Tag Archives: learning

Top Eight Lessons from the Past Four Years

When I started this crazy college journey, I wrote a post with my top ten lessons from the first two weeks. In it, I share, with the honesty of an eighteen-year-old, some of the things that I hadn’t realized would be so prevalent in my transition away from home and into autonomy. Some of them are particularly nuanced to my specific move into a Christian, higher education space, but some of them are universally applicable when it comes to general transitions. The fact that relationships take time, small talk is necessary, and it’s important to be real with people are things that feel and have felt important beyond my first couple weeks in a freshman dorm.

Some transitions are more daunting than others. Going away to college is a big one, especially as teenagers stand on the precipice of the “emerging adulthood” life stage. It is an incredible experience, in every sense of the word. Incredibly hard. Incredibly rewarding. Incredibly formative. Going away to a Christian college is a sort of experience in and of itself – full of its own trials, quirks, and blessings. You may not wake up to someone’s 3am hangover vomit in the elevator (a frequent experience for my sister at a secular school); it’s more likely that you’ll awkwardly pass an affectionately termed “lobby couple” breaking up or making out as you go back and forth to get your laundry. Or will find yourself most silenced when a guy throws a poor exegesis of 1 Timothy 2:12 in your face and says you probably shouldn’t go into ministry. Or when spirituality gets mixed with hormones and you don’t know how to proceed with a crush when you’re trying to simultaneously “step out in boldness” and “trust God’s timing”  (the sort of things I was thinking about when I wrote posts like 5 Truths I Learn when I have a Crush) – because let’s face it, there’s nothing sexier than when the intelligent guy in class, who also plays on your intramural sports team, happens to walk into the prayer chapel with his guitar. Those are the kinds of strange things you wrestle with when you transition into a Christian college.

I’m graduating from Wheaton college with my undergraduate degree in three weeks. Even though I have another year to finish my masters at the graduate school, I’ve come to acknowledge that Wheaton won’t look or feel the same next year. I’m entering into a period of transition, not just over the next few weeks but into the upcoming year. The past four years in this place have shaped and formed me in more ways that I can express. If someone had asked me to picture my life in 2017, way back in the fall of 2013, it would not have looked like this, by any stretch of the imagination. There are places where the Lord has done above and beyond what I could have anticipated and places where I’m face to face with my own failure, disappointment, or unanswered prayers. That’s the tension of transition. With that, it felt fitting to bookend this time with more lessons that I’ve learned over the past four years in the special, broken, amazing, crazy place that is Wheaton College. . .

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1. Remember that wherever you are maintains a level of imperfection, full of imperfect people and imperfect circumstances.

I came into school with a level of expectation – most of which I hadn’t realized. Some of it came out of season of boldness in prayer, believing the Lord and expecting certain things of Him. Some of it is just the nature of entering into a new space. We hold dreams, desires, and visions of what a place will be, of who the people we’re in relationship with will be. The hopes are important in driving us to particular things and in giving us a sense of expectation for the Lord’s movement. The problem becomes when we weigh everything against our sense of expectation, when we’re unable to cope when things fail us. Because they inevitably will. There will be rejection, hurt, and things that we thought would or would not happen that did (or didn’t). We need to learn to acknowledge unmet expectation and grieve the loss of our dreams in a way that doesn’t hold those things as offenses against God or others.

2. Don’t forget to give yourself grace; failure isn’t a bad thing because it leads to humility.

With that, it’s also important to remember that you’ll face a level of personal failure. I don’t know that there’s been anything more formative in my pursuit of humility than the ways I’ve failed at Wheaton. There were relationships that I royally screwed up, classes that were a weekly struggle to get through (shoutout to calculus), times where I was wholly dependent on others, opportunities where the door was slammed in my face (which happened as recently as this morning), places that I dropped the ball, hurt others, and altogether missed the mark. In a world where it often feels like I’m balancing spinning plates, I’ve broken my fair share and often had to watch as they crashed to the floor. It’s easy to question your worth, the Lord’s desire to use you, and your general sense of competency. It’s easy to compare and to feel behind. These are the places that either become debilitating moments of paralyzing inadequacy or springboards for humility. Because when we ask the Lord to make us more humble, for “His power to be made perfect in our weakness,” that means we have to step into those places of weakness. Where we can’t do it, where we face rejection, inability, and inadequacy. In these places, we have to choose whether to make it about us or dwell in the grace He lavishes on us and rest in the trustworthiness of His glory.

3. Lean into the discomfort of identity (re)formation.

Not knowing who you are, where you’re going, or what you have to offer is a terrible feeling. When you’re stripped of all confidence and the things that used to make you “you,” it’s easy to feel like all the lights have been turned off. It can feel like you’re groping around in the dark for what once felt secure regarding your sense of identity. In my experience, transition seems to catapult this experience faster than most other things; once minute, you feel confident, comfortable, secure, and rooted, and the next you’ve been put in the middle of something unfamiliar and unstable. Who you are feels different because the setting is different; more than that, who you’ll be at the end of an experience will be different too, if you allow yourself to engage in the often uncomfortable process of growth. It’s important to establish a sense of core identity – who you are at the foundation of your being. The sort of things that are true even when you look back on home videos from your childhood; the pieces of your heart, personality, and strengths that go with you in every situation and relationship. And then with the rest of it? Be okay watching it shift and change in often uncomfortable ways. It’s like when a kid gets braces put on – it’s the gradual and often painful mechanism that is shifting the position of the teeth. We have the constant potential to change and shift, even more so when we put ourselves in new situations and relationships, putting on a new pair of metaphorical braces, and allowing it all to change us.

4. Don’t be afraid to let your worldview, ideologies, and opinions change.

If there’s one thing that’s changed in the past four years it is my views on things. I think that’s how it should be when you are encountering new people, settings, and experiences that should put your previous opinions in disequilibrium. My view on things surrounding sexuality, LGBTQ+, and gender have changed as I became friends with new people, wrestled with people through their questions, and engaged in Biblical exegesis from a different lens. I have different opinions on how we should respond to the refugee crisis and immigration because of my work with a resettlement agency and interactions with Muslims and our local Islamic center. I don’t read the Bible the same way I did four years ago. My thoughts about abortion, alcohol, and “calling” are more nuanced and complex than they were in 2013. I don’t view ministry, economics, or people who live in suburbia the same way. My views on feminism, gender roles, race, cultural appropriation, and the history of the church is different than it was back when I graduated highschool. For as many questions as the past four years have answers, they’ve caused me to ask a million more. There’s a humility involved in acknowledging that you may have it wrong. But that’s the tension we’re called to walk – holding positions with conviction and being able to argue for them with sound reasoning, good Biblical exegesis, and deep roots of wisdom, but also, holding them loosely. That’s not to say that we’re relativists or don’t stand on truth – it means that we know what is absolutely core and we’re able to dialogue with humility, civility and open-mindedness about everything else. There are things that four years ago that I would have stood by as unshakeable truth but I’m so glad there was a level at which I was willing (or, if not willing, able) to engage with an open mind. New perspectives, experiences, and relationships have shaped me and my worldview for the better and into a more holistic (albeit still flawed) picture of the Kingdom of God.

5. Comparison really is the thief of joy (and comparison gets a lot easier when you’re around a bunch of really talented, beautiful, spiritual people who have things that you want).

People gave me advice before I came to Wheaton, cautioning me to be aware of the particular tendencies towards comparison at a Christian institution. Everyone was valedictorian of their graduating class, everyone has a heart for the marginalized, everyone runs marathons on the weekends. Everyone is the best, the smartest, the prettiest, the most athletic, and the most passionate. Everyone is also “the most spiritual.” When your identity formation becomes a measurement against the people around you, you’re wading into dangerous waters. The problem is this often happens subconsciously. Half of the time, you don’t even realize you’re waist deep in the waters of comparison because it’s so subtle – it’s the passing thoughts about someone else’s looks, the quick jab in your mind about their intelligent answer, or the eye roll when you find out so-and-so is in a relationship. Then when you find yourself drowning in questions of what makes you worth loving, special, and valuable, it’s harder to fight for truth because the lies have snuck their way into daily thought patterns. It’s hard to fight for joy when you’re feeling less than everyone else. Not as caring, pretty, intelligent, attentive, deep, or funny. . .which is probably why you don’t have the job, the boyfriend/girlfriend, bank account, relationship with God, or instagram-worthy life. Those are the kind of thoughts that take up heart space and kill confidence, joy, and any sort of real movement forward in what the Lord is doing in your life.

Also, if I’m being honest, a corollary to this would be that overthinking is often a nicer word used to justify comparison. Just saying.

6. Prioritize well.

Sort out what your priorities are before everything starts competing to be one. Writing out priorities at every level of life – overall life priorities, priorities in this season, priority of relationships – can be helpful in offering a continual litmus test for where your time, attention, and heart space is oriented towards. We talk about this all the time in teaching ESL: every course, unit, and individual lesson needs objectives and those objectives need to be measurable. Give yourself a list of goals, intentions, and priorities when you transition into something new. Vague priorities will be helpful in giving you a general sense of where the track is (i.e. saying that you’re prioritizing academics can mean any number of things but is clearly measurable if you’re failing classes). Specific priorities are helpful in giving you tangible markers and tasks that you’re committed to executing. Realistic goal setting. Personally, I’ve found it helpful to establish both. Asking myself what my objectives are, who do I want to be or have accomplished at the end of a season, gives me a better sense of specific things that I can prioritize, engage with, or pursue to achieve those specific ends. What are you doing, why are you doing it, and what are you ultimately oriented towards?

7. Loving well means being listening actively and attentively, asking hard questions, and caring without pretense.

I’ve spent four years in close, intense community. I’ve learned how to confront conflict, bring up minor grievances, and speak honestly about how I’m doing. As someone who used to tend towards passive aggressive confrontation, I’ve learned that loving doesn’t mean shying away from things that feel tense or difficult. Asking hard questions and not being afraid to challenge others, in ways that are humble and appropriate, is a profound way of expressing love. I’ve also learned that there’s nothing better than feeling known, especially when it’s in a context something like sitting around a table laughing uncontrollably. We’re called to care deeply for others and to engage in committed, intimate relationships where others feel known and loved. That doesn’t come from sweeping things under the rug or pretending that life is always rosy. Listening to others in a way that makes them feel heard doesn’t mean that you’re just a person with working ears; attentive listening means creating a space that allows people the time and safety involved in sharing what feels most helpful to them. It means valuing stories as the most precious thing we carry with us – things that are deeply personal and emotional. Knowing whether someone needs space to cry, verbally process, or just watch a movie in silence takes listening, discernment, and a selflessness that prefers someone else’s needs.

8. Caring for people doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t create emotional boundaries.

I used to think that caring for others meant that I needed to be fully emotionally available. That I could carry any and all problems that they would throw at me – feeling the full emotional weight of them in prayer, thought, and interactions. I assumed that having deeply empathetic sensitive meant that I was being called into emotional and empathetic engagement with everyone, at all times. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was emotionally exhausted and oftentimes feeling things at a level that the person themselves might not even be feeling. I assumed this meant that I was loving well, doing real and hard ministry; so much of it was just that I had refused to set up emotional boundaries and rhythms of personal soul care. Carrying things for people is important and heavy and a part of engaging in deep relationships with others, but it doesn’t mean that people should be allowed to put everything on you. There’s a difference between being the person that someone could call at 2am if they need you and being the person that someone is calling at 2am every night. Setting boundaries, in terms of personal time, physical space, and emotional weight, ultimately helps you better care for others and lead them into caring for themselves.

For example, a year ago I had a conversation with a friend where I confessed to her that it was getting hard for me to hear her verbal processing about her dating relationship; there was this sense of anytime something happened, she’d text, call, or tell me. It was becoming a daily thing I was being asked to carry, in the midst of my own emotional prayers about singleness and submission of personal desires for marriage, companionship, and dreams of mutual ministry with a husband. I’d hesitated having the conversation, afraid she’d stop talking to me about her personal life altogether – it wasn’t that I didn’t want to hear about her life or her relationship, it was just the frequency and intensity was becoming too much and too one-sided. She needed to know where I was at. It proved to be one of the most mutually beneficial conversations. Not only did it give her the chance to love me well, it also convicted her in the level at which she was depending on me over the Lord. We’ve been able to carry each other’s emotional burdens better and in mutually healthy ways since then. Establishing emotional boundaries walks a fine line, but it’s worth wrestling with, since it’s impact on relationships pays dividends.

 

At the end of the day, all of life, including transitions, are about being near to the Lord and knowing Him. If I’m not learning how to love Him more, receive His love for me, and love others better, then what am I doing? As I face the impending transition into my future, I’m taking these lessons with me. I’m not who I was four years ago – praise the Lord. There’s been a lot of life lived within the 60187 zip code and I’m overwhelmingly grateful for my faithful, gracious Savior who has moved, loved, and sustained me in this place.

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pictures are from my first visit to Wheaton in July of 2013

My Dual Identity

It’s one thing to say that my identity is in the Lord. It’s another to actually walk in that. It’s yet another thing to begin fully grasping at what that exactly means. Jesus has been clear in these past few weeks that there are two pieces to who I am in Him. What’s more, I so easily confuse the two; it’s humbling and convicting to realize how much of what I perceive as my identity is actually deeply rooted and a little backwards

On one hand, I am (or strive to be) the good and faithful servant. It’s the Matthew 25 or Luke 19 principle, the master’s praise to the hard-working, mindful, selfless servant. There are countless verses and stories that detail our call to obedience: to love the hurting, feed the hungry, share the Gospel, shelter the homeless, fight against injustice. To do for the least of these and imitate Christ. After all Luke 12:48 makes it clear that if we’ve been given much, much will be expected. We are called to obedience, to follow the Lord into hard things, to love our neighbors and lay down our lives. My prayer becomes “Lord, let me be faithful in all that you’ve given me” – whether big or small (which, in and of itself is really just my hierarchical perception of what “big” and “small” even mean). I want to be found faithful in my commitment to the Lord and to loving His people, regardless of the cost. And that’s a good, biblical, God-glorifying thing.

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However, when I start or end with my identity as a good and faithful servant, while partially true, I err in terms of living into who God actually and fully says that I am.

Because first and last, I am the beloved. I am only able to love because He first loved me, irrespective of anything I’ve done or deserved. I’m called beautiful and whole by the one who’s very body was broken for my redemption. It’s the childhood truth of Jesus’ love for us that comes not by anything we preempted or for anything other than the fact that He simply loves us. Except it’s not simple, because this love is deeper and stronger than we will ever comprehend; no human love even comes close to measuring the love through which God sees us. The only reason I can even think about leaning into my identity as a faithful servant is because I’m doing it out of a place of being unequivocally loved by Faithfulness Himself.

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I don’t know that the church has always done a good job at explaining the relationship between justification and sanctification, or our place as both faithful servant (sanctification) and child of God (justification). Believing that I’m simply the beloved seems to negate the command for obedience, for love of neighbor, and for service. It trivializes or minimizes everything I’ve ever done, sacrificed, or stepped into on account of the Lord. And if it doesn’t mean anything, I’m not super compelled to continue walking into costly obedience.

That’s the tension we are asked to navigate everyday – because being good and faithful servant does matter. It matters a whole lot. We please the heart of God when we walk in tandem with His Spirit. We are called to follow Him, to die to self, and care for others. However, the tension comes when we realize that we can never start with that. That can never be the whole foundation of our identity. Because if base who we are in being a good and faithful servant, we inevitably come back to a view of God’s love that makes sense, something that we control. “I know God loves me . . . after all, how could He not when I’m so clearly following Him?” It no longer becomes the whole, pervasive, inexplicable love of the Father but the kind of love we can earn, maintain, and understand. The kind of love that feels comfortable and makes us feel worthy.

I feel like the mental shift should be easy: I am beloved first, faithful servant second. Both necessitate one another. However, I think that this tension will likely take a lifetime to master. Because being beloved, for as beautiful and amazing as it is, carries with it some fearful connotations.

We know that perfect love casts out fear, but the fact of the matter is that my only concept for love is human love. For as much amazing human love as I’ve experienced, it has not been without failures, heartbreaks, and conditions. If I lean fully into the eternal, incomprehensible love of God for me, I inherently strip myself of any control. It becomes this wholehearted trust in the heart of God for me, that it will never fail or diminish. That none of how He sees me is contingent on what I do or don’t do. And even though my theology tells me that nothing can separate me from His love, the questions still seem to arise in my heart from my flawed, fleshly concept of love. Because what if I’m too messy? What if I lean into being beloved and then He gets disappointed in me? What if I’m not good enough for the Lord or He decides He doesn’t want me anymore? What does it mean if my obedience isn’t changing His view of me, isn’t earning me more favor in His sight?

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He’s pleased with me as His faithful servant, but He loves me as simply His daughter.

I think that’s a dichotomy worth wresting with, since it has everything to do with who we are, how we approach life, ministry, and the posture with which we go before God. I’ll probably be wrestling with it for the rest of my life.

Things I’ve Learned From Refugees

“I think about the trees, the flowers, the brown grass in the fields.

They can all be patient, Certain that spring will return.

They don’t have to hope, They can be sure.

Hope is a thing made only for people,

A scrap to hold into

In darkness and in light” Home of the Brave, 246

I'm standing in "the cage," which is where we put together Good Neighbor Kits for newly arriving refugee family. I'm holding a welcome card made by a little girl.
Here, I’m standing in what we call “the cage,” which is where World Relief puts together Good Neighbor Kits for newly arriving refugee families. I’m holding a welcome card made by a little girl; welcome cards are included in every GNK that we leave in their apartments.

The other day, I wrote about things I’ve learned about refugees from my work at World Relief. There’s been a lot of new information circling regarding resettlement, refugees, and statistics regarding the growing displacement crisis. While facts are important, especially true ones and ones written from a personal connection, ultimately I wrote down things that you could find elsewhere on the internet.

At the end of the day, they’re still just the facts.

And these people are so much more than facts.

Interacting with people who have literally been forced to leave everything they know and arrive in a foreign land, often alone and not speaking the language, has done more than just teach me a few important tidbits about the refugee crisis. They have taught me about bravery, resilience, humility, hope, and hospitality. The people, not the facts, have chipped away at hardened pieces of my soul and shown me more of the grace and love of Christ.

They aren’t just numbers, pieces of the resettlement system, or the faces supporting the new refugee olympic team. They are some of the strongest, most courageous, most genuine people I’ve ever met. And here’s just a brief glimpse of some of the things they taught me this summer:

 

• Our presence is always communicating something – through our smile, our eyes, our body language, and the emotional state of our hearts. 

I couldn’t speak to most of the people I’ve picked up from the airport. I couldn’t tell them how to buckle their child in the carseat or that it’ll probably take an hour until we get to their new apartment. The point of translators is to help fill in those gaps and make the experience, at least on some level, a little less overwhelming. While it can be frustrating to have so much you want to say and find yourself unable to, especially as someone who likes using words to communicate, it has given me a new and profound appreciation for the presence we carry simply in our being.

Eye contact. Smiling. Nodding. Whether we like it or not, how we carry ourselves genuinely reflects our emotions. And when our emotions are overwhelming love and care for these people we’ve just met, it makes it easier to submit each encounter to the Lord and trust that His Spirit is saying more than you ever could. However, when emotions harbor a little more frustration, distraction, or selfishness, then spending ten minutes with the Lord before you step out of the car to greet a U.S. tie can be the most worthwhile thing you do all day. Because, like it or not, our very presence carries something with it – safety, welcome, warmth, compassion, annoyance, apathy. The question is, do we emanate the love of Christ, or something else? Because we’re always communicating something.

• There’s a resilience, bravery, and courage that we bear in our human spirit; it’s our choice to embrace it or not.

As part of my internship, I wrote weekly reflection papers. Week 4, I picked up two large families from the airport, accompanied only by a U.S. Tie. It was my first solo airport pick-up and the size alone was a little daunting. I agreed, but my mind was not without hesitation. Are we sure I was capable of getting these families to their new homes and making sure they would be safe for the night? What if something went wrong? Despite preemptive fears, the pick-up was incredible. After I got home, I wrote the following:

“Not only did I navigate the whole evening successfully and alone – getting everyone safety to their respective locations, including their luggage and food – but I had the humbling privilege of hearing pieces of their story through the U.S. Tie. Knowing that his wife came to the US alone, as a refugee, empowered me in some small way. Watching the older couple try to figure out seatbelts, knowing they couldn’t understand anything I was saying, as I helped pull the band across their bodies, I saw a bravery and resilience in their eyes. Everyone that World Relief resettles knows they are coming into a place that is literally worlds different than what they’ve known. Yet, they chose to do it  – for safety, for a better life, for a future, for protection, for hope. If my motivation is the love of Christ, literally the Hope of the world, what fear could hold me back from choosing all the plans He has for me, no matter how different, distant, or daunting?”

Because of the a lot of the built-in comforts of our American life, and our innate desire to run from situations that are uncomfortable or uproot deep seated fears of loss, loneliness, or failure, it’s easy to forget that there is strength available to us. Comfort doesn’t breed growth; challenge does. The thing about challenge is that while it may feel like it’s killing us, most of the time, it’s not. We have strength in who we are as human beings – we were created to be resilient, for bravery and the ability to grow. As Christians, we also have a strength that is inbred into our relationship with the King of Kings. It’s no wonder He continually reminds: “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). Do we tap into that power and resilience on a daily basis?

• Don’t underestimate the small things and the need for flexibility when it comes to hospitality.

The more I think about it, the more I think that hospitality isn’t the kind of thing that makes up best-selling biographies. No one really wants to read about people washing dishes, sending emails, or spending extra time to pick out matching blankets for a family. Acts of hospitality typically aren’t the documentary-worthy moments of serving others. Hospitality often looks more like Jesus washing feet or the woman on the side of the road wiping Christ’s brow. It’s small, insignificant, things that put you in a place of submission and humility as you choose others over yourself. The moments that don’t gain accolades, or may not even be noticed or remembered, but plant the seeds of love and care upon every place you tread.

Because, at the end of the day, people may not remember you and they may not remember the little things you did for them, but they’ll remember the feeling of being loved, served, and cared for. Isn’t that ultimately what Jesus did. To serve with humility; to love without pretense?

Things like welcome cards made by elementary school classes, picking out matching blankets for a family, or being willing to cut your lunch break short to drop a DVD player off for a family, so they can watch ESL videos with a volunteer. These are the things of hospitality. These are the things that make life a little more beautiful for someone else and when done with a heart of humility and love, ultimately please the Father’s heart.

8 Things I’ve Learned About Refugees

This summer I have the privilege of interning at World Relief, in DuPage/Aurora, Illinois. I’m working with the new arrivals and volunteer coordinators to get a closer look into what the refugee resettlement process looks like and how World Relief is doing it as a Christian non-profit.

Suffice to say, the experience is doing more than building my resumé or further solidifying my desire to work cross-culturally. It’s changing my heart.

Despite having traveled to over twenty different countries and being passionate about serving overseas, I didn’t know a lot about refugees before this summer. I thought I’d share some of the deeply impactful and often eye-opening things I’ve learned in my time working with refugees.

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1.) There are 65.3 million people displaced worldwide; 21.3 million refugees. The UNHCR, or the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, has a myriad of terms to describe and identify the different situations of fleeing people around the globe. The UNHCR was only created in 1950, to help the millions of displaced Europeans after World War II. For someone to apply for refugee status, they have to flee from their home country due to a “well-founded fear of persecution” and life-threatening “war or violence” (USA for UNHCR).

2.) There’s a difference between a country that is hosting refugees and resettling refugees. Unlike internally displaced person (IDPs) who flee his or her home but stays within their home country’s border, a refugee crosses international lines in search of asylum. In countries where there is persecution and conflict, refugees often flee to neighboring countries. Turkey is currently hosting 2.5 million refugees, Pakistan has 1.6 million, and Lebanon has 1.1 million. There are 90 countries where refugees are seeking asylum; there are only 30 countries that resettle (RefWorld). Countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia, Sweden, and Britain resettle refugees, meaning the refugees go through a process to permanently move to a third country and pursue citizenship there.

3.) Refugees can come from any background, socioeconomic status, family size, or situation. They can come with anything from a backpack to several large suitcases. Some have good English, while others can’t read or write in their own native tongue. A refugee could have been a doctor, a businessman, or a farmer in their country. Refugees are as different as the culture and context from which they come. The reasons refugees fled their homes, their living situation in a host country, and their feelings towards resettlement vary dramatically.

4.) The refugee resettlement process takes years. Think about it: it’s years of dealing with persecution or fleeing your home country. Then it’s years of settling into a refugee camp and being registered as a internationally recognized refugee. Then it’s years of paperwork to apply for resettlement – after deciding there is no possibility of returning home. It takes years for that paperwork to make it through the pipeline and be processed: by the UNHCR, by IOM (International Office of Migration), by the government of the resettlement country, and by the local resettlement organization. You don’t go from fleeing your home, to moving into a refugee camp, to seeing your new apartment in Aurora, Illinois within the year. It can take between 5-10 years for all of these steps to actualize for a refugee.

5.) After all of that, less than 1% of all people who can be classified as refugees end up being resettled. The United States has a cap on the number of refugees that can be resettled. The current ceiling is 85,000 – which includes refugees of all ages and nationalities. The highest ceiling has been 200,000, the lowest was 20,000 after September 11. The individual resettlement cases are handled by nine government sanctioned non-profits. World Relief is one of these non-profits (of the nine, five are faith-based).

6.) After years of waiting, the refugee still has to undergo tests, checks, and examinations before they can be resettled. There is a misconception, often perpetuated by images of refugees fleeing to hosting countries or miscommunications after terrorists attacks, that the U.S. is resettling potential terrorists. Not likely. When a refugee applies to be resettled, they don’t chose the country they will ultimately end up in. Even in situations where they have a U.S. tie, they are not guaranteed to end up in that country or in a particular state. Refugees undergo federal background checks, in addition to numerous security checks by the resettling non-profit. They face incredible scrutiny at every stage of the long, tedious process. In addition, refugees also must wait for medical paperwork, security documents, and, in some cases, an exit visa from the host country. It is incredibly difficult to get all of the ducks in a row, at exactly the same time (most of the documents have delays in mailing and short-term expiration dates). The refugee resettlement process is not for the faint of heart – nor is it for people who might be on a mission to harm a particular country where they may or may not eventually be resettled. It seems not only ridiculous but unjust deny thousands of good, hard-working, caring people and families hope for a safe future because politicians and social media have perpetuated a relatively irrational fear regarding refugees.

7.) Refugees are hard working – in fact, they start out their new life with debt. The U.S. provides a small stipend for each refugee, facilitated through their resettlement agency. This often covers the first few months of rent in an apartment and basic living necessities. However, the cost of traveling to the U.S. is provided by a travel loan through the IOM (International Office of Migration). The refugees are expected to pay this loan back, as part of becoming self-sufficient within the first few months of arrival. While this may seem unfair, it is actually a very important part of a refugee’s transition to the States. The travel loan allows countries to resettle more refugees because it reduces the financial impact on the government (and consequently, the people who are taxed). It also halts cycles of dependance and victimization, by allowing the refugee to take ownership of their own life and ability to provide for themselves. Celebrating the final payment of a travel loan is an incredible experience for a refugee. They paid their way here and have begun to built a life for themselves.

8.) Refugees are people. The numbers are helpful for seeing the big picture and are necessary when looking at how many cases World Relief is taking in a month, how many mattresses the donations coordinator needs to buy, or evaluating the efficiency of systems dealing with insurmountable numbers of displacement. They can also be helpful to see just how great the need is and how small the part we play actually looks in comparison. However, whenever you introduce numbers you run the risk of devaluing each and every person that owns one of those numbers. It’s not just another family that I compile household item donations for – they are parents, and women, and children who are going to gather around a strange table, in a new apartment, and retire to beds with blankets that they didn’t pick. They are real people with real stories and real emotions surrounding their transition here. That deserves our attention because people always deserve our attention.

More Like Ten Days

So, the whole 25 days of blogging kind of fell off the bandwagon at certain points. Which was to be expected, with finals and coming home and all. But ten posts and eleven drafts came out of the past twenty-five days, so I’d say it was a success. Even more than whatever I posted, I learned a lot about… Read more. . .

So It Begins Again

It’s so good to see people in the dining hall. To bump into people between classes. To have familiar voices filling our apartment stairwell. To listen to my friend’s stories. To give big, lingering hugs to people I’ve come to know as family. The boxes have been unpacked. The textbooks have been purchased. The dekes… Read more. . .

Letting Him Lead

My freshman year of college I learned to swing dance. I’ll never forget when one of my friends pulled me out into the middle of the gym floor after I had learned the basic East Coast Swing step. We began moving our feet in sync, but the tension in my arms indicated my trepidation as… Read more. . .

The Second Time Around

It’s been a whirlwind two weeks, y’all. Packing, goodbyes, an 11 hour drive, several hours of moving in, more goodbyes, hellos, HoneyRock camp leadership camp, diakonoi training week, more hellos, making new best friends. It’s been a lot different than the first time around; I was so overwhelmed the first time I left for Wheaton. I… Read more. . .

On Waiting, the Incarnation, and 27 Drafts

Guys, there are 27 drafts sitting in my posts box. Most of them are just titles, placeholders for profound thoughts that I’ve had, spanning all the way back to the beginning of this year. Clearly, I’m never really at a loss of thought. It’s just the following through with the blog post that I have… Read more. . .

Something about Trust…

Trusting God has been something that has always been a big thing for me. It is something the Lord has highlighted in the past few years specifically, but I have always had something of a little bit of childlike faith. It is a combination of an easygoing personality, a lifelong relationship with the Lord, and… Read more. . .