here’s some of the stories our volunteers tell:
A woman who has been a Transportation Volunteer since 2008 says:
“Volunteering for World Relief has been one of the highlights of my life over the past two years. We moved to Minneapolis two years ago and I searched for a volunteer organization that would be meaningful to me. I chose World Relief Minnesota for two reasons – it is a Christian organization and it works with refugees. I thought that I had chosen World Relief, but now I realize that God had chosen World Relief for me.
In my eyes, refugees are so brave and so gracious. Most of the volunteer work I have done has been with Karen families. I have travelled in the Thai mountains and can’t imagine coming from them to the urban setting of the Twin Cities. Everything is a first! The first time to ride in a car, the first time in an airplane, seeing people from all over the world who look different, the roadways, the buildings, the schools, the stores. With little or no English language skills, and few if any friends and family, these people are so positive. The loneliness and isolation could be overwhelming. Instead, they carry on with such great faith in the Lord and great trust in the World Relief staff. They have given up family and relationships, leaving the only world they have every known behind and placing the hopes and dreams for themselves and their children in a future in the United States. What an honor it has been to be one of the “first faces” that greet them! I am always amazed at their hope, their determination, and their resilience.”
John and Charity Trotter, volunteers with the Bhutanese refugee community, share their story:
From the moment John and Charity Trotter involved themselves with the growing Bhutanese community in Saint Paul, their world changed forever. The Trotters not only saw a chance to know these people, but to devote their lives toward living amongst the Bhutanese community. Both John and Charity feel blessed to live among their “best friends” who have radically transformed their views on love and friendship.
Growing up in nearly all-white communities in Indiana and South Dakota, John and Charity were never exposed to cultures different from their own. While in college, their thirst for different cultures expanded when they both served in a predominantly African-American church. Once married, the two of them served as missionaries in the Philippines; there, they learned the delicate balance of serving in ministry while addressing their own ethnocentrism, or belief that their culture is superior to others. Three years into serving in the Philippines, John received his seminary degree and the couple returned to the United States.
Coming back to the United States left the Trotter’s hearts open to living in full time ministry among refugees. After raising support for themselves, they made contact with World Relief Minnesota to establish a connection with an arriving refugee family. They responded with “yes” when World Relief asked if they would come alongside an arriving Bhutanese family. Not knowing it at the time, this small word would open up for them countless opportunities for them with the Bhutanese in Saint Paul.
For the first few months of their ministry, John and Charity focused on getting to know their neighbors. They initially led small impromptu classes on American culture, language, and customs. The couple’s students reciprocated the action and simultaneously taught them about Bhutanese culture, language, and customs. After first knowing ten to fifteen Bhutanese, John and Charity grew those numbers in just a few months to fifty Bhutanese.
With the arrival of a Bhutanese pastor, the Trotters helped plant a Bhutanese church in Saint Paul – Bhutanese Christian Fellowship. From lessons learned in the Philippines, the couple knew that this church should be under Bhutanese leadership with the hope that it could flourish for the Bhutanese as an independent Bhutanese church.
As John and Charity continued to meet with the Bhutanese, they found themselves transformed by the loving nature that these people exhibited. John said that the Bhutanese view of love, as a responsibility and a duty, significantly changed his own view of how he should love others. Additionally, both John and Charity have been deeply impacted by how the Bhutanese see relationships. “[The Bhutanese] often miss their bus or an appointment because to them, the guest matters more,” explained John. By immersing themselves further and further in the Bhutanese community, the Trotters’ own ministry began to shift more toward relationship.
Relationship to the Trotters is key to their ministry. When explaining the importance of their friendships with the Bhutanese, they explained that their “best friends in the whole world” were not family members, nor other Americans, but a Bhutanese family. Spending time together two to three times a week, the Trotters and their friends engage in long conversations about faith, life, and culture. Although John and Charity are Christians and their friends are Hindus, they’ve built enough trust with one another to share deeply with each other without tension. When explaining their friendship, John said, “For us, these people are our best friends, not a job.”The Trotters regularly share their faith with their friends; engaging with them in dialogue rather than debate. To John, a friendship that continues to grow after expressing different beliefs is a strong friendship.
John and Charity have learned through their time with their friends that there should be a “healthy blurring of the lines between ministry and the rest of your life.” To the Trotters, their lives should be their ministry and their ministry is their lives. They continue to invest their time, effort, and resources to be in community with the Bhutanese of Saint Paul and are in the process of opening a drop-in center in their community to meet not only basic needs of people, but the relational needs as well.
The Trotters want to see more people involved in long term relationship with refugees. They expressed their sadness in situations when a volunteer finishes their time with the refugees and the Bhutanese ask, “Where did they go?” and “Why don’t they visit anymore?” John explained that, to the Bhutanese, relationships are so important it is hard for them to conceive someone just finishing their time with them and moving on.
By saying yes to start their ministry with one Bhutanese family, John and Charity now engage with an entire community of Bhutanese and most importantly, have the opportunity to live with their “best friends.” In this ministry, the couple has also realized the vision of World Relief in their community—that through relationships, both the Trotters and their Bhutanese friends have experienced transformation. Refugees from all over the world continue to come to the Twin needing not only basic services, but also friendships—something that we are all capable of meeting. Volunteering through World Relief can often start the process of growing friendships with these new neighbors and potentially open the door to connections with the greater refugee communities.
For more information about the Trotter’s ministry, visit their church-plant website: http://www.intlvillage.org/.