(Cynthia) My daughter, husband and I found ourselves at the McCarran Airport. We see this young couple and their baby come down the escalator, and it was no doubt, they were Zoromong, Tatwei and baby Albert. I walked up to them an said, “Zoramong”, he smiled. I said, “Tatwei”, she looked at me and I said, “Welcome to America”
(VO) And so it began. Cynthia Martin a lifelong overseas missionary started welcoming refugees to Las Vegas, Nevada.
(VO) “Stories of Hope” is a podcast about people who meet needs and change lives.
(VO) In this episode, Cynthia Martin and the volunteers of Safely Home are sharing the love of Christ with refugees who have spent years fleeing for their lives and looking for a home.
(VO) This is “Stories of Hope” from Send Relief— “Welcome to America”…
(VO) Sometimes, it’s hard to come home. Tom and Cynthia Martin know that better than most. They served as international missionaries in South America for 17 years so when they moved back to the United States, Tom and Cynthia struggled to find their place.
(Cynthia) We wondered where we were going to be because we always wanted to live on the edge. We’ve always wanted to serve in the hard places.
(VO) After two years of waiting on God to show her where that hard place would be, Cynthia connected with a refugee resettlement agency, and that was how she and her family found themselves at the new apartment of a young refugee family.
(Cynthia) When we walked into the courtyard of the apartment, it was like heaven to us. All around there were people dressed in their cultural dress and they were speaking all of these different languages.
(VO) With that first family, Cynthia was reminded of her own experience of landing in the middle of a new culture. How to buy groceries? How to go to the doctor? How to navigate the bus system? All without knowing the language.
(Cynthia) How are you going to help your children with homework? How are the children going to learn English? How are you going to get a job? So without knowing English, they’re helpless.
(VO) So every day Cynthia would come and help them navigate this brave, new world… and every day, more refugees would hear about this woman who could help.
(Cynthia) About every day, we would be sitting on the floor in their apartment and the door would open, and in would walk someone and they would say, “You help refugees?, You help me?” Until there were wall-to-wall refugees.
(VO) And that’s where the ministry of Safely Home began, with a reminder of how God expects us to treat the stranger.
(Cynthia) He reminded me of the verse in Deuteronomy, “when there’s a stranger in your land, you treat him as one of your own.” God has a heart for refugees. If that is what he says and we follow it, then there should be no fear. We want them to feel safe. We want them to know they are loved, that they are God’s beloved.
(VO) So Cynthia rented a two bedroom apartment in the complex, turned it into a ministry center, and began teaching English as a second language. But that was just the beginning.
(Cynthia) And by that time, there were quite a few who had been here five years, and they wanted to become citizens. You must be able to speak, write, and read English. And most of these who desired to be citizens were still signing their name with an “X”.
(VO) There are now 14 citizens out of that class. After a while, that two bedroom apartment was not enough so Cynthia moved to a three-bedroom apartment. More church volunteers began to help, and they started an afterschool ministry for the refugee children.
(Cynthia) We have homework help in the afternoon, it’s just for kids who need help with their homework, their parents can’t help them, they don’t speak the language.
(VO) In addition to the classes throughout the day, people continuously drop in needing help understanding letters and making phone calls.
(Cynthia) Lots of organizations come in and they just want to throw things at them. They want to give them good, they want to give them clothes, but what they really need is a friend, and they need someone to love them and walk life with them.
(Cynthia) We are with them in the delivery room, we are with them at the end of life, we are with them at life stages. They see what a life living with Jesus is like.
(Cynthia) Many times we can be sitting in a doctor’s office and they will say, “I just don’t understand, why are you helping me? Nobody has ever helped me like this before.
(Rekah) Actually, I born in Bhutan, and I came to Nepal as a refugee, and I stayed in Nepal more than 18 years.
(VO) Rekah’s Family fled Bhutan when she was a preschooler, and she lived her entire childhood in a Nepali refugee camp.
(Rekah) Refugee camp is a very difficult life. I had this heart problem and my parents didn’t have the treatment and the doctor said, I would die in six months.” If I am in the refugee camp maybe I’m already dead.
(VO) Rekah met Cynthia very soon after she arrived in America. They crossed paths in the apartment complex. Cynthia’s reputation had preceded her.
(Cynthia) She looked at me and she said, “You help refugees, would you help me?” And so that began a very special relationship that to this day, she is like a Nepali daughter to me.
(Rekah) I know in my heart that God send Miss Cynthia and Safely Home as an angel to protect us refugees.
(VO) Cynthia and her husband move slowly with their spiritual witness. They want to be sure the refugees understand any decisions that they make. But Rekah was not having it.
(Cynthia) During that time, she would say things like, “I think I want to be a Christian. I want to be a Christian.” She found out we were going to have a baptism at our church where my husband pastors, and she said, “Tomorrow I want to be baptized.” My husband came in, and she calls us Mom and Dad, and he said, “Well, tell me, what do you mean you want to be baptized?” And she just looked at us and put her hands on her hips, and she said, “Mom, Dad, I know Hinduism, Buddhism…” (And all of these isms that she listed off that I had never heard of.) But she said, “Until I knew Jesus, I know no god who would die for me.” Well, she got baptized the next day.
(Rekah) I found Jesus, he died for our sins, he gives the blood for us, to wash away our sins.
(Cynthia) That is just one story of many, many, many. And they come back later and they say, “Thank you. I learned to trust God.”
(Cynthia) The people who come here, they cried out to a higher power. They just didn’t know who that was.
(Cynthia) If God brought them to the United States, then he brought them to Las Vegas, then he brought them to our doorstep, that is not a mistake.
(VO) For Cynthia and her Christian volunteers, when the stranger comes to their doorstep and knocks, they want to be there to say, “Welcome.”
(Cynthia) There are those who come to English class, they don’t really need to come to English class, they speak English. They want to be here because it’s a safe place. Because they feel safe, I know it’s because they feel God’s presence.
(VO) This has been “Stories of Hope” from Send Relief, “Welcome to America”
(VO) Safely Home and Cynthia Martin are working with believers and volunteers to reach out to refugees coming to Las Vegas. If you would like to learn how to connect with refugees in your community or to connect with Safely Home, go to Send Relief dot org.
(VO) And join us in two weeks for another episode of “Stories of Hope.”