STORIES OF HOPE
STORIES OF HOPE
When I dream of the International Welcome Center (IWC), I see an organization where the love of God is brought to life through people who have been empowered to love their neighbor. I see people who love God acting most like God would act. I see Americans being the very best America can be.
I see a place where persons of different origins and cultures, different languages and colors, different customs and religions, are accepted. They are not accepted out of pity, but because of their value and diversity and knowledge. I see a place where those who serve the foreigner find their own worth not in what they have to offer, but in their capacity to bear the burden of another. To give to a stranger until that stranger becomes a friend.
I see a place where xenophobia is not allowed to exist because faith in the Almighty has pushed it out. I see American citizens coming alongside someone who has fled from death and disease, genocide and political tyranny, ethnic cleansing and civil war to find the healing of a caring nation. A nation willing to give them a new start, build a new home, and walk them down the path of citizenship.
I see a place where selfishness takes a back seat to advocacy. A place where vulnerable foreigners are seen as valuable people. A place where the advocate takes up the cause of another to empower them and in the process discovers their own humanity.
I see a place where racism is overcome with affection motivated by love. A place where a different color of skin is an invitation—not a reservation. A place where diversity is the new normal building a stronger community instead of it being a wall that builds segregated clusters of people.
I see the IWC as part of a modern day fulfillment to an ancient prophecy. At the end of time when humanity has run its course, Jesus explained he would divide the human race into two groups: those who loved him and those who did not.
How will he know who loved him from those who cared nothing for him? He explained: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me."
Those to whom Jesus will be speaking will respond: “When did we see you hungry or thirsty? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in? When did we see you needing clothes? When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?”
Then Jesus explains, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
I imagine in that great moment Jesus pointing to the strangers who came from all over the world to live in our neighborhoods. I imagine the family that escaped religious purging in Afghanistan and the single mom with fatherless children who survived the civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I imagine the survivors of ethnic cleansing in Nepal who carry the guilt of surviving and those who live with PTSD because they endured unspeakable violence in Iraq. I imagine in that moment those of us who never endured such tragedy will see in full the losses they lived through and our hearts will finally understand.
In that great moment, I imagine the pride and joy of the Almighty for his people. Those humans, motivated by a love for Jesus, who embraced those strangers even though they had no way to fully understand them. I imagine laughter at the misunderstanding different cultures and languages produced. I imagine big tears and huge smiles as those who helped the stranger begin to understand just how much they helped. I believe those who funded the work, gave themselves, or donated time, energy, skills, or items will finally understand the full impact of their generosity.
You and I have an opportunity to be a part of that moment. We can fulfill a prophecy today few on earth will notice. Even fewer will care, but it will not go unnoticed in eternity. It will not be overlooked by the Great Lover of Souls.
I realize people who have visions can be crazy. Honestly, as God placed this dream in my heart, I wondered if I was crazy; but I began to share the idea. First, I shared it with the Elders of GBC. They didn’t think it was crazy. I then shared it with other Godly men and women. They didn’t think it was crazy. I have now shared the idea with hundreds of people. No one has said it is crazy. Ultimately, I have shared it with you.
Will you support the IWC? Will you help the stranger today? Will you embrace this opportunity?
Here are 3 ways to learn how you can support the stranger that has become your neighbor:
We have some good news! Akron is the new hometown to this family from the Democratic Republic of Congo. They arrived in the U.S. 6 months ago via Virginia, but recently moved to our city. Why did they move here? They heard stories about the kindness and hospitality of the Akron community from relatives who live in our wonderful city. No one in this family speaks English. Here they are meeting Amanda, the IWC Community Coordinator. She will be partnering them with IWC volunteers to facilitate their new start in Ohio.
Last month, the IWC started offering a basic car maintenance class. Here, an IWC volunteer is meeting with some refugee/immigrant car owners. They are excited to own cars and are eager to learn vehicle maintenance. After a brief lesson on car care, our volunteer will take them through a car care store showing them where they can purchase automobile fluids and other maintenance supplies. Simple car maintenance can save hundreds of dollars in repairs and extend the life of a car.
There are limitless ways to love, follow, and share Jesus with foreign born in our area. Without the volunteer base at GBC, many refugees and immigrants in our Jerusalem would not hear about Jesus or encounter his loving kindness.
We have many opportunities to serve these people. One of our greatest needs right now are individuals who would be willing to drive the IWC/GBC van on Sunday mornings providing transportation for refugees to come to worship. Would you be willing to love, follow, and share Jesus by volunteering to be a van driver? If you would like more information, please contact Amanda Stutler.
Bringing joy to the greater Akron area would not be possible without you! Thank you for loving, following, and sharing Jesus at Grace Bible Church.
SAVE THE DATE!!!
Wednesday, December 9
The International Welcome Center presents
“Home for the Holidays”—an online event sharing the hopes and struggles of Akron’s refugees and immigrants. It will also communicate the need for the services of the International Welcome Center in Akron.
CHECK OUT THE IWC’S NEW WEBSITE.
The work of the IWC could not be done without you.
Meet Gloria. She is a 6 year old refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She received this bouncy ball/seat from a 9 year old IWC volunteer. He outgrew it and was excited to donate one of his favorite toys. Gloria was bouncing in all of her glory on her front porch the minute she received the toy.
An IWC client let it be known that he was in need of a bedroom dresser for one of his children. A donor supplied a dresser that was in need of some minor repairs. This IWC volunteer, from Grace, is using his wood working skills to repair the dresser before it was delivered.
Recently, a couple of local weekend farmers made a donation of fresh homegrown vegetables to the IWC. Many refugees grow up growing their own food or purchasing fresh picked produce from open air markets. Our American grocery stores do not always supply that fresh vegetable flavor. Fortunately, this wonderful donation will allow several of our refugee families to have a small taste of home!
When you pray for and support the IWC, you play a part in making children smile, houses feel like homes, and dinner bringing back good memories. You pave a path for strangers to become neighbors. You open doors for the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be shared. The work of the IWC could not be done without your prayers and support.
If you would like to see the work of the IWC in person, meet a refugee family, or volunteer some time to help an IWC client, please email Amanda Stutler.
Here are some current volunteer opportunities at the IWC:
The International Welcome Center is busy loving, following, and sharing Jesus with the foreign born of Akron by serving them and becoming their friends. Here is a picture and a story I thought you might enjoy
The IWC viral cooking class took place on May 22. Six moms each received a video explaining how to cook an affordable meal for their families. One of the benefits of being in the class is receiving a grocery delivery with all the ingredients needed to cook the meal. Here is one of our volunteers delivering groceries to one of the participants.
Occasionally, a refugee relocates in Akron and for various reasons does not want their picture to be taken or shared. Jack, his wife, and his 3 sons gave me permission to share some of their story, but requested there identities not be shared.
Jack and his family are from Afghanistan. In his home country, he owned his own manufacturing company. Due to the threat of violence to his family, Jack fled with his family to Sri Lanka where they lived for several years in a refugee camp. Eventually, he and his whole family were invited to live in the United States.
Jack’s family was one of the last families relocated to Akron before the current administration halted all refugee invitations. They arrived just weeks before COVID-19 became an official pandemic.
Jack works on the assembly line at a window factory here in northeast Ohio. The IWC will assist him with finding a job that better fits his skills when he is ready to do so. He is very grateful for all the help the IWC has been able to provide. He wants everyone to know he will not forget the faces of the volunteers that brought food during the pandemic, furniture so they would not have to sit and sleep on the floor, and toys for his kids. This is important because Jack is a Muslim. He readily acknowledges that it has been Christians who have served him and his family the most during the last several tumultuous weeks. He is seeing Christ’s love for him through the ministry of the IWC. Pray for Jack. Pray that God would open his eyes to understand the grace of Christ and be born again.
He is close to having his driver’s permit and will hopefully start practice driving with an IWC volunteer in the near future. He has already promised to become a volunteer at the IWC so that he can help others who are resettling here.
When you pray for the IWC, give to the Lord’s work at GBC, or make a special donation to the IWC, you are impacting families like Jack’s. Without you, the work of the IWC would not be possible.
During these unprecedented times, the IWC has become a source of encouragement and hope for refugee families by literally bringing the love of God to their doors. Stay-at-home orders, loss of jobs, and general fear of being exposed to COVID-19 has stressed many of the low-income families we serve. IWC volunteers have been faithfully making emergency food and supply deliveries (about 10 deliveries a week). Following social distancing guidelines requires our volunteers to place items at the door, knock, and step back. Fortunately, smiles have no boundaries
Due to social distancing, the IWC cooking class went viral. Here our volunteers are filming the cooking instructions that will be sent to refugee moms learning how to cook affordable meals for their families. IWC volunteers will deliver the food needed to cook the meal and leave it at their doors.
Recently, Mama Cindy, as she is called in the refugee community (we know her as Cindy Mathias), had the pleasure of delivering some refurbished bikes to Maurice, a Congolese refugee. Maurice then took the bikes to two families who settled in the Akron area after fleeing their native country of the Republic of Congo. Here is a picture of one of the dad’s teaching his son to ride. Below is a link to an audio file of Maurice thanking Mama Cindy for the bikes. If you want to smile…listen to the audio file.
Please pray for the International Welcome Center as it continues to meet and serve refugees in the Akron area. Our volunteers are faithfully loving, following, and sharing Jesus with them. Thank you for supporting the IWC and allowing us to be a source of hope during these difficult times.
Due to COVID-19, IWC volunteers are now making emergency food and supply deliveries. This family of four from the Congo were excited to receive their shipment. The mom called Amanda Stutler, the IWC Community Coordinator, in a bit of crisis as their food supplies were running low. It is a privilege to help these families work through this current crisis.
Here are some IWC volunteers making a furniture delivery to the home of Jack, a husband and father of 3 boys. He and his family resettled here in Akron right after Stay-at-Home orders were issued. They are from Sri Lanka. The volunteers were able to bring them a couch, a reclining chair, and two lamps. Prior to the delivery, their living room was empty.
During one of his reports, Gov. DeWine said that social distancing and stay-at-home requirements were not an excuse to ignore our neighbors or help someone in need. I’m pretty sure our Heavenly Father agrees with that statement. The IWC is striving to meet the needs of refugees and immigrants and remain socially responsible during these interesting times.
Matt Hicks, the IWC’s Legal Counselor, has submitted the IWC’s application to the Department of Justice. Upon their approval, he will be able to start helping the foreign born with their legal requirements to maintain an immigrant status or become citizens. Please pray for the application to be accepted and approved.
The boy holding the rabbit is named Moses. The picture was taken at Gracetoberfest last October. In April of 2019, Moses, along with his mom, dad and 7 brothers and sisters arrived in Akron. They are refugees from Democratic Republic of Congo. Shortly after arriving in Akron, Moses and his family were greeted by volunteers from the IWC as they provided home goods and warm friendly faces. IWC volunteers became friends with Moses’ parents and eventually they invited them to Gracetoberfest.
Maurice is Moses’ dad. He and Moses came to Gracetoberfest. While at GBC that day, Maurice asked where the IWC building was going to stand. He and one of our volunteers walked hand in hand to the center of ground where the building will eventually stand by God’s grace and timing. While standing there Maurice broke out into prayer. He prayed for God to supply the resources needed for the IWC to be built. He prayed for God to bless the IWC, its leaders, and its volunteers. Through the eyes of faith and prayer, he acknowledged the building already existed in God’s plan for His refugee children; we just needed to trust Him.
Maurice and his family have been blessed by God through the ministry of the IWC. They have created friendships and now have ties to their brothers and sisters here at Grace and the IWC. He continues to pray for the IWC and the many volunteers who are showing the love of Christ to refugees in Akron.
Please join him in praying for the success, influence, and ministry of the IWC.
Neither snow, nor rain, or anything in between will stop IWC volunteers from serving the refugee community. On January 18th, these volunteers shoveled snow off the walkway in a freezing rain to deliver furniture to one of the first Congolese families to arrive in Akron in 2020. This family received a couch, a bedroom set, cookware with dishes, and a brand new opportunity for a life here in the United States. The delivery ended with a friendly snow ball fight with many smiles.
The “hand up” (not hand out) these two families received is made possible by the donations and financial support of people like yourself. What makes America great is caring, generous people.
The IWC is now offering “Refugee Encounter.” They are ride alongs with an IWC volunteer. The experience takes about 60 minutes. It allows you to see firsthand the challenges of refugees in Akron and offers you the opportunity to be inspired by their hope and spirit.
If you would like information to have a “Refugee Encounter” please email Amanda Stutler. If you would like to make a donation to the IWC, please make your check to the International Welcome Center and mail to: 5781 Manchester Rd.
Akron, OH 44319
The goal of the International Welcome Center is to show and explain the love of Christ to refugees and immigrants while following the laws of the land to help them become legal citizens or maintain a legal immigrant status. The goal will be accomplished by providing the following services:
Wonderful things have happened in the first year of the IWC. Please read below and be encouraged. None of this could have been possible without your prayers and support.
Over the last year, the IWC delivered home goods to 41 refugee families reestablishing their lives in the Akron area. Home goods includes bed frames, sheets, microwaves, kitchen utensils, shower curtains, towels, couches, end tables, kitchen tables, chairs, and bedroom furniture. It is impossible to describe the smiles home goods bring to a family that has been sitting on the floor when they gather for a meal. They are amazed to discover what a shower curtain is, and a microwave always wows.
Refugee children are the most amazing people. Because of their young minds, they are many times the first in the family to learn English and speak it fluently. This makes them the de facto translator for many adult conversations. At the IWC, we sometimes get the privilege of reminding foreign born children that they are expected to play. Here are two boys who received donated bikes.
The IWC provided cooking classes. The class meets 5 or 6 times and it is in this environment friendships are made and language barriers are overcome. In November, the refugee moms in the class learned how to cook a Thanksgiving meal. The participants cooked a meal at our facility and then ate what they had prepared. Then, each one received all the ingredients needed to prepare the same meal at their home for their family.
Several IWC volunteers are helping refugees learn how to speak English. For a refugee to thrive and reach the full potential of life in America, they must learn English. It improves job placement, personal confidence, mobility, and general understanding. However, the greatest benefit of understanding and speaking good English is being able to avoid being taken advantage of by dishonest individuals. Every refugee smiles more when they feel understood and are able to understand.
I could go on, but if you’ve read this far you are probably beginning to wonder when this email is going to end. The important thing to remember: None of this could have been possible if Grace Bible Church had not answered God’s call to start the IWC.
Here are two things you can do:
Pray for the success of the IWC.
Pray for the IWC to gain influence among refugees and immigrants.
As 2020 unfolds, I will be sharing more with you. I promise. The emails will be much shorter.