By Susan Sperry, Executive Director
Celebrating Our Past
“We are changing!!”
Recently one of our staff found an old WRDA newsletter from 1998 (pictured here), announcing the move to our current DuPage office space at 1825 College Avenue in Wheaton. When our leaders made the decision to move out of a cramped office behind a Wheaton laundromat and into a building owned by Wheaton College, they were stepping out in faith to a space that would allow them to serve more refugees and immigrants, in new ways. They had no idea what was on the other side of this decision, and what these twenty years would bring. Little did they know that God would use World Relief DuPage/Aurora to mobilize hundreds of volunteers and churches and grow to serve thousands of refugees and immigrants each year.
During the last twenty years at the Wheaton location, we have watched God faithfully provide as:
5,776 refugees arrived to build a home in our community.
2,214 students attended Job Readiness ESL classes, and thousands more attended adult ESL classes.
4,842 jobs were found – both first jobs and career-building jobs.
15,366 people received immigration legal services.
WRDA’s supports for long-term integration grew to include counseling, career-focused employment services, specialized ESL classes, and after-school youth clubs.
3,000+ volunteers stepped forward to welcome, tutor, host, transport, and befriend refugee and immigrant families; clean vans; provide office and interpretation support; and so much more. Countless others donated furniture and household items to furnish homes for newly arriving refugees.
Over 250 churches engaged in a ministry of welcome among refugees and immigrants.
Our location in Aurora launched in 1999, partnering with churches to support immigrants and refugees through a localized, holistic approach toward community integration.
We have witnessed refugees buying homes and starting small businesses, and immigrants being reunited with family members. Youth have gone on to graduate from high school and college, and elderly adults have found fun and community in World Relief’s Seniors Groups. Civic engagement continues to grow as thousands of refugees and immigrants have become citizens. Over twenty churches have been started by refugee communities, providing community support and the opportunity to worship in their own language.
None of this happens because of World Relief alone. These results happen because of the strength of the people we serve, and their resilience and courage as they create their future in a new place. And you – our volunteers, church partners, donors, community partners, and local advocates – play a vital role in the story behind these numbers. You have made possible the tremendous impact we celebrate as we reflect on the last two decades.
Reimagining Our Future
Next week, on June 8, we will move to 191 S. Gary Avenue in Carol Stream, our new DuPage County location.
We searched for an affordable, central DuPage office location for over a year after we learned that our current space would be closing to tenants, and are abundantly grateful for God’s provision of this new space. We are also deeply grateful to Wheaton College for its supportive role as our landlord these past twenty years, enabling World Relief’s ministry to flourish even in hard times.
Our move comes during a season in which we are reimagining the future of our ministry. Our ministry roots lie within refugee resettlement, and we remain committed to partnering with churches to welcome refugees who arrive to our community, seeking safety and the opportunity to build a new life. And yet for many years, we have dreamt of having the capacity to mobilize churches to serve vulnerable immigrants who are not newly arrived refugees: the asylum seeker living out of her car, the victim of human trafficking who is seeking a reliable job and counseling, the immigrant who survived a violent crime in the US and is trying to find healing. We are reimagining a future in which we will expand our church-based refugee resettlement approach to serve immigrants who face unique vulnerabilities. We look forward to sharing more about these plans with you in the coming months.
As we celebrate the past and look forward to a future with a new DuPage location and new ministry opportunities in both DuPage County and Aurora, we hope you will continue to celebrate and journey with us. Please continue to pray for immigrants and refugees, seek opportunities to get involved, and consider giving to support the future of WRDA’s ministry. We look forward in faith to the time when people will look back and point to the many ways lives were transformed through the love and welcome of thousands in our communities.
Are you able to help on move day? We are still in need of a few strong people to help with moving furniture and boxes on June 8th and 9th. Please contact Maggie Boynton at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested. And please continue to pray that all of the details and logistics will come together.