Paul and Chantelle, and Bob and Karin, along with the rest of the team in their region were involved in an emergency aid program in response to COVID-19 for Rohingya refugees from March 2020 – June 2020. A story about their experience can be found here: A Different Kind of Frontline Work.
With the project now completed, they have taken time to reflect on the impact that was made.
It has been a great honor and privilege to walk with so many refugees over the past few months. Their already difficult life circumstances have been even more tenuous and heartbreaking during this season of COVID-19 related business closures and stay-at-home orders.
The ripple effect of physical needs combined with feelings of hopelessness expands far and wide. The regular and generous support showed the community how much they were loved and valued.
Many of the refugees we have been privileged to serve these past months we have had longstanding relationships with spanning the past 5+ years. That said, there were other new communities and relational networks that we have been able to gain access to in a much deeper way the past few months. People who had previously been cold and even antagonistic at times, slowly warmed and we began to see gradual transformation occur.
In every community, we made efforts to involve local leaders and beneficiaries. We bought items from local shops in some communities and we encouraged local leaders to create and manage the integrity of their own beneficiaries list as they knew who was most in need.
One encouraging community impact is the trust and access that has been gained through this project, which will allow us to further work with these communities in our other programs related to ESL, prenatal care, and help getting their UNHCR cards.
As our food aid program began, many community groups were clearly told that this money and help was coming from Christians and was an expression of Christ’s love for them. Many of our team members also had multiple opportunities to be able to share deeper conversations and in some cases, pray with the people we got to know through this program, or those who we already knew but entered into deeper levels of relationship with as a result of the aid.
As one of our team members shared, “We are fortunate to be first-hand eyewitnesses of much of the short-term impact, however, I believe the long-term impact from seeds that were planted and that will continue to be cultivated and watered will produce a great harvest as a part of His beautiful ongoing redemptive story.”
Below are five impact stories that team members from 5 families and 3 organizations who were involved in the project shared:
Team member 1 – “There’s a lady in the house behind the street that we nicknamed the “tough grandma”. She has a reputation for being rather gruff, suspicious, and demanding- not an overly pleasant character. The first time I met her was the first time we brought food to her family. We sat on the floor and watched as she opened the bag- I was a little nervous, having been warned about her personality. Suddenly, she began to laugh. She laughed and laughed as she laid the contents out for her family to see, smiling and looking very pleased. We were able to share with them the spiritual hope we have and the reason we felt compelled to help them, that Jesus works through us. In the following weeks, she would come out with her sons to see us and thank us. We were invited to her house for lunch and to meet her newest grandchild! I think this is the start of a lasting relationship. “
Team member 2 – “Having no income for 12 weeks makes saving for hospital bills even more difficult. For the families having a baby during the lockdown, the financial support was a real blessing, easing the financial burden on the families.”
“At the beginning of the lockdown, people were worried about how they would be able to provide for their family. When I delivered the food aid to Abe* his response was truly moving; he asked me to pray to Jesus asking for help and a blessing on their home. There was a real presence of the Holy Spirit when we prayed”
Team member 3 – “Their physical need for food as well as modest financial aid to assist with medical needs, rent, etc. was very profound. Many commented time and time again how grateful they were for our support during this difficult time. Many commented we were the only ones helping them.”
Team member 4 – “For months I have been visiting an apartment complex where many Rohingya families live. I knew one family well and would visit often and was trying to meet and establish relationships with other women in the building. It was a slow process as many of their husbands were hesitant and not trusting to outsiders, which is natural given all the trauma they have been through.
When the lockdown started, the husbands of all of families except one lost their jobs, their only source of income. Through the family we knew well, we were able to gather a list of families and talk with the local leader and get permission to do food aid for the refugee families. Slowly over the 12 weeks, we saw the relationships and trust grow with 33 families. The women and children would also start to come down to pick up the food packs and talk a little bit. Several of the husbands extended invitations for us to come and start visiting their families now. I feel strongly that this food aid program provided significant opportunity for us to show tangible love, always in the name of Jesus, and to develop trust. Moving forward, many more families in this apartment complex are welcoming and open to new relationships with us!”
Team member 5 – “Atta* has been going into the jungle to sleep for the last 9 months since there was an immigration raid on his worksite. He does not have a UNHCR card. He has been desperate and during the days of the lockdown he became even more desperate. ‘How will I survive? I have no work; I can’t get any food.’ Every week when I went to deliver the food he said over and over how thankful he was for the help. In broken English, he would say, ‘I wouldn’t have been able to survive without your help.’ He invited me to go and celebrate a religious holiday with him to say thanks for the help.”
This team is able to be on the frontlines because the support of the Global Advance Fund. To learn more or support our work, click here.