Our Team is Growing!

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Refuge International is excited to announce the addition of a new team member - Matt Mihelic. Matt will be joining Refuge International’s staff on November 10, 2018 in the role of Louisville Site Director. 

The creation of  Matt’s role as Louisville Site Director is evidence of Refuge International’s exciting growth in pursuit of our vision: Partnering with Local Churches to Love Refugees and Immigrants. Matt will complement CEO John Barnett by freeing him up to focus more intently on spreading Refuge International’s momentum and growth into other cities. 

Matt will focus on organizing, overseeing, and leading Refuge International’s ministry and impact in Louisville. With a strong track record of love for the local church, passion to love and reach internationals with the gospel, and skill in administrative organizational detail, Matt will add tremendous value to Refuge International’s team. His experience living cross culturally in Sub-Saharan Africa as well as his MA from Southern Seminary and JD from the Liberty University School of Law position him to significantly contribute to Refuge International’s organizational excellence.

Please join us in welcoming Matt. You can reach Matt at mmihelic@refugeintl.org and we’re sure you will be running into him in person soon. Matt will be living in the Norfolk neighborhood near the Welcome Center and deeply enjoys spending time serving, teaching, and learning from internationals.”


John Barnett

CEO, Refuge International

Jbarnett@refugeintl.org 

Sojourn Artist’s Reception

I am so excited to get to share what God has done for the month of December. The majority of this post will cover a very special event – the Sojourn (Out of the Depth’s) Artist’s Reception held on December 3rd.

I was so blessed to be able to present my work and talk about my project to the Sojourn congregation. The coloring book has been six months in the making, and having my friends and mentors attend and support my work was a mind-blowing experience.

When I arrived in Louisville on May 30th, I could not have anticipated any of this. It was completely due to God opening doors and changing my perspective on art and expression.

I was also blessed to hear from a fellow artist from the reception, Joe Cory. I was so inspired by his speech, He was correct in saying; as an artist, the goal of our work is to catch your attention for more than a second and make you feel something.

I’m finally using my gift for something meaningful, for people I care about and for a Creator who gave me the passion to also create. For so long I’ve drawn for myself and for a following on the internet, but during that time it’s never occurred to me to draw for God and his people.

Art can be used as a form of expression, both for positive and negative emotions. It can be used to represent people who have yet to be represented in creative content. It can be used to communicate thoughts and ideas when words aren’t enough.

More and more, I realize what an amazing way art can be to reach people. If God can use a high school graduate with an outdated ipad to reach refugees through a coloring book, imagine what he can do with educated creators or talented hobbyists. The potential is there, as is the need.

God gave us creativity to use for His kingdom. That may sound cliche, but a lot of good can be done if artists in the church demonstrated that belief. Imagine the God given power that lies within our hearts and minds that can be released with our hands? Why not use it for others?

I know that this post didn’t cover a lot of specific events (and I may have repeated myself more than once), but I just wanted to share what I’ve learned and what I’m now passionate about. Christian artists have such an opportunity to use their gifts not just to glorify God, but to lift up others who haven’t seen the spotlight. Refugees rarely have creative content made that depicts them. Even more rare is content made FOR them.

Representation is important. Expression is important. Creativity is important. And it all comes from God Himself.

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Where the Gospel Meets Refugees (Podcast)

We partnered with Love Thy Neighborhood to share an incredible story of about refugees in America.

SYNOPOSIS:

Christians say they believe in taking the gospel to all nations but what happens when the nations come to us? Stories of families fleeing terrorism and what one group of Christians chose to do about it.

SUBSCRIBE

Please, subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, OvercastSoundCloudGoogle Play or Stitcher.

CREDITS

Credits: This episode was produced and mixed by Rachel Szabo. Additional editing by Janelle Dawkins. Additional reporting by Anna Tran. This episode was written by Rachel Szabo with Jesse Eubanks.

Senior Production by Jesse Eubanks.

Hosted by Jesse Eubanks and Kevin Jones.

Soundtrack music from Lee Rosevere, Poddington Bear, Little Glass Men and Wooden Axle.

Thank you to our interviewees.

More resources on refugees at lovethyneighborhood.org/podcast.

When Service Becomes Entangled in Selfishness

Okay, I’ll admit it. The daily grind of ministry, especially among people from other cultures, often has the power to melt my passion into anxiety and turn my stomach to knots.

I’ve dreamed about being a missionary since I was a little girl. So why the sudden freeze up? Why couldn’t I walk up to this thirteen-year-old refugee without feeling completely panicked?

This semester, I have been volunteering at a public middle school through Refuge and Youth for Christ. I help the ESL teachers with whatever they need. I assist in the classroom, do one-on-one tutoring, and attempt to build relationships with these international pre-teens… Pretty basic stuff. But for some reason, every time I go (and I only go once a week) my thoughts begin to cloud with anxiety. So, I began to ask the Lord to reveal to me why this was happening. He has slowly but surely been revealing ugly pieces of my own heart, sins that were keeping me from serving Him with joy. It’s not a brand new, sparkling revelation that he laid in my lap, but rather a struggle common to man:

I am way too concerned with myself.

Unfortunately, every Monday morning when I walk through those big glass doors, down the hallway, and into the small classrooms, the deep-down thoughts can often be less than truly humble.

“What will they think of me? Why don’t I feel useful? Why am I not making an immediate difference in these kids’ lives?”

I was much too interested in making myself feel like I was doing something good, while at the same time I wanted to singlehandedly be the savior for every single teacher and student there. I wanted to see big results so that I could feel successful, and I wanted to see them soon. Of course, I didn’t always consciously think these sinful thoughts, but they were the reflections of my inner heart just the same.

Nothing will keep you feeling bogged down, fearful, and ineffective like a selfish ministry. 

Praise God for His grace.

God, in His patient kindness, has been melting away some of my wicked pride through the heat of his conviction (although I’ve still got a long way to go).

When we serve God from a place of selflessness, we are released from the impossibly high expectation-shackles that we put around our own wrists. It is truly a breath of the most refreshing air of freedom when we can serve God without having to worry about feeding the cravings of our identity and worth consumerism.

I heard this quote in a recent sermon, “What matters is faithful, energetic service; not the size of the return.” The speaker pointed out that the prayer of the righteous is often not, “Lord, I changed the world for you,” but rather “Lord, I was faithful in every single thing you gave me.” –Greg Gilbert

Oh how sweet is the simple embrace of true humility. We are not “called” to change the world, or even to save a single soul. God, in His sovereignty, will do all that. We simply have to be faithful to the daily assignments He has entrusted us with.

It’s one thing to come to this conclusion conceptually; it’s a completely different thing to live it out in the realities of every-day. It’s something I am still figuring out. I still have to ask forgiveness often.

Lord, strip my service of the selfishness that so often entangles it. May I talk to that refugee student with love and kindness. May I serve that teacher in generosity. May I do even the smallest tasks for the glory of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Giver of life and Lover of nations.

Love Extended

Some days, life as an intern can get pretty hectic. Having no title means my position can assume many forms during any given workday. Interning with a nonprofit organization pushes the ambiguity of my position even more so. There is a lot of stop-and-go, and the mentality “hurry up and wait” is often put into play. Most days this leaves me wondering what each day will be like, if I am working too much, if I am not working enough, if I am wasting time, or if I’m trying to push things along too quickly. With this, these and other self-evaluative thoughts frequently cloud my mind.

An experience I had the other day was no exception. I started the day going to a neighborhood for an event, but then quickly found out it was cancelled. I thought to myself, “It’s fine, things happen.” Back at the office, we sat down to begin some training, but before we could even start, preparation for the next event needed to begin. Again I thought, “Oh well, we can do this another day! I just need to adjust.” This next event was centered around lunch, but, once more, my patience was tested when lunch was served an hour and a half late.

When multiple things don’t go my way or how they were previously planned, it tends to wear me down. I grow a little more impatient with each push back and change of schedule. Aside from the impatience, anger, irritability, and general lack of love that come as a result, pushing my own agenda tends to make me shortsighted of God’s plan for my life as well as the lives of the people around me. Thinking about the intentionality of my love with this perspective in mind, the radius of the love that I am able to give to others is enormously stunted when I constantly think about myself and my agenda. I am simply unable to extend love past the boundaries of myself. How can I love the person beside me if my mind is constantly on myself, my productivity, or trivial things like what I need to get done before the end of the workday? Going further, how can I think about or find hope in God’s eternal plan when my sights are so limited?

God convicted me of this in a big way when we went to the airport to welcome a Somalian family into Louisville that same day. Walking into the airport and awaiting the family’s arrival, I was already ready to go home, exasperated that I had not had time to rest the whole day. I did not speak much and gave the excuse, “I’m tired” to anyone who was nice enough to ask how I was doing. I did not want to be there nor did I choose to ponder why I was there and what I was about to witness. My thoughts were not only earthly, but they were below the ground and in the dirt, when God calls them to be heavenly (Colossians 3:2).

Before I knew what was happening, the Somalian family, decked in Islamic garb, came walking from the airplane portal and were suddenly in our midst. In the same moment they were hugging their families and meeting their Welcome Teams, God was revealing to me the privilege of being there and the extraordinary opportunity I have to know these people. What had been clouding my mind only a couple minutes ago vanished, and by God’s grace I was able to remember what was really important: extending my love past myself and to these people for the sake of eternity.

It’s nearly impossible to notice the opportunities God gives us to love others if our minds are self-focused. This is difficult because it’s natural for us as humans to be selfish with our time, our resources, and especially with our thoughts—but, God calls us to something higher. God challenges us to give up what we want not only for the sake of others in this moment, but for eternity. And this isn’t an obligation, but a life-fulfilling privilege, joy, and gift from God to be able to do.