Giving Tuesday! Every gift is matched twice– learn more how

GivingTuesday“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” – 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 (NIV)

#GivingTuesday is in full effect today. Consider #GivingHOPE to those in need of HOPE this Giving Season. Visit, to join us!  GiveHopeCards2For questions, concerns, or comments please contact Angie Funnell, Ministry Development Specialist, at (509) 321-1879 or


Enter into His Gates with Thanksgiving

givethanksWritten by: Mark Kadel, Director of World Relief Spokane

Thanksgiving time always gives us an opportunity to stop and express our thankfulness for the many blessings in our lives. The Bible tells us in Colossians 3:15, “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you are called in one body; and be thankful.”

But do we only show thankfulness when we truly feel thankful? Many times we need to have a bit of a “perspective change” in order to truly express our gratitude for all the many blessings we may not always remember to appreciate in our lives. We choose what perspective to view all the different circumstances in our lives. Whether they are joyous ones or disappointments; we choose how we respond and the attitude we take each and every day. In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, we read, “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

I admit that I have often thought, “Well, this is great advice in theory, but much more difficult in practice. How can we be thankful for the situations in our lives that cause us anguish, discomfort, stress, anger or even heartbreak?” Sometimes, the best answer is to look at our situation through different lenses. For example, in the work we do here at World Relief Spokane, we welcome refugees who have suffered great calamity in their lives each week at our Spokane airport. Although World Relief is not the agency that actually brings refugees in our city, we are the designated national agency to welcome them and assist in their initial resettlement process. Refugees arrive from a wide variety of circumstances and histories. From those who are well educated, perhaps with PhDs in their home countries and speaking four or five languages, to those whose only experience in life is trying to survive and carve out a living in the jungles of SE Asia or the deserts of Africa. Most refugees fall somewhere in the middle of these extremes, but all share one common, overwhelming response to finally arriving in Spokane, WA after an exhausting journey from deplorable conditions in a refugee camp. It is this common response that I choose to remember whenever I feel it is difficult to be thankful for my present situation.

Now, if you have read this far, you may be asking what is this common response I speak of? It is one of true thankfulness. Imagine you have lived under extreme persecution from your government, your neighbors, and maybe even your own relatives and you have to leave your home, your country, your friends, and your belongings in the middle of the night. How would you feel? Where would you go? Many of the estimated 54 million displaced people in the world today actually experience running for their lives to a place of perceived safety. This place of refuge is usually a refugee camp where they wait and wait until some sort of viable solution can be found for them. How long do they wait you may wonder? The average length of time a refugee waits in a refugee camp before a change in the country they fled from allows them to return or a third county like the U.S. grants them asylum to be resettled, is 17 years! Think on that time span for a moment. If our current struggles with daily life lasted 17 years, I imagine we would also know how to be truly thankful to arrive in a place that we can finally call home, find peace, support our families and educate our children. This is what we see and experience on a weekly basis at World Relief.

Once we compare our lives with those who show true thankfulness of just being alive and arriving at a place of safety, it allows us an opportunity for a “perspective change.” This Thanksgiving season, let’s choose to be thankful for the many, many blessings we sometimes take for granted while living in this country and city. And if you ever come across a recently arrived refugee, ask him or her to share with you why they are so thankful to be accepted through the U.S. refugee resettlement program and living in Spokane. It may change your perspective for the better! It may also encourage to follow the biblical principle in Psalms 100:4, “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.”

World Relief Spokane is thankful for our faithful supporters– we give thanks for you! We praise God for His faithfulness and provision. This holiday season, let us #StandForTheVulnerable together in joy and hope.

WR Intern Spotlight!

There is a special position here at World Relief Spokane and Megan Coates is front and center. Megan is our Anti-Trafficking intern and she comes all the way from New York. She was a Human Services student at Alfred State College when she was approached by her pastor at her local church in Rochester, NY who told her about this position. The Anti-Trafficking internship is a partnership with the Set Free Movement (the Free Methodist Church’s response to modern-day slavery) and World Relief. Megan

As an Anti-Trafficking intern, she works with three local churches (Opportunity Christian Fellowship, Timberview Christian Fellowship and First Free Methodist) and their freedom teams to help stop trafficking in their specific communities. She also works at the World Relief office with The Coalition to Abolish Human Trafficking in the Inland Northwest.

When asked ‘What’s your favorite part about working here at World Relief?’ Megan said, “My coworkers. They’re so fun to be around. It’s a very relaxed environment where everyone knows their job. It’s calm, but the staff knows what to do and how to do it well, and nothing less is acceptable.”

When asked ‘What’s your favorite part about World Relief as an organization?’ Megan said, “They help people in their most desperate time. Whether it’s a refugee or a trafficking victim, as an organization, they help those people who calling for need.”

When asked ‘What kind of message do you want to put out there, as an anti-trafficking intern?” Megan said,’ trafficking is more prevalent than people realize. It happens in every country, even though these countries have laws against slavery. I enjoy going to high schools, giving presentations and just imparting knowledge to people who didn’t know these facts before they sat down and listened. I was talking to someone who knew it existed, and just didn’t turn her eye to it, and my thought to her was ‘How could you not want to turn your eye towards something like this? Wouldn’t that make you a contributor?’

When asked ‘What do you hope to take away from this internship, and just working at World Relief in general?’ Megan said, “I hope that wherever life leads me, this experience will be a part of whom I am. For example, if I end up working at a grocery store, I can tell my coworkers to buy Fair Trade Chocolate because of the certain benefits it holds to the message I am trying to give. I just hope this will always be a part of how I live and will help me continue to be more aware.”

For more information about our Anti-Trafficking Department or The Coalition to Abolish Human Trafficking in the Inland Northwest please visit: or 

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer or applying for an internship like Megan’s, please connect with our Volunteer and Internship Coordinator, Johnna Nickoloff! you can sign up for an orientation online!

Finding a health plan could invoke an unknowing temptation to break the law

Written by: Jennifer Gruver (Managing Attorney Citizenship and Immigration Legal Service)

Have you heard of toxic health insurance?

Recently one of our refugees came to the office and handed over a piece of white paper folded in half with postage stamped from Seattle. Across the top left corner were green and black letters “washington healthplanfinder.” Most of our clients know they can throw away mail that is not mailed to them by name (junk mail), but since this was addressed to his full name, this client took the communication seriously.

Inside the newsletter-style mailer, in nine different languages and in bold type was the question: “Are you registered to vote? What a nice idea. The state health plan finder making sure the voices of the most vulnerable are counted and heard in our diverse democracy. Nothing inside the literature had anything to do with health.

Here’s the problem. It is unlawful to vote unless you are a United States Citizen. A non-citizen who registers to vote and or votes in a federal or state election will not be eligible to become a citizen. How ironic is that? A noncitizen who is convicted of unlawful voting may be fined, imprisoned up to one year, or both, and subject to being deported from the United States. [1] Furthermore, in order to register to vote, a person must indicate that he or she is a citizen. And this act also constitutes a big “no-no” for refugees and permanent residents.

A noncitizen who is convicted of making a false claim to U.S. citizenship in order to register to vote or vote may be fined, imprisoned up to five years, or both, and subject to removal. [2]

This is no small potatoes. Five years imprisonment! You may wonder why any non-citizen would ever intentionally break voting laws. Is there really a big gold nugget in there somewhere? (Maybe, but voter fraud is another matter.) The truth is, refugees probably wouldn’t even know how to break voter registration laws, except in cases where the state provides the perfect opportunity to do so by mail, without fanfare. A wolf in sheep’s clothing.

On the right side of the inside of the mailer are the familiar government-style lines and boxes labelled with such unobtrusive requests as last name, first name, date of birth, address and such. And at the bottom, a place to sign.

If non-native English speakers waited to learn the US legal system before proceeding forward with things like health insurance, nothing would ever get done. Imagine your own self in the middle of Baghdad or Khartoum trying to figure out what those little squiggly Arabic lines moving from left to right mean and how they relate to whether you’ll receive medical care if your moped crashes. Thus, when a health insurance document comes in the mail bearing the familiar markings of health insurance and asks for info that can easily be provided, the average refugee or immigrant of self-sufficiency and good character fills it out and returns it.

Upon completion of the form, the mailer is folded in the opposite direction and the addressee appearing on that side is, “Washington State Elections Division.”

Thus the refugee or permanent resident is registered to vote!

But does this unlawful voter registration really happen and do people who shouldn’t be voting really go through the trouble? The answer is yes. Just this year, one of our clients was denied citizenship because he voted. Nine times. He swore he never registered to vote, never voted, under oath! He signed the voter ballots nine times. I’m sure the first time he registered, at the DMV or through the mail, he figured that workers employed by the government wouldn’t be offering him to do something illegal. You’d think that to be a reasonable assumption.

We will certainly alert the state health plan finder about this particular piece of literature. No doubt they did not intend their well-meaning voting encouragement to be poison to our clients. Still, as we make our officials more aware of this problem, maybe we who interact with and love an immigrant or refugee can share stories and pass on the antidote: Become a United States Citizen first, then get out to vote!


[World Relief Spokane’s Immigration and Legal Services Department offers drop in hours, Monday and Wednesday from 9 am to 4 pm to discuss all legal and Citizenship matters. Call 509.321.0327 for more information].

(1) 18 U.S.C. 611
(2) 18 U.S.C. 1015(f)

Learning the Culutral Rope

This blog post originally appeared on the Spokane County Library District’s website at

Written by: Gwendolyn Haley, Spokane Library Service Manager

Many years ago, my husband Greg and I lived in China for 18 months. While it was an exciting adventure, at times it was incredibly lonely to be surrounded by a strange (to us) culture, and people speaking a language we didn’t understand. I remember walking through an outdoor food market and feeling a wave of homesickness as I was confronted by unfamiliar sights, sounds, and smells at every turn. I started to cry and left without buying anything. Over time we learned to speak the language and navigate the market, and other places. We made friends, and Yangzhou began to feel like home. Even so, always at the back of my mind was the promise that we would be returning to Spokane in a few months.

I think that the experience of being a stranger in a strange land is what led our family to begin volunteering with local refugee organizations. Who is a refugee?  Refugees are people who have been forced to leave their home country and who are unable to return because they are at risk for persecution due to race, nationality, religion or membership in a political social group or political opinion.

Learning the Cultural Ropes by Gwendolyn Haley | Spokane County Library District

For a refugee family arriving in Spokane, the first few weeks are a whirlwind. Refugees arrive with limited personal possessions. Their language, skills and backgrounds are widely varied—from zero English and education to highly skilled and fluent in English. World Relief assists with the initial resettlement establishing housing, basic needs, and enrollment in English classes. Volunteers (like those serving on Good Neighbor teams) help by collecting basic household items to help get the family set up in their new home.

Learning the Cultural Ropes by Gwendolyn Haley | Spokane County Library District

Learning the Cultural Ropes by Gwendolyn Haley | Spokane County Library District

Our Congolese friends arrived last December in the middle of the night. I stayed home to set up beds while Greg and other volunteers met them at the airport with warm winter coats (December in Spokane bears no resemblance to the Congo). The mother and oldest child went directly to the hospital, as the oldest required medical evaluation. The father and son came first to our home, as their new home would not be ready until morning. Since they had been travelling for over 30 hours, we offered them something to eat. The father later told Greg that it felt strange to have a man serve food to him. The little boy sat at our table and watched, wide eyed, as I peeled an orange for him. I’m pretty sure that I was the oddity—not the orange. While we couldn’t say much, we communicated what we could with smiles.

The next day, the family moved into their home, and over the next few weeks we began to get to know them. Greg tried to visit at least once a week, sometimes taking our children with him. Other volunteers from the Good Neighbor team did the same. Having friends visit regularly to answer questions and help navigate things like going to the grocery store, learning to use the bus system, enrolling kids in school, and packing lunches is a huge help. Things that we take for granted everyday are new and can be overwhelming and confusing. We’ve learned where to go if you need to pay your utility bill in person. One couple that volunteered with us is particularly good at making any visit feel like a party. They brought games to play, like Uno, and spent time interacting. Sharing meals together was a simple way to connect, and our Congolese friends liked to have us join them.

Learning the Cultural Ropes by Gwendolyn Haley | Spokane County Library District

Spokane welcomes hundreds of refugees each year. World Relief, Global Neighborhood, and Refugee Connections all provide opportunities to get involved. Anyone can find something to offer a refugee family.  Some people really get excited about helping teach English, while some may gravitate toward the more practical side of things, navigating systems and physical needs.

Over the last few years, we have been privileged to make friends with 3 different families. While each came here from a different homeland, we have been able to build bridges between our families and between our cultures. We have watched families improve their language skills, find employment, and navigate Spokane like they’ve been here forever. We have celebrated weddings, births, and children graduating high school. We have stood witness to people rebuilding their lives after leaving everything they knew and loved behind in their former homeland. And we have gained lifelong friends.

A Moving Experience

Written by: Chase Crouch (World Relief Spokane Marketing Intern)

Today was an exceedingly special day. As an intern, I believe the general attitude to have towards your job is anything but predictable. Well, that is truly the case with a Move-In. Firstly, let me point out how great our Resettlement and Placement team is. I’ve only been here for about a month, and already see how wonderful and dedicated our team is. With the case workers, who seem to always be on top of it, to our Resource team, Robert Malone and Chris Liss, who do the heavy-lifting for these thankful families.

We arrived at the settlement location, where a refugee couple from Cuba had just finished signing their lease. We walked into the apartment, which was very put-together. The apartment was remodeled, with new carpets, paint, and linoleum. The smell of fresh paint hit us as we walked in, and that’s when I knew we were in for business.

When I first heard about World Relief’s resettlement program, I assumed these refugees set up in refugee-specific homes. I was wrong; World Relief makes it a goal to assimilate these refugees as best as possible, and resettling them in everyday apartment homes is key to making this happen. Once a family or individual arrives in the United States, their basic instinct is fear of the unknown. I feel it is World Relief’s job to make life a little easier for them, causing that fear to deteriorate.

As we move the furniture into the house, the look on each refugee’s face was priceless. The awe in their eyes reflected how thankful they were to be here in the United States, and that immediately put smiles on our faces. As we brought in different pieces, the wife would make comments on how perfect each item was. In a different language of course, but the expression was universal, and we knew exactly what she meant.

We finished putting all of the furniture inside the apartment, and gave them a little tutorial of some of the household appliances, such as the vacuum. It’s very overwhelming to think about what kind of things we take advantage of in the US, and if we were to look at it from their perspective, using an everyday vacuum, is like venturing into the unknown for them.

Working at World Relief has been a great experience so far. I’ve proclaimed myself as a sponge, just letting this internship fill my head with knowledge and information that I knew almost nothing about before taking on this challenge. Going on move-ins, helping out with refugee simulations, and just being another input to their system of love has been entirely rewarding in every way, possible.

Below are pictures from the Move-In, Case Managers welcomed a newly arrived Cuban family to their new home!


If you have any questions about an item you would like to donate or would like to schedule a donation pick up or drop off,  please contact Resource Manager, Robert Malone at All donations made to World Relief are tax deductible. World Relief Spokane reserves the right to decline any donation. Please visit for more information about donations!

Additionally, if you the reader are interested or know someone who may be interested in pursuing an internship with World Relief Spokane, visit to learn more! A volunteer agency, staff at World Relief cannot fulfill our mission to serve the vulnerable without the help of the local community.

Refugees: Hidden Treasures

Written by: Hannah Bemis (Wife of World Relief Spokane Case Manager, Jordan Bemis)

Our family encounters refugees everywhere we go. My husband Jordan is a resettlement specialist for World Relief, and as a result, we run into people – friends – from all over the world in our city of Spokane. The grocery store, the YMCA, the library, the gas station, the park, Target, McDonalds, everywhere! Recently, our family was on vacation and had an excruciating seven-hour layover in the Phoenix airport. With a four-year-old and twin two-year-olds, you can imagine how much fun was had. As we strolled down the terminal for the 812th time, my husband’s eyes zeroed in on a large Asian family that looked lost and was trying to communicate with a well-meaning but confused American traveler.

“See the white “I.O.M.” bags they’re carrying? They’re refugees,” Jordan whispered to me, and then made his way over to the group. By asking a few simple questions, he was able to find out where the family was traveling from (Bangkok) and where they were headed (“Des Moines,” which was the only English word they had trained themselves to clearly enunciate). Jordan let them know (mostly by smiling and gesturing) that our family would walk them to their gate. Their gate was all the way across the airport, so I had a lot of time to observe the family as we walked. There was an older woman and one younger woman, three sons very close in age, and a tiny daughter, being carried in the arms of the younger woman. No father. Each member of the family had on matching navy blue slip-on sneakers, and matching bright smiles.

I noticed as we walked that the young mother’s shoes were only half-on, and that she was stepping on the backs of them as she walked. I could imagine the scene: it was time to depart the aircraft, and she had helped all the kids gather their bags, get their shoes and coats on, had made sure they had their boarding passes, passports, and everything else important. She had slung her own bag over her shoulder, put her sleeping baby girl’s backpack on her back, and eased the sleeping girl into her arms. Her shoes were an afterthought. I’d just done it all myself a few hours ago. We were the same, she and I, except for the fact that she was from a country across the world with any number of life experiences that I couldn’t begin to identify with. But she was a mom, and so was I. In that way, we were exactly the same, and I think she realized it too as she shyly smiled at me.

Refugees are all around us. You might notice them if they have on clothes from their native country, or speak with an accent. But chances are, you won’t notice them. You won’t notice them because in so many ways, they are just like you. They are parents, siblings, sons, daughters, friends, students, co-workers. They fill all the same roles, do all the same things you and I do, and yet they have stories to tell that would floor us. They have experienced war zones, all types of abuse, religious and ethnic persecution, and separation from family. They have seen violent, hate-filled acts that would give us nightmares, yet so many of them still choose love, and that is astounding. It is nothing less than a glimpse of God.

So, pay attention when you’re at the grocery store, or the library, or even the Phoenix airport. It may not always be easy to spot a refugee, but if you are fortunate enough to befriend one, it could forever change you.

Below is a picture of Hannah, Jordan and their 3 children in the World Relief Office!

Jordan familyTo read more from Hannah Bemis, we encourage you to follow her blog: