Aug 25, 2008
Papua New Guinea
Under the auspices of SIL International, Ryan and Crystal Pennington moved to Papua New Guinea in 2008 to begin a Bible Translation project among the Ma Manda people. Ryan & Crystal moved to the village of Saut, spending much of the next 8 years living in a remote village environment. They learned the Ma Manda language, analyzing its grammar and developing the first alphabet for this previously unwritten language. Ryan received his Ph.D. degree from James Cook University in Cairns, Australia. His research project was a comprehensive grammatical description of the Ma Manda language.
The unique lessons he learned in Papua New Guinea has had a profound impact on the way Ryan has approached his work among the refugees living in Amarillo, Texas.
May 18, 2017
In May 2017, Dr. Ryan Pennington launched Refugee Language Project as a service project under the oversight of the board of Redeemer Christian Church. Over the next three years, Redeemer incubated Dr. Pennington’s growing efforts by allowing him to build a base of donations under their umbrella.
These initial years enabled Dr. Pennington to research the refugee communities of Amarillo without the pressures of running a separate organization. During this time, a volunteer base was grown, and trust was established with the leaders of numerous refugee subcommunities.
Sep 9, 2019
In 2018, Refugee Language Project established an initial board of directors and submitted its Articles of Incorporation to the State of Texas. In September 2019, RLP finalized its bylaws and received federal tax exemption as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
Needs Assessments & Sharing Findings
As RLP worked on establishing itself as a standalone non-profit organization, Dr. Pennington facilitated a series of community dialogue events, conducting needs assessments of each major grouping of refugee communities. This research enabled the hosting of the Amarillo Refugee State of the Union, where Dr. Pennington presented his findings and made a series of key recommendations to area stakeholders.
Dec 1, 2020
The RLP Team
In December 2020, RLP approved its first budget and began to accept donations directly. At this time, RLP hired its first five staff members—including Dr. Pennington as its full-time Executive Director. RLP opened up its first office in May 2021 at 2001 S. Polk St., Amarillo, TX 79109. This office remains its business office today.
Vision & Programs
As RLP grew its staff, it also focused its energy with a refined vision statement and long-term plan. This enabled the organization to leverage its unique linguistic & cultural strengths to offer the programs that met the deepest needs of refugee communities. This includes a weekly community gathering called Table Talk, a one-on-one mentorship program, English as a Second Language classes, translation services, and a storybook project focused on printing the stories of Amarillo’s refugees as illustrated storybooks.
Jan 1, 2022
In January 2022, RLP collaborated with two other organizations to open a multi-cultural community center focused on serving the refugees of Amarillo. At the same time, RLP expanded its staff to include eight employees—four full-time and four part-time.