Monday, December 8, 2008


I heard a song yesterday that challenges me to find courage in the midst of personally difficult circumstances.

"You can spend your whole life building something from nothing and a storm can come and blow it all away; build it anyway!" (Check out the rest of the lyrics here.)
As I listened, I realized that I know what this looks like. I've seen it lived it out by the amazing folks I work with. Just over a month ago, Juanita (not her real name...) shared her story with me. As I listened, I realized that I was being given a gift. To speak of unspeakable things, to trust me with her pain, to share her sorrows and then together find a solid place to stand- it's an experience I will always treasure.

Sure, refugees get discouraged. And, they sometimes act out their frustration over the impossibilities of their lives by lashing out at the person or circumstance that’s available- but don’t we all?! However, the indomitable spirit that prompted them to flee their home and endure separation from loved ones, to start over again in the midst of innumerable overwhelming odds, places me in the role of humble student with each of them as my mentors.

God must have known I needed “living witnesses” to spur me on in my own walk of faith at this time. That’s the Christmas gift I receive this season.

And my prayer for each of those who make Welcome Home their home?
  • First and foremost, that they would find their home in Jesus.
  • That they would learn enough English to be able to use the training/skills and capacities they brought to Canada.
  • That they would make friends and find community in Canada.
  • That they would be reunited with their loved ones.

Merry Christmas- Anyway... thank you for journeying with me.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Pieces of a Puzzle

My how time flies! I’ve been part of the Welcome Home team for almost a year now. This fall we did some reshuffling of our roles. Like pieces of a puzzle, we worked at defining the gifts and skills each team member brings.

My role has shifted to more of the day-to-day management of Welcome Home including:

  • leading and investing in the staff team
  • dreaming up, strategizing and implementing plans for an effective program

As a newbie, I wrestled with how these role shifts would work, especially with team members who have 20+ yrs experience. But that’s what a team is! Rather than a hierarchy using power and control, we’re a team serving each other. That excites me and honours God.

Speaking of teams, I’m really energized to ride as part of my church’s Ride 4 Refugees Team in 7 short days. It’s a very tangible expression of the “teamwork” that I am experiencing as a missionary. So, as we pedal and sweat (or freeze) together, we’ll physically demonstrate what it means to work together for the sake of the gospel! And, there’s a bonus! One half of what we raise goes directly to Welcome Home’s $200,000 budget for 2009.

Would you like to be a part of the puzzle? Every piece counts! No sweat required:)

  • Sponsor me as a rider
  • Become one of my monthly, quarterly, or even yearly donors
  • Pray for me

Sunday, June 15, 2008


I've got good memories and bad ones, too, of nicknames that have been stuck on me like crazy glue. Most, mercifully, I've forgotten. Then, like a blast from the past, a sibling lovingly sneaks one into a conversation...

I've recently acquired a new nickname, at least at Welcome Home.
Several of the Columbian guys have decided my name should be "Shar-ita".
We have a plethora of "Sharons" creating community at Welcome Home and I DO have the distinction of being the most vertically challenged. I like to think, however, that this diminutive ending is a token of affection.
If so, then celebrate, because God is answering prayer and pouring out his love amongst us!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Little is much!

I've been watching the corn start to sprout in the fields I whiz by on my bike...
It's amazing to see new life popping through the soil and almost 'growing before my very eyes'!
As I ride (training for the Ride 4 Refugees, actually), I think about the lessons to be learned. How a seed must die to multiply, the miracles of new life, and the incrementality (is that a word?) of much of our lives.

Flakes of snow falling every day for a week makes a pile to shovel. A dandelion that goes to seed results in a colourful array on my lawn- and my neighbour's- in no time at all. An act of kindness one day, plus another act of kindness the next day, help form a loving relationship.

This week I met with an answer to prayer! Joyce is our new "housing expert". God is amazing in the ways He provides for us. Helping a resident find a home to move to after their year at Welcome Home may seem like a small thing, but when it's part of a community effort to demonstrate compassionate justice to a refugee, it means a lot. And, if you're a refugee preparing to launch out on your own after a year in the Welcome Home community, it's a BIG deal!

I've been inviting friends, family, hey-anyone who will listen:)- to join my team of supporters. I often hear the apologetic response, "I can only commit such a small amount". Of course, I'd love to receive those 4, 5, and 6 figure donations. But, isn't it amazing that in God's economy, whatever is given is exactly what is needed? Makes me think of a ditty I learned as a child- "little is much if God is in it!"

Thank you for praying, for caring, for sharing your resources so generously. I can't wait to see how God will multiply everything we have given together! And, if you'd like to join my team...

Monday, March 17, 2008

Departures and Arrivals

How do you say good-bye to a good friend?!

I've only been here a couple of months and it seems too soon to face the reality of grief. I am missing my new friends who've "moved on" or "graduated" from Welcome Home. Welcome Home is a short-term housing community. We offer a place to live for a year and a supportive environment in which to adjust to life in Canada. But, from day one we're preparing our new friends for the day they'll move out- not unlike my young adult children.

That's why I'm both sad and glad at the same time. I miss sharing life with Mel, Mohammed, Hirut, Lul and Dani's family. At the same time, I'm proud of their independence and accomplishments in this very difficult year since they came to Canada. When they come to mind, I pray for their ongoing assimilation and their spiritual well-being.

And, I'm eager to see who God is bringing to Welcome Home! What country will they come from? What unique struggles and barriers will they need to overcome? How will God provide? I learn so much from each one as we share life together. I'm also gratified (and more committed than ever) to think of the programs we've recently put in place to help each one: Goal-Setting and Hosting.

One of the major needs a resident has is finding long term housing at the close of their time at Welcome Home. Would you pray with me for a "housing expert" who could come alongside each resident in their 10th month with us, connecting them to the possibilities in KW? And, if you're interested in becoming that person, let me know!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Standing Ovations

I've never really been in the presence of a "Great One", have you?

I wonder if I'd know what to do- much as I wonder whether to shake hands or kiss a cheek when greeting one of my new refugee friends...

This past weekend, at the Leading Women 2008 Conference, something repeatedly happened that was totally unscripted (imagine trying to script "now everyone will...":) and has rarely happened at the previous 4 conferences- all of us spontaneously vaulted to our feet and burst into applause!

What caused such a reaction? That's what I've been pondering.

One could attribute it to decorum and good training. It did start when we were introduced to Mississauga's Mayor Hazel McCallion and at 87 years of age, her fiesty spirit does warrant recognition. But to what would you attribute all the other eruptions?

I think it had to do with our theme: DARE. We were in the presence of 'great ones' who dared in ways that demanded a physical response to the emotions welling up within us. The living stories of Bibiana, Karyn (500 rejection letters?!), Kaarina, Wendy, Joyce (just to name a few) ignited something in us- perhaps a culture of courage?

But, I think it was much more than that. I believe we were in the presence of THE GREAT ONE. It was His presence and greatness that we saw in each other's lives, and THAT demanded a physical response. As the songwriter declares, "I stand in awe of You!" God looked amazing in the lives of the Great Women that shared their stories and their lives with us at Leading Women 2008.

May it continue to cause us to leap to our feet exclaiming, "How great is our God!" and send us out to ignite a culture of courage as we follow Him.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Things I never realized

I always wanted to be a missionary, but...

  • I never realized that God would bring the world to Kitchener/Waterloo, and that I would be called to be a missionary in my own city!

  • I never realized how much difference being "sent" by my church would make. I knew it was very important to me, to God and to my congregation, but even though I had been volunteering at Welcome Home for 4 months, it feels like a whole new beginning.

  • I never realized how much joy there is in being with people. I'm such an organizer that sometimes it's about ALL I do! I've been hanging out at Welcome Home, eating delicious homemade soup (just like mom's:) and making amazing new friends from all over the world.

  • I never realized where Elmira (International Teams office) was! Somedays it's quick, somedays it's a longgg, slow drive behind horse 'n' buggies, trucks and "Sunday drivers". I'm learning to allow some extra driving time and enjoy some of my worship CDs.

  • I never realized how many injustices new arrivals face... once they get to Canada! As I get to know some of the specifics, I'm finding out where and when and how my voice can make a difference.

  • I never realized how helpless I would feel, and how solid it is to know God cares... and answers prayer. There have been many impromptu prayertimes as residents have shared their struggles with me.

  • I never realized precisely how little I knew, even after 4 months of sticking my nose into all sorts of places to learn as much as I could. It's an exciting education which will hopefully never run out! Maybe it will even require an overseas trip??

  • I never realized that there are so many good people volunteering in the community and that many of them are doing so out of a love for God and those He loves. It's been a blast developing new friendships with all sorts of people who come from all sorts of churches!

  • I never realized that what seemed so innocent... and really good for my body -The Ride 4 Refugees- was really the first solid step in confirming a new direction for my life!

  • Now is it good... or bad... that I never realized all of this?!