Refugees: An interview with World Relief Durham

 

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Last week I shared about the gospel opportunity many churches are missing. Refugees are settling into our cities and neighborhoods at an unprecedented rate, and that means peoples from the least reach places are becoming your neighbors. What is more, these new neighbors are not as hard to connect with as you might think.

Enter World Relief.

World Relief is one of many organizations across the nation that work with refugees to help them resettle and get connected to a community. In the Raleigh area, we are fortunate to have World Relief Durham as a friend and partner in ministry. I have asked Adam Clark, their new director to share with us about what they do and how your local church can get involved. The following is
a interview with Adam.

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Adam Clark is the new director at World Relief Durham. He is originally from the Triangle and has moved back to serve refugees locally.

Tell us about World Relief. Who are you and what do you guys do?

Locally, World Relief Durham is a Christian refugee resettlement agency that partners with local churches throughout the Triangle to demonstrate the gospel by giving people fleeing persecution, war and degradation an opportunity to start a new life—to find peace and healing. Globally, World Relief is an international Christian aid and development organization that works alongside the local church to embody the gospel on four continents in over 15 countries through disaster response, agricultural development, anti-human trafficking and more.

You are the new director at World Relief Durham, Adam. Why did you get involved with World Relief and what drew you to this type of ministry?

Since my Wheaton days I knew I wanted to either teach the kind of theology associated with John Perkins and Charles Marsh or work for a Christian aid organization. I was always turned off by the kind of faith that defines spiritual success and intimacy with God by how close a succession of emotional devotional highs you can achieve. I always think of Isaiah 1 where God says that his people’s prayers and services are meaningless and wearisome to Him without justice for the widow and the oppressed. Perkins’ Christian Community Development practices and Christian aid organizations were where I had seen the kind of faithfulness lived out that I respect. As a member of the CCDA, World Relief is a unique ministry where the practices and gospel values of the CCDA meet international ministry—right here in the Triangle. It was love at first sight.

Why does it matter for the local church to get involved in this type of ministry?

As in Isaiah 1, God cares more about justice for the widow and the oppressed than our morning devotions. We need those devotions to stay “connected to the vine,” but too often churches get stuck on trying to replicate the feelings of the gospel without doing the gospel; they mistake feeling it for doing it. God wants us to care for our community, to care for the wellbeing of the city we live in (Jer 29) and some of the most oppressed people on the planet (from Myanmar, the DRC, Somalia, Afghanistan and more) are looking for wellbeing in our backyards. World Relief Durham offers local churches an avenue to serve and befriend these people, to add value to their ministry among the “widow and the oppressed.” 

You sit at a good vantage point concerning refugees in the Triangle. What are the needs (and potential opportunities for the gospel) that you see?

Refugees need Americans who don’t see them as projects but as people, as potential friends and community members and future business owners and scholars; they need advocates in legislatures, churches, schools and the wider community who will help their voices be heard; they need affordable housing and jobs and good ESL instruction. If Christians in the Triangle can embody the gospel vis-à-vis refugee communities in ways that address these needs, they can make profound use of these opportunities to bolster the credibility of following Jesus in our community. The opportunity is here for churches to demonstrate what John Perkins calls “thewhole gospel,” the one that includes your private and your social or public life; a “three dimensional” gospel. That gospel turns heads.

Now that you are in this new position, what are some things you are excited about at WRD moving forward?

Collaboration. There are so many churches, seminaries and community partners who share a similar vision of following Jesus in the Triangle as World Relief, I can’t wait to see how we put our heads together to form networks of collaboration; 1+1=3. I’m also excited about reconciliation. The divisions in the church make people mock the gospel. I’m praying our work can be one place where different (and even antithetical) types of Christians can take a step toward reconciliation by serving refugees together. That’s a better witness to our wider community and models the love of God beautifully. I am also praying for reconciliation of many kinds between and within different refugee populations. There are just countless aspects of our ministry that present opportunities for (the gospel of) reconciliation and I want to see how far we can push these in the days and years ahead.

What are some specific ways Southeastern students can get involved?

Southeastern students have the opportunity to plug right into the middle of this as interns at World Relief Durham, to get international cultural exposure and experience for their potential missions in the future and to help us make healing and reconciliation jump off the pages of scripture and become realities to our community. Join us!

If you want more information about World Relief Durham, or you just want to connect to them and see how your local church can serve refugees, contact them on Twitter @WRDurham.

Interested but not local to the Triangle? Shoot me an email at kcook@sebts.edu and I can help you connect with other refugee ministries in your area or perhaps begin your own.

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