SEA-TRI-KAN -Day 5

This week, we will be bringing stories from our SEA-TRI-KAN bike riders who cycled across the state to raise awareness and support for World Relief’s refugee employment program.  They rode from our office in Kent to our office in Tri-Cities, then finished at our office in Spokane.

Author Bill Roberson, recreational cyclist

On day 1 we left our homes with our first destination in mind: a Boy Scout Camp in the Cascades Mountains. After a lunch and celebration in the sun, our spirits were high! After a few challenging hills, some traffic situations, and our first rest stop, the rain began. We continued to climb to the camp and it got colder and wetter as we rode. Most riders were not prepared for the conditions and arrived at camp soaked and chilled to the bone. We hit the community showers, hung our soggy clothes up to dry, and spent the night in bunk beds.

I had the thought that this is analogous to refugees who leave their homes and flee to a refugee camp. There is relief from a bad situation, but the journey is harrowing and the camp can also be crowded and sometimes dangerous. I thought of those who spend not one night, but decades in such a camp.

On Day 2 we started in cool weather, heading up to the top of Chinook Pass. It was a challenging ride, with temperatures dropping to near freezing with heavy fog and light snow on the top. Not everyone made it on their own power. But shortly over the pass began our long, downhill ride. The sun came out and soon our clothes dried. A lot of smiles. One of the support vans broke down, which created a lot of challenges for the team.

Day 3 started out as a lovely sunny day with all the cyclists together. Unfortunately, my riding partner, a very experienced cyclist who was well-prepared for the ride hit a root and crashed. Since we were in a tight group it was a miracle that no one else went down. While he took an ambulance to the hospital, the rest continued on, but with much greater caution. After seeing him safely to the hospital I rejoined the ride and joined a different group of riders. When discouraged they would begin to name all of the things they were thankful for. How cool?! I learned a lot. Spent the night in a hotel! Lovely! A surprise massage! How wonderful!

When refugees make their way to a new country for resettlement it can be a challenging journey. They cannot make it on their own. Upon arrival, life seems much better, but unforeseen challenges will always come up. When disaster strikes, it takes the help of others to get them back on track. And small acts of kindness go a long way!

Day 4 was our longest day at 113 miles. Back-to-back long days are a challenge for anyone! Some of the cyclists showed real grit to knock off the miles. Everyone needed encouragement to get through. There were flat tires and mechanical issues, but everything was handled well with the support of Steve (bike mechanic extraordinaire!). The forecasted strong winds appeared, but for the most part, they were tailwinds! Hallelujah!

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Grateful for some tailwinds, Bill cruises through the green hills of the Palouse.

With only 79 miles left, Day 5 felt like an “easy” day. The group was now hardened to challenges. With the goal in sight, thunderstorms with lightning rolled in and some of the group even had to seek shelter from hail! For safety reasons, we loaded up into the vehicles and drove the last couple of miles to finish our journey at World Relief Spokane.

Refugees are a very resilient people. They face challenges with determination that comes from experience. Even with the “end” in sight, it’s never easy. Assistance to meet education goals, get better jobs, find better homes, and make a better life for their children is like a “tailwind” of support from agencies and volunteers. As they work through things on their own, they are not doing it alone. 

Overall, I was happy to do SEA-TRI-KAN. The funds raised will be put to good use by World Relief to support employment opportunities for refugees facing enormous challenges. Separating from my dear friend and riding partner early in the journey was disappointing, but it encouraged me to get to know the other riders much better. Our short journey was a major challenge for all of the riders. The tenacity and perseverance show by so many to overcome significant obstacles was truly inspiring.

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A road-weary team celebrates 400 miles in 5 days upon their arrival at World Relief Spokane!

SEA-TRI-KAN -Day 4

This week, we will be bringing stories from our SEA-TRI-KAN bike riders who cycled across the state to raise awareness and support for World Relief’s refugee employment program.  They rode from our office in Kent to our office in Tri-Cities, then finished at our office in Spokane.

Author Garrett Berkey, an SPU student

Day 4: 109.8 miles, Tri-Cities to Endicott. Although we started together, it took some convincing to ride at the same pace today. We were like a community riding together–everyone had someone to ride with and we knew who to go to for each stretch of the way. There were the moral boosters, the pace-setters, the conversationalists, and the others in-between. We each found our individual pace and pushed on.

It was a long day, and it was punctuated by another long journey: the story of a woman who had come to Seattle as a refugee from Afghanistan. At each stop today we read through a part of her story and thought about it on the long, straight road. I spent a lot of today thinking about the things we see and read on the news. They are real. The terror that I hear about in the Middle East is something that people fear each day. This is the first time I heard a story like this about a real person and told on a personal level. It made the stories of all the people I had heard about on the news seem to jump out at me. I am so blessed to be in this safe place. I want to be able to help those who live in fear to instead thrive in this world.

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109 miles through the Palouse is easier with the encouragement of a supportive team.

While riding today, I pushed myself in many ways. Climbing the mountains and pushing the clock, I knew that I could only hold pace for so long. I only had so much in me. Maybe this is like a refugee running for her life? Tiring and seemingly never-ending? But then coasting into the flat lands, I reflected on how the support and encouragement of our little community helped me to push through. Maybe a refugee in America can move through challenges faster with a community to help them out.

Raising money for this program–and being that community of support for someone–is something that I am so glad to be doing.

Garrett was proud to wear the World Relief colors on the ride and hopes that others will be compelled to come alongside refugees fleeing a life of fear and hardship. 

SEA-TRI-KAN -Day 3

This week, we will be bringing stories from our SEA-TRI-KAN bike riders who cycled across the state to raise awareness and support for World Relief’s refugee employment program.  They rode from our office in Kent to our office in Tri-Cities, then finished at our office in Spokane.

Author Ann Janda, a World Relief enthusiast and passionate caregiver.

“Give and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” Luke 6:38

Day 3 of STK should have been easy.  After going over Chinook Pass on day two, I was mentally prepared for smooth sailing, even though it going to be 100 miles. What could be harder than Chinook Pass?

Our morning began beautifully: the sun was shining and breakfast was FANTASTIC. It felt wonderful to leave in the morning as part of the pack instead of trailing behind like I had for the last 2 days.

Ten miles in, I wondered when the seasoned cyclists were going to pull away from the beginners–our unity couldn’t go on forever. Within 5 minutes of this thought, it happened. As we passed under some lovely trees, one of our number hit a root the wrong way and tumbled to the ground. Man down! While the others swerved to miss the fallen biker, my first thought was “This is what I do!”. I have been a caregiver for several years and I know what to do when people are hurt.

As I ran over my heart skipped a beat–it was John. I had only just met him at breakfast! We prayed and helped to clean him up (his face was pretty beat up!) and I waited with him for the ambulance to meet us.

I didn’t feel like what I did was extraordinary. But just before he left to accompany John, Bill gave me a hug and expressed how touched he was by the way I had mothered John for those few minutes on the side of the road.

We continued on cautiously, but there was more to come. After lunch I began to experience excruciating knee pain. I knew things were getting bad when I went up one hill and Calilee had to physically push me just to make it to the top! I prayed over the idea of spending the rest of the day in the van–I can’t put into words how important it was for me to ride every mile–but I also knew that finishing would not be worth permanent knee injury. I took it slow.

When Bill rejoined the group, even though he was much faster that Calilee and I, he eloquently told us that he would rather bring up the rear with us than join the frontrunners. My knee pain that afternoon was continual and excruciating. We took our miles one by one. Bill stuck with us all day–helping us find restrooms in the middle of nowhere, giving us invaluable tips and cycling techniques, and even protecting us from dogs!

Calilee, Bill, and I finished Day 3! Praise the Lord! We ended our day at Old Country Buffet and had chair massages back at the hotel. I will forever be grateful to God for the dear friends I met through STK. Each day I learned major lessons and today the lesson was this: Give what you have. What may seem like very little to you may be just what someone else needs.

Bill Ann Calilee

Ann (middle) celebrates her accomplishment with her new friends Bill and Calilee

SEA-TRI-KAN -Day 2

This week, we will be bringing stories from our Sea-Tri-Kan bike riders who cycled across the state to raise awareness and support for World Relief’s refugee employment program.  They rode from our office in Kent to our office in Tri-Cities, then finished at our office in Spokane.

Author Calilee Moore, a World Relief AmeriCorps English instructor

Day 1 set us up to expect a difficult, soggy ride–and that’s how we started Day 2 this morning! With 3,150 feet of elevation gain, today was an adventurous ride with many rewards. Looking back we kept saying that nothing could be worse than the last mile…or yesterday. My friends and I steadily held down last place all day, but we kept peddling and it was epic.

We passed mountains and rivers and snow–lots of snow! I just kept my head down, pushed my feet, and eventually made it to the cold, cloudy top.

Calilee (left), Liz, and Ann take a break just before the Chinook Pass summit

Calilee (left), Liz, and Ann take a break just before the Chinook Pass summit

I have probably lost about ten things since we started the day–one of them being my headphones. I was very sad about this until I fell in with the last-place friends. We held cadence and sang Hakuna Matata and songs of praise together. My favorite part of the day was when we each started sharing about how the Lord is good and what we were thankful for. I am already so encouraged by the friendships I have made.

After reaching the top, it was smooth sailing. Literally! I probably could have put on Ann’s poncho and sailed off the road with how fast we got to go down the hill. As it warmed up, we began to feel our toes again and quickened our pace. Nothing was as hard as Chinook Pass.

The Lord has blessed me in so many ways: living in a beautiful state, working with amazing people at World Relief, a bicycle & all the gear I needed, just enough muscle-power to get up that horrible and amazing hill…and of course the friends that I’m sharing my ride with. The Lord is good.

Calilee and the almost 2 dozen other cyclists are enduring a great physical challenge and spectacle of support on behalf of the refugees of Washington State. Their experience is reminiscent of the treacherous journey that many face–except not to say that they did it, not to exercise discipline or determination, not even to help people in their community, but to save their own lives and the lives of their children. 

SEA-TRI-KAN – Day 1

This week, we will be bringing stories from our Sea-Tri-Kan bike riders who are cycling across the state to raise awareness and support for World Relief’s refugee employment program.  They will be riding from our office in Kent to our office in Tri-Cities, then finishing at our office in Spokane.  To learn more about the program and World Relief’s life changing work please visit worldreliefseattle.org/stk

 

Author Gerrit Hoeks of Calvary Chapel South

We’ve just completed the first leg of our five-day, 400-mile cycling journey across the state of Washington. 23 soaking wet riders have rolled into Camp Sheppard for the evening, just outside of Mount Rainer National Park.

STK Day1

Gerrit wringing out his socks.

When we began our trip at the World Relief Seattle offices in Kent, WA the weather was teasing us. The sun was shining and it looked like it would be a beautiful ride.  Within the first ten miles we began to feel raindrops, then the sun said goodbye, then it down poured, then we had puddles in our shoes.

My wife and I are not really cyclists. Three months ago we didn’t even own bikes.  But we were looking for an adventure and we got excited about the idea of doing something with meaning.  It has been quite the adventure already; from the training, to the fundraising, to the numb toes.

It’s been awesome getting to know new people who are rallying around a cause and learning more about refugees and how World Relief comes along side them to help with some of their biggest challenges.

We’re looking forward to Day 2 – The BIG Climb… and we’re praying for sunny days ahead

Ruth and Lizbeth

When Ruth first met her, Lizbeth was about to be sent to a country that she hadn’t seen since she was seven years old. And she was afraid to go.

US Immigration & Customs Enforcement called it her homeland, but to Lizbeth, Mexico was anything but home. As she awaited deportation, Lizbeth found herself in the Northwest Immigration Detention Center in Tacoma along with more than 1,000 other detainees. Some, like Lizbeth, had been arrested for committing a crime while in the US on a visa. Far more, though, were in the Detention Center because their immigration documentation was insufficient or contained errors.

Lizbeth was born in Mexico and came to the US illegally with her parents as a young girl; they eventually settled in Oregon. America would come to be home and English her primary language.

But when she entered adulthood, Lizbeth’s drug use led her into a long series of problems. By her own estimation, she’s been institutionalized more often than not for the last couple of decades.

Lizbeth’s history and immigration status would eventually land her in Tacoma’s Detention center. She hoped to be released so she could build a life with her new husband in Portland. But in time, Lizbeth’s fate became increasingly clear: like four out of five detainees in the facility, she was going to be deported.

While she waited, Lizbeth found World Relief Immigration Detention Center Ministry. She began to attend one of eight weekly worship services and joined a Bible study group with daily meetings. New in her faith, Lizbeth craved mentorship and friendship from another believer.

This is where Ruth comes in. Ruth had recently returned to the US after living in Mexico for more than thirty years. She and her husband planted churches, and Ruth worked with survivors of domestic violence.

After retirement, Ruth was looking for an opportunity to continue ministry. With a tip from her daughter, Ruth connected with World Relief’s window visit program, which connects volunteers with individual detainees who they can visit. For Ruth, it was a natural extension of her career in missions work.

“In some senses its the same thing,” said Ruth of her work in Mexico and Tacoma. “Being a missionary isn’t just a profession, it’s a decision you make every day.”

In their first window visits, Ruth could tell that Lizbeth was discouraged and depressed. Like many others in the facility who are far from their family and friends, she had few visitors. Through regular visits and notes of encouragement, the two women built a friendship in the months before deportation.

Beyond spiritual and emotional support, the friendship had practical benefits. Lizbeth was going to be deported to Tijuana, a city she knew nothing about. Having lived there for years, Ruth was able to point her to safe areas and refer her to friends living in the city.

Lizbeth was deported in December 2015.

But that wasn’t the end of Ruth and Lizbeth’s story: two weeks later, Ruth traveled to Tijuana to visit friends. Through a series of phone connections, they were able to make contact and they were able to meet up.

Ruth & Lizbeth in Tijuana.After retirement, Ruth was looking for an opportunity to continue ministry. With a tip from her daughter, Ruth began World Relief’s window visit program, which connects volunteers with individual detainees who they can visit.

Ruth & Lizbeth in Tijuana. After retirement, Ruth was looking for an opportunity to continue ministry and began to volunteer with World Relief’s window visit program to minister to immigrant detainees.

Providence was at play: as it turned out, Lizbeth was living just blocks from one of the churches that Ruth and her husband had planted years before. Ruth brough her to the church and introduced her to friends who were pillars in the congregation.

Ruth could see changes in Lizbeth in that first visit to Tijuana. Stuck in a difficult situation where drugs would’ve been an easy out, Lizbeth was firm in her resolve: “I’m not going that route,” she said. “I’ve given enough of my life to that.”

In a follow-up trip in March, Ruth was excited to see that Lizbeth had found a church home and was attending a women’s Bible study there. Ruth brought her friend a bilingual Bible so she could more easily follow the services in her ‘mother tongue’ which she still hadn’t mastered.

I want to give a testimony to the Church how missionaries like yourself can make a difference and have an impact in our lives. I thank God for you and pray that he will send you to more and more women who are calling out for moral support. Glory to the most high–he is working on me. I can feel him. 

-Lizbeth, Mexico

To support World Relief’s Detention center Ministry, please visit our donations page and select Seattle Detention Center Ministry as your gift designation. Through a generous $40,000 matching challenge, your impact in detainees’ lives will be doubled–please give today!

To learn more about how you and your church can get involved in the ministry, contact Jose Bonilla at jbonilla@wr.org.

The First Few Steps in America

“But,” Masoud paused, “I have you.”

Iran

In reflecting on the challenges that he faced when he came to the United States, Masoud teared up as he remembered the help that World Relief provided for him in his first year of living in America. He had come to the United States alone, with no connections in his new community. Stepping off of the plane, he wasn’t sure what to expect.

But he was not alone.

His caseworker walked him through his first few months in the United States by helping him learn where to buy food, ride the bus, and get a bank account. His English teacher and classmates helped him slowly and consistently build his English understanding and vocabulary. And the World Relief employment team helped him to prepare for and find his first job with a local employer partner.

In less than three months in the United States, Masoud had learned about important community systems, how to navigate public transportation, and was working fulltime and paying for all of his expenses himself.

Over the months his job began to wear on him – he was allergic to the chemicals inside of the warehouse and the 12 hours shifts were grueling.

Masoud came back to the World relief employment team to see if he could get help finding a job upgrade. The employment team could see that Masoud was needing a change, and through another employment program, they were able to help him begin the search for a new job.  After passing a three-day working interview at a bakery production job, he was hired for his second job in the United States seven months after he arrived.

Nearly nine months later, Masoud is much happier in his second job – the shifts can still be difficult, but he has no allergies and the wage is higher. He attends an intensive English class on Saturdays. He says that his life is slowly getting better.Iran 3

As we spoke about his first year in the United States, he said that he couldn’t do anything by himself when he first arrived, and that World Relief staff supported him and pushed him to take steps in his new life.

In the future, Masoud plans to study to become and engineer once again (he has his bachelor’s in engineering and experience as a civil engineer in his native Iran).

In the meantime, he concluded our conversation by telling me that he wants to start volunteering on his days off. When I told him he could volunteer with World Relief, helping to set up furniture and items in new apartments, he told me he was interested.

That’s the beauty of World Relief – newly-arrived refugees who have settled into life in America with a little help in the beginning, turn around to become that same help to newcomers who are arriving now.

Thank you, Masoud, for sharing your story!

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Married for Good

This is Ali.
She is a wife and a mom, and she finds great joy in capturing the beauty of the world through her photography. She particularly loves capturing the beauty of people in love as they celebrate engagement, weddings, and marriage.
She also has involved herself in the refugee journey in a very unique way, born from a deep belief in the connecting power of love. “I am convinced that marriages are about connecting to something greater than ourselves,” Ali shares, “And if we want our marriages to not only last but thrive, we need to connect with the love in the world. As my incredibly wise husband often says, marriage doesn’t happen in a vacuum. “
As Ali watched the most recent refugee crisis unfold, she knew that she wanted to do more with her business and with the couples she works with. Her response: For each wedding shoot, Ali Hormann Photography will donate the money needed to outfit a kitchen for a refugee family. 

“I thought since each [newlywed] couple gets to register for kitchen supplies, it be only fitting that their love make it possible for other to eat and cook and have time together”

Ali is looking forward to encouraging her clients to do more with their wedding budgets and their big dreams.  “I have long believed that the kind of self-sacrificial love that marriage entails is exactly the kind of love that will change the world,” Ali writes on her blog, “At the end of the day, if all you walk away from your wedding day with are some lovely images I have failed you.  I want all my couples to know that their marriage makes a difference and that good marriages are the difference the world needs.”
People, businesses, congregations, and community groups have joined in the life-changing work of World Relief Seattle in many creative ways. We are looking forward to being able to bless many new refugee families this year on behalf of Ali Hormann Photography, the couples she photographs, and #MarriedForGood.