Providing a Place of Refuge in a New World
The last decade has resulted in one of the most dire refugee crises in history. Hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world have been forced out of their home countries — often from their families, their careers, essentially their lives — and have arrived in strange lands for refuge, with new languages and new ways of life to reconcile with. The needs of these people are evident and urgent.
Meeting these needs is something alumna Lynne (Kinsman) Andrews ’86 has devoted her life to. For the past 30 years, she and her husband, Bob, have ministered in “Little India,” a diverse neighborhood in Chicago, Ill. For the past eight years, their work has focused specifically on refugees. And what started as a humble ministry out of their home has blossomed into the resource center that Devon Oasis is today. Bob serves as the director of this innovative ministry of the Missionary Church.
“We provide a safe, welcoming place for people who have just arrived in America, often coming from very sad and destructive circumstances,” says Lynne. “We provide homework tutoring, English instruction, job counseling, household supplies; however, genuine friendship is our greatest gift.”
The neighbors they serve have responded miraculously to their unique philosophy of “reaching people where they live.” According to Lynne, the staff and volunteers are 100 percent focused on positive relationships, and this has provided the ministry with remarkable access to the diverse community around them.
“At Devon Oasis, we welcome all people in the name of Christ, regardless of their ethnicity or religious background; we provide various services and free assistance in order to help our beautiful neighbors begin their new lives in America,” she said.
The Andrews reach out to neighbors and friends, and in turn, they are welcomed as neighbors and friends, despite cultural distinctions. That is the foundation of their work.
Lynne is heavily involved in welcoming incoming international families and serving them. She has a particular passion for the community of international women, organizing events and services for the enhancement of positive relationships among them.
“Devon Oasis is a doorway into the Church. It allows people to experience the love of Christ through our many volunteers who love and serve them,” she says.
The efforts of Devon Oasis have been recognized by World Relief Chicago, a prominent organization dedicated to the resettlement, education and well-being of the refugee population in Chicago. In 2014, they awarded Lynne and Bob the Jerry T. Comer Good Neighbor award, “in recognition of an outstanding partner in standing for the vulnerable.” (The Andrews’ ministry has been associated with World Relief since 1986.)
Lynne’s Bethel experience played a significant role in shaping her compassionate and global worldview. She recalls her friendships with international students at Bethel and fondly remembers how visiting India with a Bethel roommate set the course for the ministry she does today.
“I was convinced I would spend my life in India. Little did I know that God was preparing me to live in Little India right here in Chicago.”
As a vocal performance major, Lynne also had the opportunity to travel with Bethel’s music programs.
“We stayed in many homes around the country. I met many missionaries whose love for the people of the world was contagious,” she says. “Through all of these experiences I saw a common thread. The love of Christ was displayed in the lives of simple people. I wanted to live that out.”
The Andrews family remains connected to Bethel. Three of their four sons have attended or are currently attending, including David Andrews ’15, Benjamin Andrews ’18 and Samuel Andrews ’20.
“We are so thankful for the Spiritual life at Bethel and the mentoring our sons receive. When I visit campus I feel as if it has not changed in those respects, although it is larger and even more beautiful now. We also highly respect the administrative leadership at Bethel … I highly recommend Bethel College to parents of students. The training and spiritual mentoring their children will receive will pay back dividends for a lifetime, perhaps even generations, as it has in our family.”
Lynne and Bob have high hopes for the future of Devon Oasis, and they have Bethel in mind as a part of that future.
“We hope to see Devon Oasis be the portal to the love of Christ for many people. We hope to provide many more services to meet the many needs of our refugee friends in our community, and we hope to provide a training ground for Bethel students and faculty who are interested in cross-cultural ministry here in America.”
To learn more about the Andrews’ ministry, visit DevonOasis.org.