Here at Re:new, we are familiar with community engagement - the support we receive from volunteers, businesses, and organizations is special, and it’s vital to our daily work.
We would like to recognize one of our partners, Parkview Church, for their care and love in coming alongside us and our mission. To date, Parkview has placed large special orders, made significant financial contributions, purchased dozens of items off of our Artisan Wish list, and included Re:new as a partner during their Everybody Does community service event. Parkview Church sets the standard for community engagement.
Pastor Kim Whetstone has been a vital connection in the partnership between Re:new and Parkview, and she generously agreed to a Q&A about Parkview’s involvement with Re:new! Continue reading for her thoughtful insights into Parkview Church, Re:new, and our shared mission of helping refugee women thrive.
How did you discover us?
I ran into Susan a few years ago at a local refugee awareness event. Susan and I went to seminary together and share a common passion for welcoming our refugee neighbors and ministry which acknowledges the inherent dignity in each human. As a pastor who had been praying about how our church might engage with the global refugee crisis, it was truly God's perfect timing. This "happenstance" meeting was my introduction to the amazing work and women of Re:new.
When did you start working with Re:new? What sparked that partnership?
Our work with Re:new began within the last couple years, when Re:new needed a place to hold a refugee simulation experience fundraising event. Unbeknownst to me, a few women from Parkview had been serving with Re:New for quite some time. They were key point people in pointing on the event, and Parkview simply provided the space. During the event, as the lights flashed and the sounds of gunfire and bombs filled the sanctuary, I sat in the back next to a woman, a former refugee. Tears came to her eyes, and she shook, as she recalled the oppression, violence and loss she had experienced in her home country. The pain, strength, hope and resilience I saw in her reminded me of the scars, smiles and strengths of the families I had worked with at World Relief 10 years prior, when I served there as an intern. While I had never stopped sharing the work of local refugee organizations, I had been praying for 10 years, that God would open the door for my faith community to engage more deeply and intentionally. As the former refugee woman shared her story, she talked about the need for community and support, explaining the reasons why she financially invested in the work of Re:new--because Re:new provides a community in which women can heal. That night, my prayers shifted from, "God how might you use us?" to "God help us to be a community--true friends and neighbors to the women of Re:New."
Tell us about how you’ve seen the relationship between Re:new and Parkview Church evolve. What excites you the most?
From this new prayer, we offered our women's ministry one challenge, "How might you take the women who are learning so much here in Bible Study and mobilize them to take the next step in their faith journey and engage with our neighbors, our refugee neighbors, more deeply?" It was from this request, that we decided to partner with the women of Re:new to make 100 bags, filled with hygiene products, for newly arriving refugee women. We held cutting events where the artisans of Re:New taught our ladies how to cut out the patterns for the bags. The cut materials were then taken by the ladies of Re:new and turned into a finish tote. Our goal with each step has been to do everything in partnership, truly together, so we could build understanding, mutual respect and ultimately, long lasting relationships.
In December, our church decided to engage with the global refugee crisis on a large scale and became financial partners with Re:new. We told the story of Re:new, the artisans and sold Re:new products in our lobby. It was a powerful breakthrough to see our people love and learn from our refugee neighbors locally, regionally and globally.
This summer, after a year of relationship building, we were able to celebrate the end of Ramadan Feast with the artisans of Re:new. It was truly a gift to eat delicious foods from around the world, learn about Ramadan, share stories about our families and belly laugh together. This year, we continue our partnership with Re:new, with our greatest goal being to simply continue building friendships. Each month, women from Parkview and women from Re:new will meet for a potluck meal. In that sacred space, together around the table, we will dream of how we may impact women in DuPage county and around the world.
Parkview Church has done a wonderful job of coming alongside Re:new in many facets of our mission. Can you speak to your community’s heart for local ministry, especially as it relates to our mission?
At Parkview, it is our desire to fulfill the command of Christ, to love God and love our neighbor, in each area of our lives. We simply want to live like Jesus and love like he did. Most days, it simply means seeing your neighbor, hearing their story, having a cup of coffee and being willing to enter into the messiness of another person's life and letting them enter into the messiness of ours. In this messiness, Jesus shows up and together, we heal, we laugh, we grow, we thrive. What I value about Re:new, is they live into this beautiful messiness everyday. In creating a safe space for women to share life stories, learn a new skill, refine an old skill and provide for their families, women who have witnessed the darkest evil this world can dish out, begin to heal..to thrive.
Sometimes the issues that refugees deal with on a daily basis seem distant, because we don’t have to deal with them ourselves. Have you seen awareness grow in your community as Parkview continues to partner with Re:new?
Through our partnership with Re:new the people of Parkview are learning in ever-increasing way that the refugee crisis is not something "over there" that doesn't impact us, but rather the refugee crisis is right here...in our own backyard. Further, when we see refugees struggling as merely images on the news, it is easy to dehumanize and through our own brokenness make assumptions about people's stories and histories. Through our partnership, the people of Parkview are learning even more deeply the war, violence, genocide and oppression that led to our refugee neighbors to flee was not contingent on education, finances, resources or family, but rather because of hate and injustice violence and oppression happened. Doctors, nurses, business women, engineers, cooks, caregivers and teachers, like you and me, lost their homes, all their belongings, and moreover, their mothers, fathers, spouses and children because of their ethnicity, skin color or religious beliefs. At Parkview, our partnership has reminded us of our common humanity...because it could be you and it could be me. Who would be Jesus to us? Who would welcome us?
Where do you see Parkview’s partnership with Re:new going next?
Our hands are open. We continue to pray, love, build friendship and think creatively alongside the artisan team to see how we may serve others together. Who knows what God will do! :)
Finally, do you have a favorite Re:new product?
I love the clutch. It is amazing. I love the variety looks with the beautiful colors of fabric.