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: http://threebelowthree.blogspot.com/

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365 days

Written by: Christi Armstrong (World Relief Spokane Employment Specialist)

It was just one year ago that my life was forever changed. If you had asked me what I knew about the people of Sudan then, my answer would have been very simple and to the point. “They are people who live in the desert. It gets very cold at night. Our church gathered a massive amount of blankets and sent them to the people of Sudan a few years ago. Shipping was crazy expensive!”

That was the extent of my knowledge. I didn’t even know where Sudan was located on the map!

One year ago a group of Sudanese men walked through the door of our classroom and into my heart. They brought with them names, faces, families, and life journeys. Before that day, I, like most Americans, wondered why the government brings these people, these refugees, to the United States. It didn’t make sense that we import people to vie for jobs, overwhelm our already stressed social services system, and add to the overcrowding in our schools.

Now, I number among the sons of my heart Omar, Musa, Abdul, Issa, Mohamed and many others. Now I understand that their life journeys include not just hunger, the cold of the desert nights, and lack of adequate shelter. Their life stories include watching fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters being tortured to death, fleeing into the jungle as soldiers gun down every black man they see and take the women and children to abuse them and throw them away. One of my sons sees fire at night when he tries to sleep. Though no one else sees it, the fire is very real to him. Now, I understand that his broken mind remembers people he loves being doused with gasoline and burned to death.

In 365 days my Western, American mind set has been completely wrecked by these precious people. Do me a favor. When you see someone who is different in the store, or getting on the bus, the server at the restaurant, the one struggling to communicate a need to the sales person or the school teacher, in their broken English, please don’t look away. You are probably in the presence of someone who has been through unspeakable horrors and came to America, hoping. They are very different from me and my white, American family and friends. They have taught me so much about perseverance, loving like this is your last day on earth, and continuing to hope when there seems to be no hope. Please don’t look away.

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” (Emma Lazarus, inscribed on the Statue of Liberty)

 Below is a picture of Christi and her Sudanese sons.

Suddenly God

Written by: Christi Armstrong (World Relief Spokane Employment Specialist)

Hasan arrived in the United States late last fall, a miserable time to try to find a job. The first thing everyone notices about Hasan is his smile and laughter. I seldom see him without a smile and when I pick up my office phone and hear laughter on the other end, I know it’s Hasan. From the moment we met Hasan told me two things, 1) I need a job and 2) I don’t speak English. Through the winter he managed to continue to smile as he said, “I need a job.” As winter turned into spring and others starting getting jobs, his smile began to fade when he said to me, “I need a job.” I always pray for my clients. Our director says it’s a miracle when a refugee gets a job in America. One afternoon Hasan came to my office and he was very anxious. His cash assistance time was running out and he needed a job if he was to become self-supporting. As I talked with Hasan I believe the Lord spoke to me the words “suddenly God.” I have experienced the suddenness of God many times in my life. I believed the Lord was telling me He was going to move, suddenly, on Hasan’s behalf. Through an interpreter, I asked Hasan if he read the Bible. He became flustered and said no. I assured him that was ok and then told him about a phrase that repeatedly appears in the Bible, “Suddenly God.” I told him I believed God was going to provide a job for him very suddenly, one day he would be unemployed, the next day he would be working. Hasan took my hand, thanked me, and smiled as he walked away.   I’m not sure he believed me, and quite frankly, I was silently praying that I had really heard from God. I was anxiously asking God to be the God of “suddenly.”

I walked back to my office hoping that I hadn’t missed God and unintentionally set my friend, Hasan, up for huge disappointment. I sat down at my desk and opened my email. A new message popped into my inbox from the manager at Sytech, Inc., a metal fabrication, company. The message said they needed someone right away. I called the manager and he told me he needed someone with reasonable English. I told him I had a young man who didn’t speak much English but he was a ball of energy, and had a great attitude. He replied, “We like balls of energy. Send him over tomorrow morning at 11.” I tried to call Hasan but was not able to reach him. The next morning, I tried to call again, to no avail. I told everyone I met who knows Hasan to have him come and see me right away. At 10:30 I walked into our conference room and there was Hasan sitting at the table. He was there to prep for an interview for a temporary job.  I told him he was coming with me, found an interpreter and we went to Sytech Inc.

True to form, Hasan warmly greeted the manager with a big smile and a firm handshake. He did his best to answer with the little English he had. After about 15 minutes the manager handed him two t-shirts with the Sytech logo on the front and told him to come back at 7 AM the next morning. That was two months ago. Hasan comes to our office occasionally, always with a big smile. The other day I picked up my phone, heard his familiar laugh and said, “Hasan, how are you?” With much improved English he replied, “Mama Christi, I am good!  How are you?”

I am so grateful our God is a God of “Suddenly.”

If you are an employee or Employer that is interested in connecting with our team of Case Managers below, please call 509.484.9829 or visit http://worldreliefspokane.org/employment-services/. Our employment team seeks after employment for our clients who are willing to work in a variety of different conditions.

ReDiscovering Lent

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The season of Lent is a time of reflection, repentance and prayer for many Christians as they remember what Christ sacrificed for us on the Cross. Celebrated in the spring for 40 days, Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter Sunday. Marked by periods of feasting, praying and fasting, Lent is time to prepare for the celebration of Resurrection Sunday.

In 1944, as WWII was coming to a close the congregation of Park Street Church in Boston, MA decided that they wanted to do something to assist churches in Europe to reach out and rebuild their communities. That year during Lent, they would sacrifice for this cause and give up one meal each week. On Easter Sunday, the money that they would have spent on that meal would be given to the church’s War Relief Fund. The idea spread to other churches around the country and that Easter Sunday, through a process of sacrifice, churches collected $600,000. That’s the equivalent value of over $7 million dollars today.

For over 70 years World Relief has empowered local churches to join God’s mission in the world, to be the agents of change, heroes within their own communities, and to see the fullness of the gospel realized both in word and deed. This year for our 70th anniversary, we invite you to return back to World Relief’s roots with us and join us as we Rediscover Lent.

We hope that you will join us during this year’s Lenten season by giving up something which will free up resources to be used to help churches around the world serve their communities.

If you have questions now or would like to participate, please contact World Relief Spokane. To meet and discuss how your Church can become empowered to serve the most vulnerable, please contact:

Doug Wagley (Church Mobilizer) at dwagley@wr.org or Mark Kadel (Director of World Relief Spokane) at mkadel@wr.org. 

Upcoming FUNDRAISERS!

From January through March 2014, World Relief Spokane is partnering with Blu Berry Frozen Yogurt. All tips & spare change are donated to World Relief!

Visit any of the three Blu Berry locations to participate: 57th , Northtown & 5 Mile!

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World Relief Spokane’s Anti-Human Trafficking Department is supporting Dutch Bros. commitment to sell products free from slave labor or child exploitation.

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To purchase a $20 DUTCH BROS. COFFEE CARD, please visit World Relief Spokane at

1522 N. Washington Street #204, Spokane, WA 99201!

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World Relief’s Anti-Trafficking Department provides training, education, and awareness about Human Trafficking to the Inland Northwest. World Relief is equipped to provide direct services to foreign-born victims of human trafficking. For more information, to get involved or donate, please contact World Relief at RACE2ENDSLAVERY@WR.ORG.

The Justice Conference Spokane

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The Justice Conference is proud to present The Justice Conference Spokane, a Partner Site for The Justice Conference 2014.

The Live Simulcast will be held at:

  Garland Church
2011 W. Garland Ave.
Spokane, WA 99205
509.327.7700

Register Now
Learn More

Registration: 

From now up through the day of the simulcast, register for $34.00. per participant.

The Justice Conference is proud to present The Justice Conference Spokane, a Partner Site for The Justice Conference 2014. A LIVE simulcast will be held at Garland Church, February 21st and February 22nd.

Schedule of sessions:
Friday February 21st
Sessions will begin at 6:00 PM  and end at 9:00 PM

Saturday February 22nd
Sessions will begin at 8:30 AM  and continue through 9:00 PM

Please visit  The Justice Conference  for more information!

The Justice Conference Partner Site Network

The Justice Conference is a networked national conference that educates, inspires and connects a generation around a shared concern for the oppressed. Each self-organizaed Partner Site hosts a live simulcast feed of the Conference and may host its own, distinct pre-conference speaker sessions and exhibitors — all to bring more voices into the conversation in order to empower people to affect change on behalf of the vulnerable. The views and opinions of Partner Sites and their speakers do not necessarily represent those of The Justice Conference.

All rights reserved.

65 days

Written by: Christi Armstrong (World Relief Spokane Employment Specialist)

Sixty five days ago “refugee” was nothing more than a noun in my world.  Refugee could be found at http://www.dictionary.com and was defined as “a person who flees for refuge or safety, especially to a foreign country, as in time of political upheaval, war, etc.”, words on a page, nothing more.  In one rather sudden, unexpected moment my understanding of “refugee” changed.  I had never seen or known a refugee until, by the Lord’s providential work, I was invited to join the staff at World Relief, Spokane WA.  Sixty five days later my life has been wrecked by the refugees who have come to my office in hope of finding a job in their new country.  My clients from Sudan know me as “the Sudanese Mom”.  I know them as fine, courageous young men who have left behind family, friends and all they have known to find hope in a country where they are strangers.  As I think of these precious ones my eyes fill with tears to know that the God of the Universe would trust one such as I to be His heart extended to these sojourners.  Lord, help me to represent You well in my work with these people.  May Your favor rest on them as they continue on their journey. 

Meet Christi, on the far left, and the rest of the Employment Team at World Relief Spokane! If you are an Employer that is interested in connecting with our team of Case Managers below, please call 509.484.9829 or visit http://worldreliefspokane.org/employment-services/. Our employment team seeks after employment for our clients who are willing to work in a variety of different conditions.

Employment Team