Saturday, November 21, 2009

Helping Refugees in San Antonio

About 2 weeks ago I was able to directly help the refugee families here in San Antonio. It was pretty sweet!! San Antonio has become a refugee relocation center in the US for families from various countries such as Iraq, Iran, Asia- Burma & Bhutan, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and many more. Oak Hills Church has become active in connecting with new families and making sure they have necessities for living such as food, furniture, clothes, etc. The families with the most need were identified and each team (2-4 volunteers) went out to their home to deliver food and other needed supplies. We met at the church for cultural training and a brief meeting then it was off the apartments.

My team mates were Cherie, Josh & Nick. It was a great first hand experience with two families from the Middle East. The first family from Iraq and only the mother was home. She welcomed us into her home giving hugs to Cherie and I. After removing our shoes we sat in her living room explaining that we were here to bring food for her family and find out any needs she may have. Almost immediately she spoke of needing a job so she can provide for her family. She deeply desired a job but with her limited English makes it that much more difficult to attain. As I sat in her apartment I realized how much I can take for granted especially the ability to communicate with others. Her primary language is Arabic not English. She is however attending English classes weekly but still struggles. Even though we had difficulty communicating she was very pleasant and hospitable. The second family is from Iran only the mother was home. Her primary language is Farsi and she spoke/ understood very little English, much less than the first woman. We attempted to contact her son who understands English but were unsuccessful. After a few more minutes of attempting communication we left. She gave the girls hugs and handshakes for the gentlemen. Even though we had a hard time communicating I believe she was happy we came to visit and was very thankful for the food.

It was rather difficult to communcate with the refugees because we do not speak their native languages but with smiles on our faces and love in our hearts I think they understood. While in their homes we did a visual assessment of their situation by checking the kitchen, furniture in the home and possible other urgent needs. Both families were very welcoming inviting us into their homes almost immediately. Their hospitality was encouraging and a blessed me too!! I hope to be able to serve in this capacity again!

Here's a brief background on the refugee program . . . (Thanks Cherie for posting this on FB)


The U.S. government has been settling hundreds of refugee families from northeast Africa, the Middle East and South Asia in San Antonio over the last 2-3 years, the majority from Muslim countries. The number of families has increased sharply in recent months; Texas is being favored as a relocation spot because our state economy is perceived as better than other parts of the country. These families are resettled in clusters, primarily in several apartment complexes in the medical center area. Families are given 4 months of paid housing (down from 6) and some initial assistance with food (a gift card for groceries) to bridge the gap until they can receive food stamps (2-3 months). They are also supposed to receive other services to help children enroll in school, to learn English and get connected with resources to find employment. All of this is coordinated by Catholic Charities; each refugee family gets a caseworker. In the best of circumstances, these “foreigners in our land” are lost and could use a friendly neighbor. Catholic Charities, however, is struggling to keep up with the inflow and is very appreciative of volunteer support through churches and other organizations. Anecdotal evidence suggests that many families, especially the new arrivals, are suffering: running out of food, lack of basic necessities such as sheets, kitchen utensils, soap and shampoo, furniture, etc. We understand that state funding is getting tighter just as the number of arriving refugees is accelerating. The situation is becoming critical, especially for the newest arrivals who may increasingly fall through the cracks. God has already connected Oak Hills through our Bibleland summer program and through other outreach partnerships, and we have begun connecting with other churches and organizations working through a monthly Refugee Forum meeting at University United Methodist. Oak Hills has informally been asked to concentrate on the Iraqi community, and on assisting in the area of food acquisition and distribution.

The Refugee Forum has created the following groups to help figure out resources. Noted below are specific ways that WE can help in these areas:
Areas of Need

(1) Critical Food Acquisition and Distribution – we have access to food and knowledge of neediest families (especially new arrivals awaiting food stamps), some need for donation of food staples, greatest need is for people to distribute.

(2) Welcome, Friendship and need assessment – tied to need #1, food distribution is a means to welcome the refugees and, where possible, build relationships. As relationships develop, you become aware of other needs, and the church can help our volunteers know how to steer their friends to resources.

(3) Volunteers can also serve as a cultural mentors, at times this can include driving them to do shopping, for appointments, for services, etc.

(4) Employment – connecting the community with opportunities for any kind of job. Refugees have work permits & desire to work. Huge need for jobs and job leads.

(5) Furniture and Clothing Acquisition and Distribution – big need for donated items, esp. things like kitchen goods/utensils, pillows and bedding and furniture. These can be dropped off at collection points and distributed to the neediest people.

(6) Education (ESL) – formal or informal ESL instruction; great activity for building relationships. Statement of Principals ·

Oak Hills must be careful to coordinate any efforts with the agencies tasked with provided refugee services, especially Catholic Charities, as well as with other partnering churches and organizations, so as not to duplicate efforts. The monthly Refugee Forum already exists for this purpose. Oak Hills does not wish to encourage dependency by the refugees, and must focus all of its efforts towards encouraging independence and self-sufficiency. However, we recognize that in this imperfect system we may have an important roll in helping bridge the gap. Thus, our efforts should focus primarily on the most newly arrived immigrants, as well as single-parent families where employment is more difficult. · In reaching out to these refugees, we are following Christ’s command to love our neighbors and to take care of foreigners in our land. We can be the hands and feet of Christ, witnessing through demonstrating love. We trust that the Holy Spirit will guide us in this effort, and show us if and when it is appropriate to share the gospel; however, our intention is not to go out and immediately make converts. · There are significant cross-cultural challenges to this work, and we will need to provide appropriate training to individuals, families and groups that are willing to commit to working within the refugee community. We must also resource the volunteers so that they know where to turn to help their families.·

This ministry is fundamentally about developing relationships. Volunteers do not need to have any special skill or background, just a desire to love and patience to work with people of another culture. · This ministry can be time-consuming. The most sustainable approach will be to put several individuals/families together as a team that would be matched with one particular refugee family. This should be the medium-term goal. · Outreach to refugees in our neighborhoods fits within our current strategy of reaching the city, and is a good fit with our Children’s Hunger Fund initiative. The refugee population will be one of the targets for ongoing food distribution, again as a means of building relationships. When possible we should strive to connect refugees with volunteers and communities living in their geographic proximity, which makes it easier to build the relationship (though not required). · The best visual for this ministry is that of a bridge: we can serve as a bridge between between needs and available resources, between isolation and community, between cultural confusion and understanding, and between dependence and self-sufficiency. All of this helps generate dignity and self-worth, and will witness to God’s love for our newest neighbors.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Rock N Roll Pics

We did it!!

Josh & John

Dan &me

Karen & me during the race!

Josh & John

Karen, me & Julia

me & Jon & Alicie

me & Emily

Betsy & I

Rock N Roll Charities

Quite a few people have been asking me about charities for the race . . .

1-- Team in Training supporting the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

2-- American Cancer Society "DetermiNation"

3-- Susan G. Komen- Marathon for the Cure

4-- Team LIVESTRONG- Lance Armstrong Foundation

5-- NF Endurance Team- Children's Tumor Foundation

6-- A-T CURETEAM- A-T Children's Project

7-- Run4Chance Team- Chance Phelps Foundation

8-- Any Baby Can- San Antonio

9- Hope4Heroes

Here at my two favorite teams . . .

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" Phil 4:13

Team World Vision

Rock N Roll Marathon!!

Karen & I prerace!

WOW!! All I can say is WOW!! Yesterday I completed my first marathon (26.2 miles) in San Antonio. 30,000 runners signed up for the 1/2 or full marathon. Let me tell you a little about the race and events from yesterday. Special thanks to Josh Miner for pushing me along during training and helping me be accountable for my running. Also, thanks to Karen Ivy- you were an awesome running buddy yesterday. I know I could not have completed this huge challenge without you two!

Wake up at 5:30am the head to the starting line off Broadway & Mulberry at Lions Field. Just imagine 30,000+ people at 6am. There were porta potties everywhere and even longer lines! Prior to the race TEAM 413 had a devotion and pray time. Then it was time to line up in the corrals. There were 31 corrals with each holding 1000 runners . . . talk about invasion of personal space! The race started just past 7:30 however I did not cross the starting line until after 8am! At the beginning of the race there were a lot of spectators cheering us on and live music along the race from various bands. Just past the starting line was the Pearl Brewery- built in 1883. Then just past mile 2 was the Alamo- the most famous landmark in Texas! Then at mile 6.5 was San Pedro Park & Springs- it is the 2nd oldest public park in America. (The oldest public park is Boston Common). Then we ran through downtown and at mile 8-9 was the King William historical district. It was cool to be running next to these awesome houses and the residents outside cheering us on. At mile 10 we past Rosario's which is located in the Blue Star arts district and is home to amazing Mexican food. Then onto mile 11 running past the Lone Star Brewery which dates back to 1884. Then it was down Mission Road running first past Mission Concepcion at mile 12. Next was Mission San Jose at mile 14 and at mile 17 was Mission San Juan. After that is just determination that carried me to the finish. Around mile 23 I was able to see the Tower of Americas and I knew we were getting closer to the finish. Miles 22-26 just plain sucked! It was getting to be pretty hot and humid out and lacking in spectators cheering us on. The finish was located at the Alamodome but there was a hill at the end. Who's idea was that?!? To have a hill located at mile 26.1- totally NOT a fan of that hill. Even though I thought I was going to pass out from exhaustion I was able to finish strong and beat my goal time of 5 hours!! I finished in 4 hours 54 minutes.

As far a future races and marathons . . . yeah the jury is still out on that. Running a marathon and completing it was a life goal that I had. I am proud to stay that I accomplished it but as far as running that distance again I am not too sure. I think half marathons are more reasonable just from a training perspective and definitely more fun! Today I am sore especially in my quads and my feet hate me. I am pretty sure I am going to lose 3-4 more toenails too! (Yeah I know probably more info than you wanted to know but its true).

Thursday, November 12, 2009

World Vision Pics

Kailale (in the red shirt) and his family.
I think the young child in the picture is Etabo.

Komusea and her parents

Most recent letter and picture from Kailale. I even keep the envelopes because they have such cool stamps from Kenya!

Where my heart is . . .

Two Words- WORLD VISION :)

If you don't know what or who World Vision is let me briefly fill you in. World Vision is a Christian charity doing work locally and internationally since 1950. Their purpose is to make a better world for children. Currently they serve in 100 countries and benefit nearly 100 million people each year. Check out their website.

For the last 5 years I have been sponsoring a child through World Vision and it has changed my life! I was at a Matthew West, Mark Schultz, Avalon concert my senior year of college when I first saw Kailale. He was a 9 year old boy from Kenya and he touched my heart with his big brown eyes. I knew from that moment that I could help make a difference for him and his family. I get sooooo excited when I get mail from Kenya. I especially love when I get photos- oh how it just makes my entire week! The letters with drawings from my sponsored child. To hear how excited he and his family are to receive my letters and pictures brings joy to my heart. Kailale is now 14 years old and I have the opportunity to meet him and his family while I am in Kenya this December. Currently I sponsor 4 children from 2 families- all from the same village in Northwestern Kenya, approximately 350 miles from Nairobi- the capital of Kenya.

Kailale is the oldest at 14 years and his favorite animal is a goat. He hopes to be a doctor when he grows up. Etabo is Kailale's younger brother and he is 4 years old. He is not yet in school and like ball games. Komusea is 12 years old and she enjoys science. She likes to play with dolls. Her younger sister is Emase and she is 7 years old. She likes to color and play ball games.

Please consider sponsoring a child- it will change your life! It cost $1 a day and benefits one child, one family, and one community. World Vision makes it easy for sponsors too- by sending you cards to send to your sponsor child 4-5 times a year. And each year you get a "report card" on your child- how they are doing in school; health update; benefits your sponsorships has on the child, their family, and their community; current height & weight; and my favorite a picture! Plus World Vision gives you the opportunity to email your child too!!

If you are interested in giving they have that too. You can provide medical supplies such as vaccines, education for children, warm coats for winter, disaster/ emergency aid, farm animals such as goats or cows, dig a well for clean water, or make a donation to the general fund. Also, many corporations will match your donation too! So check it out!!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

CHF pics

iLove This

The New volunteer assembly line!

Food Pak!

Taylor and Frankie!! at the CHF open house :) Thanks guys for letting me take this picture!

Children's Hunger Fund Open House!!

Children's Hunger Fund Southwest had their open house today and it was great!! There were a lot of people that came and I got to meet Taylor & Frankie -- check out their blog. The founder and President of CHF- Dave Phillips came to speak. Also, Director Michael Richards spoke about the vision for CHF and the areas to benefit from the newest location (Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Louisana, Arkansas, and New Mexico).

I'll be uploading pics from the event later this wknd :) Plus I got this sweet new t-shirt!

Here's a
video about CHF from 2008.

Here's the video we watched today at the open house that shows the impact Children's Hunger Fund is making right here in San Antonio.

Just one more video from Oak Hills Church and their partnership with CHF

Monday, November 2, 2009

Countdown is ON!!!

OMG!! My life is so crazy and I'm loving it!!

1 Day til Dallas
(this Tuesday) I'll be flying to Dallas for 4 days to hang out with my Aunt & Uncle at their amazing home. Also, I'll get to see my best friend from UMHB- Ashley. I am glad that this trip worked out now instead of trying to squeeze it in during Thanksgiving. That way I can enjoy my time with them now and enjoy my time with my other family & friends in San Antonio during Thanksgiving.

13 DAYS til Marathon (26.2 miles) Race Day!
This Saturday morning I went running with Josh Miner- a good friend from church who is also running the Rock N Roll Marathon in San Antonio. This will be his 7th RnR race this year and his 5th Marathon. Early Saturday we met up to begin our run along the1604 access road. Even though it was only 40 degrees outside and DARK it was pretty sweet. We were able to run towards the sun rising and it was nice having someone to run beside too. Total distance 19.4 miles with a time of 3 hours and 33 minutes!! I was really happy to be able to not only run that distance but have an 11 minute pace/mile. Mentally now I feel prepared for the race.

24 Days til Thanksgiving!!
Can't wait til Turkey Day- amazing home cooked meals, grandma's sweet potatoes, chilling with the family, best friend home from college & I'll be celebrating Christmas too! Since I'll be in Kenya for Christmas & New Years my family and I will be having Christmas with one another during Thanksgiving wknd. No big fancy gifts this year just more great food and time with the family. My Christmas money this year is being used for my trip to visit my sponsored children from World Vision- Kailale, Komusea, Emase, and Etabo!

38 Days til Milwaukee/St Louis Trip!
Prior to Kenya I'll be making a quick stop in Milwaukee to see my best friend- Andrew Belton. He graduates from Univ Wisconsin Milwaukee with a degree in Civil Engineering while I am gone to Kenya. So I thought I would go visit him and his friends in freezing Wisconsin one last time. Then I am going to St. Louis to see my Aunt Betsy- she just moved into a new house and won't be able to come to Texas before I leave for Kenya.

44 Days til KENYA!!
I can't even believe it!! I am sooo excited for this trip and the memories I'll make. Emily is such a great friend it will be so awesome for her to able to share with me her home. First full day after arriving I am hoping to visit my sponsored children in their village- just waiting on the final details from World Vision- hope to hear something this week. 2 days after arriving- SAFARI! Do I need to say more?! Then Christmas and New Years!!

79 Days til Fresno!
My next travel assignment will be at Fresno Children's for 13 weeks.