If you’ve been following this journey, you might have asked yourself the following question: “If Ryan wants to help refugees, why doesn’t he just get a job and then serve in his off-time like everybody else?” It’s a good question, and one I have wrestled with for nearly a year. After all, I just spent the last ten years living off of others’ financial gifts through Wycliffe Bible Translators. What gives me the right to ask for money again? Isn’t there a better way than fundraising? Well, no… not yet.
If Ryan wants to help refugees, why doesn’t he just get a job and then serve in his off-time like everybody else?
Summary of our project
Before I address the need for fundraising, let me summarize my vision for this project. Two barriers stand in the way of success for many refugees in our city: language and community.
Time and time again, I hear from refugees that their language-learning needs are not being met. While dozens of separate ministries serve refugees here, it’s not enough. Many refugees are unwilling to attend programs in churches, and many others are just unable to attend at the times classes are offered. English classes need to be offered in new, strategic locations—mosques, apartment complexes, restaurants, and schools. Furthermore, teachers are overwhelmed by the diversity of languages spoken in their classrooms. They need training and support! Programs also need to communicate so that resources are utilized more effectively. This city needs an ESL hub that can offer communication, organization, training, and support.
This city needs an ESL hub that can offer communication, organization, training, and support.
By and large, refugees do not have meaningful relationships with local residents. They remain isolated, largely because of the language barrier. Some have developed relationships with local ESL teachers and ministry leaders, but that’s just a small subset of interested people in Amarillo! This city needs more opportunities where interested people can meet up with refugees to establish friendships. Refugees desperately need servant-hearted families who are willing to be advocates for them.
This city needs more opportunities where interested people can meet up with refugees to establish friendships.
The Refugee Language Project exists to remove these language and community barriers by providing training, communication, strategic classes, and relational opportunities. Does that sound like something that can be organized one night a week? No. In fact, even a full-time position like this one only begins to address the problem. Here is why…
The Refugee Language Project exists to remove these language and community barriers by providing training, communication, strategic classes, and relational opportunities. Does that sound like something that can be organized one night a week?
First, English classes are offered every single day of the week in this city. I need to be available to attend one church ministry program on Tuesday morning, and another on Tuesday afternoon. On Wednesday evening alone, nearly 10 separate churches are running English classes. I have to be present in order to offer trainings and to facilitate communication.
Second, I plan to offer classes and other events at strategic times. This means I have to work around refugee shifts at local meatpacking plants. Furthermore, a large part of this project’s vision requires me to develop deep relationships with refugees. Have you ever visited the home of someone from a non-Western country? It’s difficult—and rude—to drop by for just 15 minutes. When I make a house call, I have to be ready to spend half a day there. This project will not succeed without putting in this kind of time.
Third, in order to make this vision a reality, I must identify and recruit volunteers. I am just one person, and I simply cannot hope to accomplish a mission with such wide scope without a team of people. But it takes time to communicate, facilitate, and encourage volunteers.
I’ve looked for ways to sustainably fund this project, and I do have some ideas for the future. But right now, I need to get to work. This job didn’t previously exist, so I had to create it. That means I have to find a creative way to fund it, and for now, fundraising is the only answer. I decided that this vision matters, and I chose not to pursue a job at a university or elsewhere. Instead, I decided that if this is really worthwhile, others will see that too and join me.
I decided that if this is really worthwhile, others will see that too and join me.
So this is my full-time job, with a salary entirely composed of donations. Do you think it’s worthwhile? Do you have any ideas about how I can seek funding? Will you partner with us through regular financial support?