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Words of Hope

A Jonathan House resident

When Timothy* fled his country because of the government’s persecution against him, he came to Minnesota. A few months after arriving, he found himself in despair because of his circumstances. He was ready to give up on life.

God sees, hears, and cares about refugees. It’s a line oft-repeated in IAFR, rooted in the story of Hagar and Ishmael from Genesis chapters 16 and 21. But God does something else in that story that cannot be overlooked. He speaks.

Hagar, lost in the wilderness, despaired for her son’s life. But God intervened and spoke words of hope.

"Very soon you will see something new..."

In his own time of despair, Timothy attended a conference at a friend’s church. In between sessions, he sought out the preacher and asked for prayer. The preacher said he believed God had a message for him:

Now you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation, but it will not continue. Very soon you will see something new. And from there the situation in which you find yourself will improve.”

The Most Valuable Part

Those words came in August. In October, he moved into Jonathan House.

Now two years later, he has moved into his own apartment. He has a work permit, a job, and a better sense of how to function in the culture. While living at Jonathan House, he took major strides on his road of recovery, but the journey isn’t over. A year after his asylum hearing, he still awaits a decision on his case. He longs to be reunited with his family.

For Timothy, the most valuable part of living at Jonathan House was the supportive community. “When I shared my challenges, you listened. You prayed with me.”

Desperately Needed

The same day he moved out (thereby making space available for one new person), we learned of nine other asylum seekers in Minnesota who desperately needed a stable place to live.

The privilege of playing a part in the redemption story

When the need feels overwhelming and our ability to meet it insufficient, we find comfort in knowing God is at work. He sees and hears. He is speaking words of hope to refugees. And in some cases, like with our friend Timothy, he allows us the privilege of playing a part in the redemption story he is writing.

CLICK HERE to learn More About Jonathan House!

- Josh Levin

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Oumar's Courage

Oumar and Joe at the ropes course in France
"You can do it, Oumar," I cheered.

My twelve-year-old friend laughed nervously, his hands clutching the ropes with a death grip. "Why did we choose to do the hardest level?" He glanced up at me, and I saw his dark brown eyes were fearful.

"I forgot how hard it is," I agreed sympathetically. "But you've got this, Oumar. You're strong. If you twist to the left and push your leg up and over, you'll make it," I coached.

French Camping

We were at a French campground in the countryside about two hours from Lille for a week of activities with some of our asylum-seeking and migrant friends from Francophone West Africa. The ropes course was one of the activities the young people had chosen together.

All the youth had wanted to do the first level of the ropes course. But only my plucky young friend Oumar wished to take on the most challenging level. It reminded me of the courage these young people displayed daily as they navigated learning a new culture since they and their parents had arrived in France.

Twenty-Two Steps of Courage

Oumar flashed me a triumphant grin when we finished the twenty-second step of the course and were back on level ground.

"That was tough. You did great!" I hoped it had built his self-confidence as he displayed courage and strength to finish.

"Ice cream?" Ice cream was the promised reward for successful course completion, and we all enjoyed the sweetness of the victory together, laughing at the challenge that was now a memory.

Bastille Day on De Somme

Later in the week, France celebrated its beloved Bastille Day, so the young people and I drove to a town on the Baie De Somme to watch the fireworks. Driving through the wheat fields in the evening sunlight, my young friends asked me what music I preferred. "You choose," I told them. And for the next hour, we listened to French hip-hop and Guinean music intermingled.

As we drove and I listened to their comments on why they liked a particular song or what it reminded them of, I realized how wonderfully odd this rich moment of cultural blending was. An American on a French Holiday, listening to West African and French music with Guinean young people I cared deeply about, headed to see fireworks. I smiled to myself as I thought of what a privilege it was for me to walk with my friends as they learned to integrate their worlds and cultures.

Open Handed Prayer

We finished our week together with a short time of prayer and Scripture reading. As Paul shared how God blessed the earth with rain and abundance and prayed over our travel home, our friends opened their hands to heaven in their cultural posture of prayer. I prayed silently that God would bless their lives with courage, hope, and abundance as they continued to rebuild their lives for the future.

Inviting the French Church

Our young people are already helping plan for next year's event. We'd like to invite the French church to participate in these annual events as we continue to hold the door open to building relationships in our host culture and with our asylum-seeking friends we are here to serve. Pray with us for provision and connections that build life and hope.

CLICK HERE to learn More About IAFR's Work In Lille Here.

Joe Saperstein with Rachael Lofgren

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