The summer of 2018 our office split open like dehydrated sidewalk cracks in the hot Texas sun. We hadn't had a family arrive since April. That’s not to say that we didn't have families to serve, only that the waiting for new arrivals was trying to seal our feet in the concrete. The weight grew exhausting, as each day we tried to muster up new initiatives to break free.
The summertime had our office in a season of waiting on the Lord. Waiting brings temptation to make ourselves kings. It’s disheartening. It’s uncomfortable. The stretch hurts, and it’s sobering to have our weaknesses revealed, but the Lord says time and time again that He knows our next step. He hems us in before and behind, and He does not forsake us or abandon us.
“Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn,
The justice of your cause like the noonday sun.
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;” –Psalm 37
Each staff member in our office has been planted here. We have come from all over the world (literally!) to be here, doing the work of resettling refugees in the year 2018. In the midst of fluid funding, unknown arrivals, and a polarized nation on welcoming refugees, our staff has been rooted here for such a time as this. Regardless of policy, funding, or public opinion, we have been called to be faithful to love and serve the people around us and to continuously call on the Lord for strength and guidance so that we may not grow weary. And He promises that if we don’t give up, in good time, we will reap a harvest.
Our call doesn't’ change in the waiting, so we’ve been dreaming and planning, coming up with new initiatives and services so that we can continue to see and actively participate in communities transforming economically, socially, and spiritually. We’re implementing ESL classes, citizenship classes, and football clubs. We’re dreaming of community development projects focused on wellness and gospel presentations presented by our church partners and big soccer fields.
And right now, that’s all we can do. We can be faithfully present, showing up to love and serve our neighbors.
Thankfully, we weren't’ alone in that this summer.
On June 30th, goodness and mercy poured down from heaven like a sweet summer rain shower and filled the tiny cracks that had us kneeling, with an overflow of abundance. 121 Community Church hosted our first International Fashion Show featuring 7 stories of refugees and immigrants from all over the world. It wasn't a traditional fashion show, but we most certainly had models of bravery, strength, and hope with us.
Several families who our agency has walked alongside, stood before a room full of strangers and shared stories from some of the most vulnerable times of their lives. Next to hearing personal accounts of trauma from war, genocide, and other horrors manifested by the human condition, I think one of the greatest lessons from the evening was learning that the vulnerability doesn't end when a refugee is resettled in a third country. Sometimes it remains that they are physically vulnerable to elements around them, but even more so, they become vulnerable to isolation, bigotry from national communities, getting taken advantage of financially or worse.
“She said to me ‘don’t be surprised if one day your daughter comes home and tells you that someone called her a terrorist because they [Americans] have a mindset that all Arabs or people from Iraq are terrorists.”
But you all - our partners and our volunteers, the service providers who serve in a variety of programs, the teachers in the schools who don’t give up – you all challenge the narrative. You help rewrite the story.
I beamed with pride, trying to swallow a choke on the powerful healing that vulnerability can bring to any person’s wounds. But their strength and courage displayed on stage is not what surprised me. What surprised me was the atmosphere of the room afterwards. Native born American families approached each and every speaker to thank them and share with them the impact that the speaker’s story had on their own life. I saw with my own eyes, bridges built between polar opposite communities, false rhetoric replaced with truth, and walls torn down. They helped people who came from outside our borders know they are belong. They are welcome here.
“My dream is to be a caseworker and help with immigrant cases and also help in getting justice.”
We’re sitting down today with Jonathan Parsons and Renato Rossiter of World Relief to talk about a new role they both took on this past June: Coach. The World Relief Football Club finished its first indoor season in August and started their first outdoor season on September 15th, winning their game 11-0.
World Relief: How long have you been working at World Relief?
Parsons: “I was kind of born into it. My mom was a refugee and my dad helped open the office in Fort Worth, so growing up I always went to events and was always hanging around staff and refugees. But I started working on staff in the spring of 2008.”
Rossiter: “[I started] volunteering with World Relief in February 2017. I’ve officially been on staff since March 20th this year.”
WR: What are common things you see among families, regardless of nationality?
P: “Heartiness, the ability to adapt to difficult things that I would be a wimp about and they very much handle it in stride as if it’s normal.”
WR: Why did you start the World Relief Football Club?
P: “I grew up playing soccer, and I knew how much it meant to me growing up, how much I anticipated games and practices - it was a draw for me. It’s really hard to play competitive soccer because of all the paperwork and the cost, and I knew that none of our boys would be able to have that opportunity. I knew the boys would love it- probably even more so than I did growing up. I’ve felt a call to [start the team] for about 3 years. When Reanto came along, I knew I couldn’t put up excuses anymore.”
R: “I wanted to be a professional soccer player growing up [in Brazil], but when I realized I wouldn’t be able to, I didn’t want anything to do with soccer. I loved watching it and I loved playing it, but I didn’t want to work with it. When I came to America, I thought that I would be working with other sports like tennis or baseball, but I felt that God was calling me to work with soccer. For me it was easy to say, ‘Lord, if you want me to, I’ll do it.’ Jonathan approached me about the idea, and for me it was an easy decision to say yes.”
WR: Who is on your team?
R: “We have 16 players on our team representing South Sudan, Congolese kids who grew up in Tanzania and Kenya, kids from Somalia, and two kids of different ethnicities from Burma, all 11-13 years old. We practice twice a week with about 20-25 boys. The remaining boys aren’t able to play games because they’re not in the right age category or weren’t able to get their registration paperwork complete in time.”
WR: What challenges, if any, do you face as a coach?
P: “The kids speak languages I don’t understand…they immediately switch to their native language if I get on to them for saying a bad word in English, which can present difficulties. Parents aren’t able to be very involved because they have to work all the time. There are some kids that can’t be on the team, due to being older or younger, who come to practice and distract our boys.”
WR: Where do you see strengths in your team?
P: “We’re strongest in a deep understanding of soccer. A lot of the really good boys on the team have this natural instinct to play. It’s ingrained in their culture. Americans that play soccer, they learn it differently. They have strict practices and go to all of these programs to learn how to get better, but these kids just have a natural instinct. They go out and play because they love it, and they don’t get burnt out so fast by the sport like American kids do. Another strength we have is that we’re different…we intimidate other teams a little bit (Parsons chuckles). We just look different and people notice, and they’re automatically intimidated by it.”
R: “[The kids’] love and passion for the game because they come from countries where soccer is the national sport. It’s a part of their blood and their heritage. They know all the players, the games, and iconic moves.”
P: “[Soccer is] what they do all the time. Sometimes I just drive by in [the apartment complex], and I just see the kids out playing soccer for fun after school. It’s rare seeing American kids do that anymore.”
WR: What’s your favorite memory from last season?
P: “Winning our first game…but even before that, some of my best memories are the kid’s reactions when they scored goals and how much they care about their success. Seeing a boy drop to his knees and point to heaven like a pro is priceless. I get such a kick out of it. Seeing their genuine excitement when they scored or won, even when they got mad at each other, they’re all just so passionate – it’s fun to see that passion and drive.”
R: “When the boys were winning their game and they knew we were going to win, they all started counting down with the clock and jumped in the air at the final buzzer. It was fun to see their excitement.”
WR: What do you hope for in the new season?
R: “I just want to continue to see them playing well as a team, having fun, and not yelling at each other.”
P: “We voted in captains for the new season, and I really want to see the captain’s character develop, growing more in maturity and leadership.”
You can find World Relief FC’s game schedule at https://bit.ly/2xv2Y6w For each child to play in the fall league, it costs approx. $100 per child. Are you interested in sponsoring one of the players? Or serving in other ways through providing rides to the games, snacks afterwards, or even helping coach? Contact email@example.com.
“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!" –Isaiah 52:7
Those who are new to the United States often have difficulty finding employment. The culture is new, the language is often new, and there are certain expectations that often seem foreign. For some of these people, seemingly mundane tasks are daunting.
As part of the resettlement process through World Relief, clients are given an employment caseworker. It is the caseworker’s job to apply the client for jobs, ensure that the client is actively filling out applications, help the client with interviews and transportation, and follow up with the client to make sure that they are doing well at work.
Preparation for this journey involves a job class in which a person with World Relief visits the client and goes over some basics for job applications, interviews, and work life. During this class, the worker explains work culture in America and how it may differ. The class also outlines guidelines for accepting and keeping jobs and application/interview expectations (both from World Relief and the potential employer’s perspectives), and how to keep a job (hygiene, missing work, etc.). Finally, the worker offers motivation and encourages the clients so that they are more comfortable in starting their journey to employment.
Through the employment program, we as Christian stewards have the opportunity to communicate with clients and encourage those who may feel down. Most importantly we have the opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with the clients and find out more about their spiritual journeys. It is our chance and privilege to lead those unfamiliar with Jesus and to fellowship with those who have heard and accepted the Good News. Through this program, we hope to increase the number of beautiful feet, and to provide comfort in a world that may otherwise seem intimidating.
Helping clients with employment is a great way for volunteers and local churches to meet some of our clients and to provide for their needs. For those who have read this and may have become led to join in our job class, contact Laura Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are continuously in need of those willing and excited to share in this program as we press onward and continue to share the Good News that is Jesus Christ.
Refugees people who are outside their countries because of a well-founded fear of persecution based on their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group, and who cannot or do not want to return home, according to the UNHCR. They must be recognized by the UNHCR through the refugee status determination (RSD) procedure, during which the applicant proves he or she is a refugee.
- The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) only refers 1 percent of all refugees to third country resettlement. The UNHCR will try to return refugees to home country or settle in the current country of residence. The countries that have established resettlement programs include: Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the U.S.
- The UNHCR then refers refugees to the U.S. Resettlement Program (USRP).
- The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) oversees the USRP by developing application criteria, refugee admission ceilings, and presenting eligible cases to a division within the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
- If the refugee application meets all the criteria, a USCIS officer travels to interview the refugee applicant and help them complete the USCIS Form I-590 and gather their family biographical information. The USCIS officer also determines if the applicant is considered a refugee under the U.S. law. (Recognition as a refugee by UNHCR does not guarantee recognition by the USRP).
- Once approved, applicants are matched with one of the eleven refugee resettlement organization that will care for the refugees as they settle into their American lives. World Relief is one of these organizations.
- The final steps before coming to the U.S. include health and security screenings and cultural orientations, which may take two months to two years.
- The International Organization for Migration arranges air travel for most U.S.-bound refugees.
- After the refugee’s arrival in the U.S., the resettlement organization takes over and helps the refugee apply for a social security number, school registration, medical evaluation and English training.
- Within six months of arrival, all working-age, capable refugees are expected to find jobs and become a contributing member of the American community.
- Refugees may apply for Permanent Resident Alien status (green card) one year after arrival, and apply for citizenship after five years. (refugees.org)
For more information, visit:
Imagine living with no basic healthcare, sanitation or education systems. You have no citizenship because of a corrupt government. You can’t find a job because of discriminatory practices. You struggle to find food, water and shelter for your family.
That is reality for the residents of the Rakhine State in southwest Burma/Myanmar.
Although 800,000 residents of the Rakhine State were allowed to vote in November 2010 elections, they were given temporary registration cards that will soon expire without guarantee of permanent residential status.Without residential or citizen status, the people of the Rakhine state are considered stateless with no guarantees of basic rights.
There are currently 808,000 stateless persons in Burma, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. (http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/page?page=49e4877d6)
When inter-communal fighting began in the Rakhine State in June 2012, 75,000 residents fled from their homes and became internally displaced persons. This number added to the current 340,000 IDPs in Burma, according to the UNHCR.
The UNHCR is currently working to provide basic needs, such as sanitation, water, health and shelter for the Rakhine people. Additionally, the UNHCR is advocating the Burmese government to improve citizenship for displaced and undocumented residents.
World Relief Fort Worth settles many refugees from Burma, including the Chin and Karen people.
The Burmese Chin refugees
Every day, the Burmese Chin and Karen people fear being exposed. Thousands are forced to be illegal immigrants in neighboring Malaysia, Thailand and India.
They are vulnerable.
The Burmese Chin and Karen are vulnerable to sexual assault, employment abuse and denial of essential needs. Because of their illegal status, they are not protected and cannot report abuses without exposing themselves and risking arrest.
Political, ethnic and religious tensions have caused thousands of Chin and Karen people to flee to neighboring countries for protection.
According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, the following are all reasons for the Chin and Karen people to flee:
1. Discrimination against Christianity (mostly for Chin people)
2. Forced conversion to Buddhism (mostly for Chin people)
3. Harassment from soldiers extorting food and money from villagers
4. Punishment for actual or assumed support for the Chin National Front or Chin National Army
5. Consequences for support for the National League of Democracy
6. Intimidation and forced labor for the military service
7. Sexual violence by Burmese soldiers
Chin Culture Facts and life in U.S.
There are 1.5 million Chin people in the world, but only 600,000 of those still live in the Chin State (Christian Solidarity Worldwide). There are more than 30 distinct ethnic groups with 20 to 25 mutually unintelligible languages.
The Chin culture is very agrarian. Every household has a vegetable garden, and most Chin people work in the agricultural sector. Their households are very conservative and traditional with men as the head and sons are the sole heirs to property.
Missionaries arrived in the Chin state in 1899 converting the Burmese to Christianity. Now, 90% of Chins are Christian.
In 2012, more than 415,000 refugees were resettled from Burma, thousands of these were Chin. When they arrive to the U.S., they have little or no education from the rural areas and/or refugee camps.
The Chin view eye contact as a challenge and cross their arms in front of their bodies to show respect, not hostility.
Karen Culture Facts and life in U.S.
Although the Karen people were the first to convert to Christianity, 70% are still Buddhist or Buddhist-Animist and 20-30% are Christian.
There are no first or last names in Karen society, only names, and nicknames.
The Karen people often say “no” instead of “yes” in order to show modesty and politeness, but it makes it hard to assess their needs.
Just as with the Chin people, the Karen people do not make direct eye contact. They are quick learners and hard workers, but after living on refugee camps, they need to be taught to use modern appliances.
World Relief Fort Worth is one of the 23 local offices for World Relief, an international nonprofit organization aiming to help vulnerable people. Each year, the U.S. offices help “Welcome the Stranger” by resettling thousands of refugees into their new lives in the U.S. Nationwide, World Relief is the largest evangelical refugee resettlement agency in America.
Internationally, World Relief has offices in 16 countries on four continents and helps 2.8 million people annually. While the U.S. offices work mainly in refugee resettlement, the international offices work in the fields of health, child development, agriculture and food security, disaster response and microfinance.
The history of World Relief:
World Relief was founded in 1944 in New York City as the War Relief Commission of the National Association of Evangelicals to address the needs of the vulnerable people living in war-torn Europe. By 1950, War Relief changed its name to World Relief and began to expand services to Korea, Vietnam, Chile, Peru and Bangladesh.
In 1975, World Relief launched its refugee resettlement ministry becoming the only evangelical agency authorized to resettle refugees by the U.S. State Department.
World Relief Fort Worth
Since our founding in the 1970s, our mission at the Fort Worth office has been: Empowering the local Church to serve the most vulnerable. We accomplish this mission in accordance to our values: being an example of Jesus, empowering the Church, valuing diversity of people, achieving continual excellence, leading resettled refugees, volunteers or local partners to create sustaining change, partnership and prayer.
Programs offered at World Relief Fort Worth
Our office works in seven main programs with about 30 employees and interns.
Reception and Placement
- Receives and cares for more than 500 refugees each year from the time they arrive at DFW airport. R&P provides the basic furnishings and necessities for the refugees’ apartments, trains families in American culture and hygiene standards, enrolls children in school, and helps families with paperwork and finding employment.
Provides services to clients so that they will obtain self-sufficiency in their first 180 days in the U.S.
Refugee Cash Assistance
Provides temporary assistance to new refugees to aid them in becoming self-sufficient in 9 months.
Creates service plans for newly arrived refugees with goals in financial stability, health, English skill, child welfare, employment, transportation, housing and food, etc.
Mental Health Services and Elderly Assistance
– Provide additional help for people in the refugee population who need special care.
Employment Services –
Partners with local business to find refugees suitable jobs according to their English and professional skills.
Immigration Services –
For a fee, our office can provide immigration counseling, legal documents and notary services.
For more information about our headquarters visit: http://worldrelief.org