Micah 6:8

"...do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with your God." - Micah 6:8

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Welcome to America

The Iraqi refugee family that we have been waiting for has finally arrived. Welcome Samira, Yahya, & Mirhan. They have already been teaching us how to speak Arabic, how to cook Iraqi food, and how to enjoy life even in difficult circumstances.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Students Helping Refugees

Thanks to all the students who helped welcome Burmese Refugees Run Zi & Nawl Cin Thang last week. You guys are awesome!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Terrible Day

Last night I drove these children to the hospital where their Mom and their Pastor was waiting to tell them that their Father had died suddenly. Last they knew he had been taken to the hospital because of a bad cold, sore throat and fever. The doctors still don't really know what happened. Some how this sweet, sweet, man survived war and violence in Burundi only to die in America of some strange unexplainable infection. The refugee community in Aurora has lost a great man and these children have lost a great father. A whole parade of mourners showed up at the hospital last night to pay their respects.

Please remember this family in your prayers. They relied heavily on their father's income, so not only will their emotional road ahead be difficult, their financial situation will be uncertain. Luckily they have a great church family at St. David's Episcopal in Aurora.

For the past two and a half months the fifteen year old boy in this family has been working for us at Bryan House shoveling snow. I've been feeling so ready for winter to be done, but in light of this situation maybe a few more good snow days would be okay.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Scary Day

Yesterday afternoon just before four o'clock, my father-in-law called me and asked if I had heard anything from my husband. He said that there had been a shooting at NIU where Rick is a law student. He said he had tried to call him, but had not gotten through. I hadn't heard anything. I hung-up right away and tried to send Rick a text. I was feeling a little shaky and having trouble hitting the keys right, so it was taking me a long time just to write a simple line: "Shooting at NIU. R U ok?" While I was trying, he called. He was hunkered down in the law library with his classmates waiting for the all clear signal so he could leave. He was okay. His building was in the general vicinity of the incident, but not close enough to hear or see anything bad. I'm glad the moments of not knowing were so short for me. I can't imagine what parents were feeling who didn't hear from their children right away. Why does this keep happening in our country? Gun violence is so out of control? Some how we have to get a handle on this.

The University is closed today. Rick is at home with two young Burmese refugees who arrived yesterday and are staying with us for a few days. Luckily they don't speak much English so they don't know what happened. Not exactly a great day to welcome folks who have fled from the violence in their own nation to try to find some peace and safety.

Our hearts go out to all the victims and friends and family of those who were killed. And I thank Jesus that my husband is safe.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A word from Bryan

Yesterday Rick received a rare and precious gift. A friend from college who taught one of Bryan's sociology classes at North Central sent us this email that Bryan wrote in December of 2005. Please read the email and then Rick's response below. I cannot tell you how grateful we were to receive this word of encouragement from Bryan himself.
Bryan' Email:
Mr. Gross - I've been thinking of what I would like to get out of this internship so let me start by saying that I, like most college sophmores, I don't know what I would like to do like with my life. I love playing music and that is what I would really like to do, but even if everything turns out the way I would like it to I would also like to incorporate philanthropy into what I do. I think it is extremely important to think of others and give to those who are in need. My brother Rick has been a huge influence on me in this way. He works witha number of refugee families, helping them get accustomed to American life, helping them financially by buying things they need, and being somewhat of a father figure for their children. This Christmas he shopped for over fifty people! Anyways, I would like to get involved inan effort to help people in need as well. I feel that I could possibly help organize an event to benefit a charity, or possibly even mybrother's charity, if I meet the right people and learn what it takes to organize an event like that. I'd also be excited to be work with an organization in any way that helps fight poverty or other urban issues like housing issues, aid to the poor (which would be extremely important right now), or something close to that. This stuff is really important to me because I've always envisioned myself as someone would save the world (even though I haven'tdone that much to contribute yet). I've always had big visions of my band being one that actually raises awareness about issues instead of focusing on themselves. Well, this will hopefully give you an idea of who I am, and if you have any questions or comments please let me know.Thanks, Bryan Guzman
Rick's response:
wow. I can't even find the words to tell you how much I appreciate you forwarding my brother's email that he sent you. It's funny how few of these types of things that I have--perhaps mostly because we rarely went any great length of time w/o seeing each other and so we rarely wrote or emailed about anything terribly substantive. Also, I must admit that there have been moments over the past year where I find myself wondering if we're somehow exploiting Bryan's memory in bringing to fruition a project that we had always planned/wanted to do anyway. Bryan gave financially to our foundation on several occasions and I've never really doubted that he'd be proud of what we're trying to do to create this living memorial. There was so much about his spirit that gave me such an overwhelming confidence that he would support this idea... but still on several occasions people have asked if our foundation was something that Bryan cared about... newspaper articles have assumed that Bryan was "deeply passionate" about the cause of helping refugees. And again, while I never had any reason to doubt the underlying truth of those statements... or my affirmative responses to the questions, most of my confidence was based on unspoken signs or gestures... and the way the impact of Bryan's life and spirit have been evidenced through the stories and reactions of others that knew him. So despite knowing all along, there's still no small amount of comfort in reading Bryan's actual words. We all have this tendency to romanticize the deceased. This email and your own account of Bryan do no such thing... but far more meaningfully, they affirm the honest and genuine nature of a caring spirit who may not have yet figured out exactly what to do or how to do it, but clearly had a drive and desire to be about the business of difference-making. I can't tell you how grateful I am for this type of opportunity to feel connected again to my brother. I've felt Bryan in this project. And somehow knew that he was working alongside us to accomplish our goals of empowering those who at times have been dis-empowered. Indeed that sense of his presence has been the only thing that's made the past year at all bearable. Somehow after reading and re-reading Bryan's words, I feel that strong sense of connection strengthened even more. Thanks, Matt.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Winter Weary

Winter is beginning to wear on me this year. Something about the cold seems deeper and more penetrating than usual. Getting out of bed in the morning is harder than I remember it being in the past. Maybe I'm just imagining things. Maybe it's always been like this. Maybe I'm just more fixated on it this year for some reason. Or maybe it has something to do with getting older. Whatever the cause, I find myself nursing an intense desire to hibernate, to just stay bundled up inside my house and not come out until Spring comes back again. A warm little den of rest sounds so nice right now. I have a craving for an extended period of quiet. A chance to slow down and breath and read and think and soak up the silence. I've had some writing ideas swirling in my mind lately. I'm thirsty for a little space and time to stir them and spill them into the page. The few snatched away minutes I have now is never enough time to do them any justice, so I don't bother to entertain them at all. But when I ignore them they seem to grow louder and more demanding, like neglected children. Maybe it's the noise from the thoughts themselves that is wearing me out. I find myself in a weird place, wishing either for Spring come immediately or for a month of terrible snow days all in a row which force me to stay inside. Both are silly, impractical wishes. So all I can do is try to weather the weather, and somehow shake myself loose from the grip of the gray and the cold. Lent comes before Easter.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Peace Corps has left Kenya

The Peace Corps volunteers have all left Kenya. That doesn't seem good. With all the American primary election coverage, you don't even hear much about Kenya on CNN these days. It feels like we've stopped watching. At least 1,000 people have died. Somewhere between 300,000 - 350,000 people have been displaced or become refugees. (Kenya is usually the country African refugees run to, not from.) And beyond the horror of neighbor against neighbor violence, each day that this situation continues Kenya's tourism industry loses more and more money, plunging the country deeper into poverty and desparation. What does an unstable Kenya mean for the continent of Africa?

Threatened people often turn to violence to solve their problems. What can we really say to the Kenyan people, as even without the motivation of hunger and oppression, we have done the same. We look down at them as uneducated folks because their village elders and even churches have often condoned and encouraged their violence -- but then again so have ours. War is war is war. If the churches don't speak Jesus into it, the rocks themselves will cry out. The blood of many cries out to our God and we respond, "Am I my brother's keeper?" all over again. We need a real "peace corps" more than ever.
you have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. ---Jesus

Friday, February 1, 2008

More news from our friends in Kenya


I have taken too long to email you because the security situation in Kenya in general, and in Nairobi in particular, has not been favourable. We are indoors most of the time. Desiree it is sad that even members of Parliament are being gunned down now! At least two opposition Mps have been shot dead by gunmen, who are identified as police officers. I think the government would like to reduce the number of opposition Mps because their number exceeds the govenment side. All these are happening despite the mediation team by Kofi Annan (former Secretary General).

Our members have been grossly affected, as their businesses which we assisted them to put up have either been looted or burnt down to ashes despite having not cleared the loans. We are trying to approach some micro finance organization if they can give us loans for our micro finance department to support our members in the business reconstruction. We have stopped our nursery school for a while because the position of our school around the railway line was the battlefield between the security officers and the public. We are still looking for a favorable place. But all these involve money. We hope we shall get.

I have scanned a picture of part of KISCODEP members who collected the food you bought for them. They were very happy about your gesture and prayed that may God continue blessing you. I hope we shall get in touch. Pass my regards to the other friends.