Glenn Oviatt, Intern
As a missionary for almost 30 years in Central America, Emily Gray needs only to take a short drive each morning to her new field of work as Executive Director at World Relief DuPage and Aurora. And she wants to show the local church what she discovers continually: that ministry to the world’s most vulnerable takes place each day in the Chicago suburbs.
“If you want to serve people from all walks of life and all cultures, you don’t have to get on a plane,” Gray said. “They are our neighbors.”
Gray, who began as Executive Director on September 13th, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) who spent the last five years as Director at Merit Hospice Services in Lombard, Ill. World Relief North Regional Director Brad Morris said Gray’s dual background in healthcare and missions will allow her to provide guidance from multiple angles of experience.
“She has some key elements in her background that will bring cohesiveness to all the programs at World Relief,” Morris said.
Already, Gray has used her background in healthcare to provide guidance for a complex medical case that might have taken hours for Refugee Services to sort through.
Refugee Services Director Susan Sperry said she is thankful to work for someone with such an extensive background in social work and is excited by Gray’s energy and enthusiasm. “She’s not daunted by the number of challenges that we face in our line of work,” Sperry said. “She is excited and energized by those challenges.”
As Executive Director, Gray said she hopes to show the breadth and depth of World Relief to the communities surrounding the Wheaton and Aurora offices. “There are so many ways for people to plug in to the good of World Relief at so many levels,” Gray said.
She also hopes World Relief can empower the local church to better love its neighbors without fear of cultural, religious, or racial differences.
“We unfortunately have a learned fear of that which is different from us,” Gray said.
Gray said personal relationships that community members can develop with immigrants and refugees from all over the world create an understanding that will overcome any learned fear. Dramatic changes can occur when someone begins to identify a person from another nationality, culture or religion as “my friend,” Gray said. “When [a person] goes from being ‘a Cuban’ to ‘the guy who is sitting beside me in the pew in church,’ then you can begin to see the world from someone else’s point of view,” Gray said.
In relationship with others, Gray said we can overcome our fear of the unknown and begin to learn more about “what unites us rather than what separates us.”
“God doesn’t see us in groups,” Gray said. “We are all His creation.” Gray said this understanding will not only change the communities near Aurora and DuPage County, but will begin to spread peace throughout the country and the whole of society.
“The more we break down the barriers between an ‘us’ and a ‘them,’ the more love can develop,” Gray said.