FROM VOR’s NEWSLETTER – VOR’s IMPACT ON THE REFUGEE POPULATION OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
“We’ve never seen so many come to Christ,” one of my Arab Christian friends exclaimed, “what is happening right now is something that we could only dream of in the past!” Something dramatic and miraculous is happening now in the physical world and the spiritual realm as the refugee crisis becomes the golden opportunity of reaching the lost and sharing with those who had never got the opportunity to even hear about Jesus. I had the opportunity to minister to the refugees in Lebanon for six months in 2018, and it had been a life-changing experience to me witnessing people’s lives being touched and transformed by Christ in the midst of their sufferings. After returning to the States, I was hoping to continue my ministry in an Arabic community, and VOR offered a great platform for me to serve. It’s amazing to see how the Lord has brought people from different countries in the Middle East to this specific area, so instead of going through a 20-hour flight to share Jesus with the refugees, they are now living next door to us!
Serving as an ESL teacher at VOR with students young and old from different countries, speaking in different dialects, and with different educational backgrounds could be challenging at times but is definitely rewarding and absolutely fun. When someone in class was complaining that the English language is so hard to learn, I jokingly answered that “Chinese is five times harder to learn than English, but Arabic is ten times even harder,” and the whole class burst into laughter. As an immigrant myself, I know how challenging it is to learn about a new culture even at a young age, so I’m surprised to see that many of these refugees (some of them are great grand-mothers!) are open to learn about a new culture, a new language, and most important of all, are open to receive the help and love from those who follow Jesus.
I remembered delivering gifts to some refugee families around Christmas time. They were so touched and grateful for our visitation. One family even said, “We’re so happy that you come. You’re the first ones who visited us since we moved here!” This really encouraged me as it reminded me that every little thing that we do for these refugees counts in the Kingdom for we are the living testimony for Jesus Christ and we demonstrated what He would do for these lost ones. We might not be able to travel to the Middle East to help the refugees, but we could always reach out to those who are in our neighborhood.
“Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40)
It was a normal, hectic Monday at Voice of Refugees—our food distribution ministry was in full swing, a new family had just registered for services to meet their needs, ESL was humming with the blending of Arabic and English in the air, and a young man walked into the organized chaos.
He was looking for a Pastor, an Arabic Pastor. I’ll call him “S.” He is in the U.S. on a six-month visa and had been asking God to reveal Himself. It was then that he had a dream that urged him to go find out more. That day “S” was driving down Gilbert St. when he noticed a sign that revealed the location of an Arabic Christian Church. He pulled into the parking lot and walked to the first building where activity was obvious.
He first met a Syrian volunteer that serves in the food distribution ministry. In Arabic he communicated that he was wanting to speak with a Pastor. The volunteer steered him to the VOR office where she proceeded to introduce “S” to me. He took one look and after a few words he realized that I am definitely not Arabic nor am I Arabic speaking. He cordially said thank you to both the volunteer and me as he headed back to his car. I just figured that “S” was fearful that the language barrier, and in turn, the understanding barrier would be too much.
About twenty minutes went by and once again the volunteer brought “S” through the same door and said that he “just really needed to talk to a Pastor.” Often refugees come with great burdens to share and they carry great concerns that others might hear them. Realizing this, I picked up two chairs and headed good a distance away from the people and activity around us. He revealed that he had returned to his car with plans to drive away but “felt something pulling on him to return and talk to this Pastor.”
As we began to talk, I instantly realized that language would not be an issue and that this young man of 41 years had a story to tell with many accompanying questions. He is in the U.S. for the first time and is North African by birth and heritage. He has been living in a progressive Middle Eastern country with a family member. It is also where his job is located.
As I listened, I realized that the Holy Spirit had been in charge of this encounter from the beginning. He shared about his background and what brought him to the U.S.. He was having his first experience away from his Muslim background and influence. He had been asking God to reveal Himself and the true heart of Christians. “S” was disenchanted with Islam and he could see that Christians possessed a love and joy that he had never experienced in Islam.
We talked for most of an hour and I did my best to reveal the relationship that Jesus desires for all mankind to experience in Him. “S” explained more of his life and then said very clearly that he wanted Jesus in his heart and life. The concept of grace as unmerited favor, a God who loved him so much that He sent His Son, and forgiveness was compelling. We prayed and I gave him a Bible (Arabic and English in parallel form). His hunger to learn more about Jesus was obvious as I led him through a basic understanding of the four gospels.
“S” returned on Wednesday. We spent another hour pouring through the gospel of John as I answered questions created by his discoveries. We talked more about grace, baptism, the Holy Spirit, and the fellowship we experience as a family of believers. We made plans for him to attend church with me on the upcoming Sunday. He arrived one-half hour early. It’s important to understand that I am a Pastor at an all-English-speaking church. It was amazing to watch the body of Christ embrace “S” and immediately treat him like “one of the family”.
Over the next several days there were many texts that traveled back and forth with questions and answers. “S” was baptized this last Sunday. In addition, he brought a Muslim friend whom he trusts.
Some of you reading this may be wondering if it’s been written for self-serving or self-promoting purposes. I assure you it’s not! You may even think this is a common occurrence at VOR since we represent Christ every week as we serve an Arabic-speaking refugee population. Let me again assure you … while it is common for people to be influenced on a weekly basis for Christ, it is usually a very long process for them to profess a faith in Him.
I write this so that you may know that God and His Holy Spirit are still in charge of doing the “heavy lifting” when it comes to sharing Christ with Muslims. In this case, God had done most of that hard labor before “S” every stepped foot on VOR’s campus. I was just the blessed recipient of welcoming “S’s” realization of God’s love. I also write this so that you will know that your desire to see Muslim-background people come to Christ is not in vain.
Your prayers for VOR’s staff and volunteers are not only appreciated but essential. And finally, I write this so that you recognize that there is a place for you and your gifts to be used at VOR. If not for the Syrian volunteer who ushered “S” to our door, I wouldn’t have had the possibility of sharing with him. Blessings await.
- Pray for the health of refugee families and children.
- Pray for refugees that need legal assistance, but cannot afford attorneys to represent them. Pray for favor in the courts.
- Pray for VOR Learning Center remodel to go smoothly and for the refugee families to be blessed during the transition.
- Pray for God to hand pick teachers for the summer program and inspire families to come learn of the love of Jesus over the summer.
- Pray for our college interns, that they would be a blessing to families and that serving at VOR would inspire them towards justice-based initiatives in the future.
- Pray for VOR staff and volunteers. Wisdom, discernment and grace to work with refugee families.
- Pray for new services we are starting. Favor over our weekly schedule and new volunteers to serve with us.
- Pray for the ESL Service as we transition to new curriculum that it would be inspiring to the teachers and refugee families.
- Pray for refugee family members still in their country of origin awaiting approval to join their families in the USA.
- Pray for safety for family members of refugee families still in conflict zones, war zones whom are externally and internally displaced.
- Pray for favor as we speak at local universities, churches and non-profits. That others would be inspired to join us in donating to and serving refugee families.
New VOR Executive Director
It is an honor to serve alongside the many dedicated volunteers and staff of VOR to help our new neighbors who are overwhelmed and in need of a helping hand. A little of my journey to VOR… In 2001, as the Twin Towers fell, my journey to come to know and love Muslim men, women and children began. I began to learn about Islam, realizing that many people had been enslaved by the same enemy that had enslaved me. Since Jesus saved me, releasing me from the power of sin to love others, I had a deep desire to help Muslims to become freed too. This led me to serve Muslims in Northern Ghana, Africa, in 2009-2010. in 2012. She developed and led their 1st Summer Tutoring Program, which is still one of VOR’s largest outreaches in the community.
My call is to help VOR mature structurally and grow her fundraising capacity, so many more refugees and asylum-seeking families can be served with love and excellence. This is a challenging time for VOR. We face these challenges with faith in our good and loving God, trusting Him to provide wisdom, the people, and money to help the VOR family meet increasing refugee and asylum-seeking family needs. Yes, I wrote increasing! While the number of new refugees allowed in the US has decreased dramatically, there are still thousands of refugee and aslyum-seeking families living in and around Little Arabia that came over the past few years that are still overwhelmed and underserved! We intend to prudently expand ministry services during this challenging time.
In fact, we are launching ministry services on Monday evenings beginning Feb. 10th. We are offering computer training (MS Office Certified Course), Homework Help for 4th to 9th graders, and a women’s social time. This evening would not be launching without the tremendous help of Sarang Community Church, who is supplying the initial volunteers to kick-start Monday ministry. We are working with other churches and faith-based groups to expand to other nights of the week.
You can help by praying for VOR (see our prayer request list), by volunteering, and by becoming a regular donor. Why a regular donor? Giving regularly will remind you to pray for refugees, growing your love for others, and provides finanical stability enabling us to prudently expand ministry services over this and next year. Prayerfully consider to give. Donate online to automate your giving using the Donate link at the upper right corner of this page.
Please call me if you have any questions. We would also love to meet you and to give you a tour of VOR to see ongoing ministry. Call me at 714.277.6843 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
In 2019, VOR lost a few significant donors. In 2020 we need to offset the loss of donations with approximately $140,000 in new giving. Regardless of the giving outcome in 2020, we trust and will be content with whatever God provides through individuals, our local partners, the Gala, and grantmaking. There is hope in Christ!
In 2019, while there was loss, God provided 49 new donors that kept VOR moving forward. We are asking you to pray about giving monthly to VOR to help us increase and improve our care for refugees. While only 18,000 refugees will be allowed to come to the US in 2020, there are thousands of refugees currently underserved or not served at all in and around VOR Learning Center! We ask that you consider committing to make a monthly donation to help refugees and asylee seekers become self-sufficient. We hope the below guidance will help you prayerfully consider donating to make a real difference in the life of refugee children, women and men.
- Donating $250 or more/month will help expand VOR’s capacity to reach more refugees families.
- Donating $100/month helps a refugee learn English as a Second Language.
- Donating $75/month helps a refugee student to attend the Summer Student Program.
- Donating $50/month enables a refugee family to have an additional $320 (approx.) groceries per month.
- Donating $25/month provides a week of loving care for a child at VOR Learning Center.