Our Journey and Community Mission: S.E.E.D.S – Serve.Engage.Empathize.Disciple.Send
Our Vision: “Our vision is to be Jesus’ transformative presence in our community.”
The Saudi Aurora News is a newsletter we send to our friends, family, loved ones, supporters, partners, and community members to keep them up-to-date on our missional work in Aurora so they can journey with us however they are able. We have slowly been growing our list of subscribers. If this is your first time receiving this email, welcome to the community! We know everyone gets a lot of email, if you can’t handle one more newsletter, let us know and we’ll remove you promptly with no hard feelings. We would also love to hear about what’s happening in your communities and what you and your families are up to, so please send us your updates so we can journey with you as well.
We have just returned from a two-week road trip throughout the western U.S. 4,200 miles, 10 states, 2 national parks, 1 beach campout, 0 speeding tickets, and immeasurable love and company of friends and family. What a trip! We return from two weeks atop the proverbial mountain, glowing and refocused on the mission to which we are called. It was a much needed repose from the hustling urban mission we live in Aurora.
Adopting-a-Refugee-Family as First Friends
Imagine for a moment you’re living in a war-torn land with your spouse and four young children. One tragic day an explosion knocks your eldest son unconscious, his jaw nearly knocked off its hinges and his chest crumbled and collapsed on his lungs. You urgently seek medical attention for your son, even flying to another country to get the specialized care he needs. While you’re away with your eldest son, another explosion kills your spouse.
You are left as a single parent of four children, ages two to ten, in a culture that very specific roles for men and women, and all five of you suffer from PTSD and other issues resulting from so much trauma. Fast forward a few difficult years, and you and your four children are brought to the United States as refugees. Despite being a naturally gregarious “people person,” you become isolated because you don’t speak English, have to care for four
children on your own, and you are completely unfamiliar with the culture and systems of this country.
Meet our friend, Shahab–a Kurdish-Iraqi man, single-parent of four kids, who arrived in the U.S. a few months ago. Normally, we make friends in our community on an informal or incidental basis. We met Shahab, however, through a formal program at Lutheran Family Services (an agency that resettles refugees in Colorado). We joined a group of friends to volunteer as “first friends” to a refugee family coming to the U.S. Our group stepped into a family with overwhelming needs. We helped enroll the three oldest kids in school, showed the family how to get to the grocery store, shuttled various family members to countless medical appointments, sought mental health counseling and English tutoring for them, and tried to introduce them to American ways. All the while, not being able to communicate very well with them. Working full-time on behalf of this family would be insufficient to address their many needs.
In our focus on addressing the ‘needs’ of Shahab’s family, we have learned of the importance of friendship. Many times after spending four or more hours of our day with Shahab and his kids at a medical appointment, he will beg us to stay with them to eat dinner, look at old family photos, or play with the kids. After feeling good about ourselves that we sacrificed a lot of time to help them, we often plan on leaving immediately after completing the task and dropping them off at home. But they each crave a little more time, a little more attention, Shahab as much as the kids. They desire relationship.
We’re learning that service is only a piece of friendship and, if the sole focus, can hinder it. We have seen that if all we do is give aid to those on the outskirts of society, they will never integrate and become empowered to thrive. Instead, they will continue in isolation on the fringes of our communities. Severe PTSD, anxiety, and depression are difficult enough to overcome without adding isolation and loneliness to the mix. So we are trying to re-direct our focus to simply being friends, which includes helping them with some of their needs but, most of all, just living life with them–swimming, eating, celebrating birthdays, and playing in the park.
We have found that trying to address peoples’ needs as though there is some formula we can solve for them is a misplaced approach to Christian living. If we want to be disciples, following Jesus’ example, we need to enter into relationship with those in need.
Please join us in praying for refugee families arriving in our communities, that they will find friends here to walk with them as they try to overcome the many challenges they face. And pray also for those in our church who are considering adopting a newly-arriving refugee family.
Bible Study Corner
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not k now his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my father I have made k nown to you. … This is my command: Love each other.” – John 15:13-15, 17
Early in our spiritual journey, we viewed this idea of “laying down your life for friends” as a call to be willing to die for your loved ones. It wasn’t until recently that we have begun to understand what Jesus meant on a deeper level. Lightly professing a willingness to die for others is simple in comparison to actually sacrificing our right to ourselves and living for those in our community. This call to “lay down one’s life” goes far beyond death, it isn’t the end act. It is an all-consuming call to let go of our own rights and, instead, pursue the interests of others, day in and day out. We have been inspired by some of our friends who have gone places they had no desire to go to and given up relationships and comforts they loved simply to lay down their lives to live with, serve and love others.
For further study, see: 1 John 3:16-17, 1 Corinthians 13, and John 13.
Community Updates, Subjects of Prayer, and Specific Needs
1 – Rent Money for Ill Refugee. We met Kee Hung through the community garden. He is one of the most involved gardeners and teaches us everything about caring for our plot. He is a refugee from Burma and has adopted the garden as his own and cares for it and the gardeners as such. Recently, Kee was diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis in addition to suffering a shoulder injury from work. He was hospitalized for several days and per doctors orders he cannot work for three months. He is trying to apply for worker’s comp, but his employer is causing problems. Kee is the sole provider for his family of six. He and his family are left with no source of month’s rent since he was hospitalized. They have requested that we help them raise rent money for the coming month. His family’s apartment off of E. Colfax has rent of $775/month, due on the 25th. We will be contributing to this friend’s rent and want to extend the same invitation to all of you. Kee is a very hard working man and is not accustomed to asking for help. It was only after talking to his cousin that we learned of this specific need. If you are interested in helping, please let us know.
2 – D. White Law. After a two-and-a-half-year journey with a young woman from Eritrea, Derek and his client have successfully obtained religious asylum for her and become dear friends in the process. This woman has suffered unspeakable persecution at the hands of the Eritrean government simply for becoming a Pentecostal Christian and endured danger and treachery to reach American soil. Her faith and perseverance have inspired us both in our own journey. We are grateful to have her as our friend and happy to know she can continue living her life of faith in the security that we take for granted.
3 – Health Care Ministry. Alicia is officially a licensed nurse and will begin her career at University of Colorado Hospital the end of July. We are excited for her to open that new chapter in her health care ministry. Her advocacy for the health of our community goes beyond that new job though, as she is getting more and more involved with a couple of community health and outreach organizations working with refugees and other impoverished residents in our area. Stay tuned for more info on this work in the near future.
4 – Prayer for Community Development. As most of you know, the community garden is in a stressed neighborhood. The garden has encountered problems recently, including abuse of the garden’s water supply, theft, and unsupervised youth who lack respect for the gardeners and the boundaries we’re trying to set for them. Please pray that we grow as leaders as we work to address some of these problems by negotiating with the city, educating about water conservation, engaging the youth so they might buy into the value the garden provides to our community, and facilitating conversations among and between our gardeners and the surrounding community.
With lots of love and gratitude,
Alicia and Derek