The Lord is My Refuge, The Lord is Our Refuge.

Growing up in a multi-cultural environment and being a visible minority my whole life has been the reason for my curiosity in different cultures. Although there have been times where I struggled with the thought of being different, I have come to learn the beauty of diversity.

During the Fall 2015 semester, I studied abroad in the Middle East learning about Middle Eastern culture and the Muslim faith. Meeting with Arab families in Jordan and Palestine, I was blessed and astonished by their hospitality and generosity. While I was living in Amman, Jordan, I met with Palestinian refugees and heard their stories of resettlement. With Jordan holding a large population of refugees from countries such as Syria, Iraq, and Palestine, I could not help but wonder why Canada, a country with an abundant amount of resources, was not providing more for refugees. I remember walking through a refugee camp in the West Bank and feeling so hopeless. However, as I walked through the streets of this camp, I kept hearing, “The Lord is my refuge, the Lord is our refuge”. The hopelessness I was feeling turned into understanding that this is exactly where Jesus’ love needs to be shared, and because of that, the stories of refugees need to be heard.  At the end of my time in the Middle East, I asked myself, “If I never come back here, what am I going to do with all that I have seen and learned?”  Therefore, the least I could do is talk about it; talk about the people, what they have taught me and the way my life was changed after being there.

West Bank Wall

West Bank Wall

Coming back to Canada after my semester abroad was one of the most challenging experiences of my life. With the combination of culture shock and negative stereotypes towards Arabs, I felt compelled to stand up for the new friends I had made.

When I returned to TWU in the Spring of 2016, me and a few other students decided to re-establish the Social Justice Club on campus to give students an opportunity to express their passions of social justice and raise awareness of these issues.

In the Fall of 2016, I was introduced to Jordan Koslowsky through the Social Justice Club. He shared his story and ideas of TRAC, and I knew immediately that this was exactly what I wanted to pour my time and energy into during my last year at TWU. Through TRAC, I have been able to raise awareness and watch students develop a new passion for the global refugee crisis. TRAC has made me aware of the refugee resettlement process and the difficulties that individuals and families go through in search of safety and a better life. However, through the opportunities the Lord has given us, we can have hope.

The TRAC team has been incredible to work with, I have loved seeing students with diverse backgrounds, skills and experiences come together to work towards this initiative. It has been so encouraging to see the way the TWU community has supported TRAC and I am excited to see more students, faculty, and alumni get involved.

All the love & all the hope,

Rachael Penarroyo