Meet Mark Finney, World Relief Spokane’s New Director
Q: How were you first involved with World Relief and what brought you to the organization?
A: I first came here as a case manager, or resettlement specialist, in the Reception & Placement office. I knew about World Relief from my previous work in the community and I was very interested in World Relief Spokane as the hub of the international, multicultural element of the local community. I grew up in the area and so I realize there has not always been a lot of diversity in Spokane. When I moved back a little over a year ago I noticed a difference. I started asking questions and several people said the change is largely related to refugees coming through World Relief. I have a passion for multicultural work, so when I found myself looking for a job, I wanted to get involved with World Relief Spokane.
Q: Tell me a little about your academic and work background.
A: Most of my academic and work training is related to ministry. I completed my bachelor’s in communication at Whitworth and spent a couple years as a youth pastor. I went on to grad school, seminary, and got a masters degree in theology. I worked at the same time at a church doing pastoral ministry and stayed there for a couple more years after my degree as well—including a year serving as a pastor in Thailand. I had a hard time getting launched into a ministry career after the recession, though, and I eventually got a job actually working for the seminary I had attended doing administration. During that time I also started a PhD in theology. I stayed in admin, business, leadership and ministry work all at the same time.
We moved back to Spokane in December 2015, to plant a church with my denomination, the Evangelical Covenant Church. Some things changed after I got here so the church plant did not work out, and that’s what led me to World Relief.
I have leadership and administrative experience, and I think like a pastor. That is part of what I bring to this job; I want to be an effective organizational leader and I want to think pastorally for how we can create a healthy, mission-minded Christian community in this office. I also want to empower local churches in Spokane.
Q: As a previous case manager, what is one memory that you will never forget?
A: There are a lot of them! I think meeting people at the airport is one of the most powerful moments. Being there to welcome new refugees and seeing them walk down the stairs and into America for the first time is a very powerful experience. Another thing I will never forget, and hope to continue to do often, is share meals with refugees. In their homes or mine, an amazing connection happens when you share some food, some stories, and some laughter. It makes me realize how small the world is and how we are all so similar. Even if we come from completely different places, or speak different languages, we are all made of the same stuff.
Q: What is your favorite part about working at World Relief?
A: The staff. There are great people that work here and I love interacting with them on a daily basis. I also love that this is meaningful and important work. I have a deep conviction that what we do at World Relief Spokane really, really matters. There are thousands of refugees in Spokane who are almost invisible in our community. Our office has the opportunity to give voice to their stories. We have an opportunity to shape the Spokane community’s understanding and perception of refugees–those who want to come to America and those who are already here. That feels to me to be very important in this critical, contentious time.
I would like to end by reasserting our mission: we are an evangelical Christian nonprofit organization that is committed to standing with the vulnerable. We do this largely because that is the model given by Jesus. We believe Jesus stood with and for us in our moments of greatest need, and he calls us to do the same for other people. That’s why World Relief Spokane exists and that’s why we are going to continue to serve our community. We are going to help churches grow as they seek to get more involved with refugees, and to help refugees who are here (or who will come here) to have the support and love of the faith community and the larger city of Spokane.