Posts by David Paul

David's Bio

David Paul

David Paul is the Mission’s 2017 summer intern for Public Relations and Events. Originally from Greensboro, NC, David will graduate from Vanderbilt University in May of 2018. David felt God pointing him toward the Mission after tutoring homeless youth in Nashville and interacting with homeless families while studying abroad in Scotland. He has loved his time at the Mission, and hopes that the experience will guide him in a career in urban non-profit work.

Finding a New Home :: The Family Refugee Services Program

While many are familiar with the Mission’s emergency services and long-term programs, fewer are aware of how the Mission serves refugee families in the Denver area. Arrival in the United States certainly provides a degree of security for those fleeing turmoil, however a new home brings new struggles for employment, affordable housing, and healthy community. The Family Refugee Services (FRS) program was created to fulfill the Mission’s purpose of serving individuals’ physical and spiritual needs within the refugee community.

 
FRS began in 2003 and is part of the Mission’s permanent housing program. The program works in partnership with Lutheran Family Services, and most frequently serves families from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Families receive assistance with their first month’s rent and are paired with long-term mentor teams, who help them integrate into our Denver community. The program also provides monetary incentives for families to achieve self-sufficiency goals, such as maintaining employment, opening a bank account and enrolling in ESL classes. Additionally, the Mission organizes youth programming for refugee children and encourages families to access its Ministry Outreach Center for basic necessities. While financial and material assistance are important components of the program, the principal goal of FRS is to provide a welcoming community for our refugee families and show them the love of Christ.

Jose Portait

José Kabeya, Director of Family Refugee Services

 

José Kabeya, originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, became the program’s coordinator in 2011, having spent nearly a decade reaching out to refugees through his church. Under his leadership, the program has expanded its volunteer base with local churches and, as a result, has grown from serving 20 families to 60 families annually.

 
A natural storyteller, José is quick to share success stories of families at the program. He recalls how one family from Burma achieved stable employment and housing over time despite a large language barrier. Beyond gaining stability, they embraced the Mission’s efforts to show them community and “became like family to [José] and to the mentor team.” Personal relationships with mentor families helped the parents restore their marriage, and the family witnessed the healing power of prayer after everyone rallied in prayer around their son’s illness. José is glad to add…

 

“The children were so excited to learn about Jesus!” 

 

FRS also hosts interns every summer and semester. For interns Lauren Stoner, Jenna Randolph, and Anthonia Irechukwu, the most rewarding experiences have come through building relationships with the refugee families. They each note that conducting check-in and mentorship meetings with families has challenged them to communicate across language and cultural barriers. Lauren laughs in describing her efforts to teach cooking skills to a single mother from the Central African Republic, whose English abilities are very limited and whose five children make every moment eventful. The family enjoyed the chicken and roasted vegetables, but the greater victory was seeing the mother gain confidence with her oven and stove.

 

Lauren S Jenna R

Lauren Stoner & Jenna Randolph, Family Refugee Services Interns

Despite the challenge of helping families adjust, Anthonia says that visiting with the families is the highlight of her week. Lauren adds that many of her relationships with families have progressed from service provision to good friendships. Jenna notes that working hands-on with refugees has given her a “fresh perspective on the refugee issues that we see on the news.” Assisting with youth programs, such as the recent Denver Broncos Jr. Training Camp, has also allowed them to make the refugee children feel included in their community.

 

Bronco refugee photo -- edited

Family Refugee Services kids hanging with Miles the Mascot at the 17th Annual Denver Broncos Jr. Training Camp

 

The interns have also been impacted by refugee families’ struggles to afford basic necessities. José says that refugees’ greatest material needs are furniture, baby care products, and clothing. One of the most difficult costs for refugees is furnishing their apartments after they find affordable housing, while families with multiple children often struggle to afford diapers, wipes, and other early childhood necessities.

 
However, when asked about the future of the program and its greatest needs, José emphasizes above all else the power of churches to make collective efforts in welcoming refugee families. He notes that across Colorado, individual Christians and faith-based organizations – such as Lutheran Family Services – have led the way for decades in serving refugees. But as his continual efforts to engage churches demonstrates, José hopes that church bodies will rally around refugee families to invite them into their larger community. José powerfully sums up the importance of community networks:

 

“If you were in a completely new country, and you did not know the language or culture, even one person inviting you into their community makes all the difference. Imagine if it were not just one or two people, but a whole community that welcomed you in!”

 
Interested in becoming a mentor with one of our refugee families? Learn more here

Hope and Helping Hands :: Harvest Farm’s Mission Trip to Whiteclay

 

A Group of New Life Program participants serving on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation

A Group of New Life Program participants serving on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation


Like most visitors to Whiteclay, Nebraska and the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, New Life Program (NLP) participant Kris Wise was shocked by the alcoholism and poverty that plagues the local Native American community. Every year, NLP participants at Harvest Farm go on a mission trip to Whiteclay to serve and minister to the Lakota Native Americans who live on the Pine Ridge Reservation, located two miles north across the South Dakota border. Whiteclay exists primarily to provide alcoholic beverages and groceries to the reservation, where the sale of alcohol is prohibited. Kris notes:

 
“What stuck out the most to me was how the town with the population of 14 had 4 liquor stores [and] the streets being flooded with drunken people who consumed a lot of alcohol.”

 
As many as 80% of adults in Pine Ridge suffer from alcoholism, and roughly a quarter of newborns on the reservation suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome (The New York Times). Most of the alcohol consumption occurs on the town’s sidewalks, resulting in what The New York Times has called a “rural skid row.” Barred from drinking on the reservation, customers often huddle together against the elements, sleep on mattresses in nearby fields, or lie incapacitated in the open air. Poor health, domestic violence, and lack of opportunity has led to a sense of hopelessness and resentment among the community.

 

Pine Ridge residents on the streets of Whiteclay (Hilary Stohs-Krause, NET News)

Pine Ridge residents on the streets of Whiteclay (Hilary Stohs-Krause, NET News)

 

That’s where our New Life Program comes in. The power of the NLP participants, such as Kris Wise and Luke Cooper, is to share their own experiences with members of the Pine Ridge community and to serve the communities’ physical needs. In working with local ministries Lakota Hope and Hands of Faith back in June, participants have been able to share their own struggles with substance abuse with the Lakota community. Living and serving in Whiteclay allows participants to witness how a long history of alcohol dependence can impact families and whole communities. In contrast to the therapeutic refuge and tight-knit community at Harvest Farm, Whiteclay demonstrates how isolation and substance abuse frequently becomes a vicious cycle. Our NLP participants speak into the experiences of Pine Ridge residents and have helped construct new homes for families living in cramped conditions, completed landscaping projects, and gathered firewood among other projects.

 

NLP participants working on a home’s foundation

NLP participants working on a home’s foundation

 

In addition to the tangible benefits that their service has for families, our New Life Program participants have shared how serving the Lakota families has impacted their own perspectives on poverty and self-sufficiency. Luke Cooper writes:

“As a group of guys from the Farm and I were helping pour a house foundation for a family of ten who were living in a single-wide trailer, I looked around to see FEMA trailers surrounding us and felt fortunate to be at Harvest Farm with all of its resources and people. The Lakota people do not have the opportunities for employment or the stable income that we have here in Colorado, which is apparent when we drove through Pine Ridge and saw the number of people walking around or hanging out in the middle of the day. Being able to help a couple families get new homes built for them, replacing the old, beat down trailer homes that they were currently residing in was a great feeling and experience that I will always treasure.”

 

Luke Cooper (third from left) and the rest of the mission trip group

Luke Cooper (third from left) and the rest of the mission trip group

 

Although the participants note that the impact of their service is limited within the grand scale of the Pine Ridge reservation, they were glad to have provided long-term change for those two families, who now have suitable homes.

 

Kris Wise (right) serving at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation

Kris Wise (right) serving at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation

 

Participating in mission trips together likewise strengthens the NLP community and the bonds between our participants. They are able and encouraged to work on several different projects throughout the week. Kris Wise writes:

 
“I chose to do a different [project] each day. By doing that I got to work with different people every day. I got to know some of the Native Americans who had a few stories to share with me… I also got to work with different guys from the farm who I didn’t really hang out with before. That was nice because I got to develop new friendships.”

 
The synergistic impact of the Lakota and NLP communities is the reason why the Whiteclay Mission Trip continues to be one of the most meaningful weeks for Harvest Farm each year. In paying forward the hope and help they have received at Harvest Farm, participants expand their personal growth and bear witness to the power and possibility of attaining new life. We hope that through continued prayer and missions to Whiteclay, our men at Harvest Farm can continue to bring healing to this community every year.