up Friday evening and clean up after the event. This is a great chance to serve with your small group. Email TMcGee@wr.org for more info.
Thanks for all your help!
We need everyone's help promoting our "Welcoming the Stranger" event on 4/27 and so we wanted to give you a list of a few reasons why we think this event is so important and exciting for evangelical churches in the Triangle. In no particular order, here are a few reasons: Why It's Important:
- only 9% of Protestants claim that their faith is the biggest influence in thinking about immigration.
- the future of the church in N. America depends on immigrants:
- immigrant churches are the fastest growing churches in the US
- by 2050, White Americans will no longer be the majority of residents in the US
- Through Christ, the Church does not respond out of fear but with love (1 John 4:18), which requires concrete relationships with others, not avoidance.
- Our own salvation depends on "foreigners" (Gentiles) being welcomed into another people, Israel (Eph. 2:11-22), who were themselves "foreigners" in Egypt (Lev 19:33-34).
Why We're Excited:
- Over 12 churches and organizations have joined us as co-sponsors.
- Matt Soerens is a knowledgeable, experienced, and disarming speaker on these matters.
- A panel with local experts will be answering your questions (a Q&A time after Matt speaks).
- We'll highlight ways you can concretely love and serve your immigrant neighbors (volunteer opportunities).
How You Can Help:
- Pray. Pray that people would come and that Christ will be present and glorified.
- email your pastors and church leaders: invite them to the pastors breakfast and ask them to promote the event to the church.
- volunteer (we'll need help setting up and cleaning up the event; you can also volunteer with us to work with refugees and immigrants in the Triangle). Email firstname.lastname@example.org to volunteer.
Thank you for all your help. Here's a short video for World Relief's "Mission on Our Doorstep" conference that happened in March:
RACE DAY is almost here. In case you've missed it, here are a few practical details.
1) This is part of the Great Human Race, so there will be quite a large crowd of people. Here's a map of the event: http://www.thevolunteercenter.org/graphics/UploadFile/5299/NGmap_.pdf
2) Meet us at the World Relief Durham table before 8a. At 8a, we'll be walking to the main stage for the opening ceremony at 8.15. We'll have a big sign, so you can find us there too.
3) We never heard from anyone on shirts, so I will be wearing a red shirt and encourage others to do the same.
4) If you haven't registered for the competitive run, you can do so starting at 7a for $30. For us walking, the event is free. 5) Please encourage everyone you know to support our efforts. http://www.active.com/donate/ghr2012/worldreliefdurham We can keep receiving donations through April, so if you haven't asked your friends to support you for what you will do, you can ask them to support you for what you did!
Are you driving anywhere for your spring break? If so, you can help potential victims of human trafficking while you drive. How?
It's really simple. Download this packet with posters focused on labor and sex trafficking. Every poster has the human trafficking hotline that people can call to report tips or seek help for themselves. Print posters off. Buy tape. And then just drive to your destination.
Put the posters up in the bathrooms at truck stops, gas stations, and restaurants along the way. Sex trafficking often happens at truck stops and people who are victims of labor trafficking are often moved from place to place throughout the state. It's really that easy. While you are at it, use facebook and twitter to spread the word to your friends about the reality of human trafficking in North Carolina. Tag us to let us know what you're doing!
Here's an overview of the Poster Project on Prezi (thanks World Relief High Point!).
Make sure to check out our post on our 5k walk for more information and resources to use as you drive for justice this Spring Break.
GUEST BLOG POST, FROM NATHAN CLENDENIN. ORIGINAL VERSION CAN BE FOUND HERE. USED WITH PERMISSION (and gratitude!). Since Help Portrait started a few years ago, I’ve wanted to be part of something like that: giving away photos to those who’d never otherwise be able to have them done. I was always a bit daunted by the organizational/event planning type stuff that would go into pulling something like that off. Fortunately, World Relief Durham decided to put one together, and Stephen Garrett, Carolyn VanHouten and I jumped on the idea! We also met some really great photographers at the event, which was held at All Saints Church. These first two guys are both from Kenya but didn’t know each other until they met here as refugees and became fast friends. I believe they said they’ve been here about 6 months. I’m terrible with remembering names, especially ones I hard a hard time understanding in the first place… But two really nice guys. This young man is from Bhutan. In between groups we had a little bit of fun…
This last image I did from the parking lot because Janga (the man sitting proudly on his moped) showed up a little bit late. Luckily, Stephen and I were still talking shop in the parking lot and were able to take his picture. Kudos to Stephen for convincing Janga to bring his moped into the photo and turn on the head light! That’s his daughter with the guitar. They’re from Bhutan and have been here for two years. They seem to be doing very well.
Can’t wait for next year! [UPDATE: Photos from other photographers are up. Check them out. ~WRD]