It was just supposed to be a work trip to the north side of Chicago, but since that day in 2015, a piece of my heart seemed to be forever stuck on the corner of Devon and Western Avenue.
I think it happened somewhere between walking the streets that made me feel like I was in India or Nairobi or anywhere else but America. Or maybe it happened as I heard story after story of the refugee families who lived in the neighborhood. Quite possibly, though, it was that one phrase that completely captured my heart and made me dream a little differently with the Father.
“God has brought the world to us.”
Seven miles from the posh of Michigan Avenue and the tourists in Millennium Park lies an incredibly diverse community with well over 100 languages represented in just a few square miles. Nearly half of the residents here were born outside of the United States—many of them are refugees from countries devastated by violence against minorities or marginalized people, places Americans don’t have easy access too.
Just to name a few
God has brought the world to us—even in the heartland of America.
Bob Andrews, director of an organization in the community called the Devon Oasis Center, said that phrase time and again, trying desperately to help us see the opportunities in his neighborhood.
Devon Oasis evolved from Bob and Lynne’s missional life, from the way they engaged their neighborhood, from the way they loved on and were Jesus to refugees. They didn’t set out to start a ministry. They were simply called to love their neighbors.
Today at the Center, they host English classes for adults, homework center for kids, and more, in one space. But communicating the love and life of Jesus is so much more than structured programs. It requires relationship—time together, grace and love shown time and again in friendship. So their team prioritizes going and being. They knock on people’s doors and stay for awhile. They build friendships—that all-important community. They give and they take. They serve and are served. They teach and are taught.
And as that trust builds and relationships blossom, they encounter opportunities to love people more fully by sharing Jesus with them. It’s not a forced conversation. They’re not looking for quick converts. They’re simply desperate for people to experience the life, freedom, and love that Jesus offers us—His people made in His image.
This—all of this—is what captured my heart four years ago. It’s what made me tell my friend in 2016, “I think the Lord is calling me to move to Chicago and work with Devon Oasis, but I don’t know why or when or what that would even look like.”
And now, four years later, it seems like the Father has said one word, and it is beautifully clear—Go.
So, friend, I am doing just that! In March 2020, your girl plans to move to Chicago. I am being sent as a missionary by my home church, Nappanee Missionary Church, and will carry the official title of Missionary in Residence. Honestly, this is just a fancy way of saying that I will live and do support-raised ministry among the people I get to serve. They will be my neighbors, and I will be theirs. My days will look like joining Bob and his team in what they are already doing—teaching English, helping with homework, etc—as well as meeting one-on-one with women and discipling those who are seeking Jesus.
And I am so excited!
This isn’t taking the place of Thailand. In fact, I will continue to work alongside Braverly and make annual trips to Mae Sot. This is simply in addition to the work the Father has called me to. In so many ways, it feels like He’s brought me to a mini Mae Sot of sorts. Right now many of the refugees flooding Chicago are from Burma, and in Mae Sot, many of the people I had the opportunity to love on were from Burma. When we finish the book, we hope to translate it into Burmese which will make it an incredible tool in Mae Sot and Chicago. This place, this community, this city only two hours away from my hometown is filled with opportunities to bridge the gap between ministry happening in Thailand and America.
Somedays I felt like Thailand was a detour from what the Father was calling me to, but in so many ways, it seems like it was just another step in the journey—just like Chicago is another step. Because we never quite arrive, do we? As followers of Jesus, we’re constantly asking the Father to lead us. Sometimes He takes us halfway across the world. Other times, right outside our front door. And it’s always so good.
So how can you help me on this journey?
- Give: Chicago isn’t cheap, and I will need to raise nearly 3x what I raised for Thailand! This number feels so daunting to me, but I am trusting Jesus to provide in ways that only He can. Would you consider being part of the answer to this prayer? To give, click here and write “Kate Berkey” next to Missionary Support.
- Pray: More and more, I am humbled by my own limitations and so grateful for those who are covering me in prayer. In the midst of another transition and lots of new, I need prayer warriors on my team!
- Follow the journey: I would love to stay connected to you on Instagram and Facebook.
Thanks for being part of my journey, whether it’s simply by reading my blog or joining my support or prayer teams. You are amazing, and I couldn’t do this without you!