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World Relief director assures people that refugees are already well vetted

Mark Kadel discusses 70 years of World Relief’s work, focusing on 36 years in Spokane.

When Mark Kadel educates people on refugee resettlement, he typically reminds people that Jesus and his family fled to Egypt as refugees and that Native Americans welcomed Europeans fleeing religious persecution and helped them understand how to survive in their new land.

After the attacks in Paris and reports that one perpetrator was trained by Daesh (ISIS) and came in the wave of refugees into Europe, Mark, executive director of World Relief in Spokane, reassures people that refugees are vetted by the Department of Homeland Security and four other government and international agencies.

In the federal government’s modern Refugee Resettlement Program’s 36 years of resettling refugees, no refugee has been arrested for domestic terrorism, he said.

“Refugees are the victims of religious or political persecution.  That’s why they are refugees,” he said.  “The Syrian refugees are victims of terrorism, fleeing war. They strongly oppose the more than 1,000 armed factions fighting each other.”

One Syrian family of seven, who came from a refugee camp in Jordan, does not identify itself because of backlash here against Muslims and because they still have relatives in Syria.  It took them six years to flee.

“We believe each human being is made in the image of God with inherent dignity. We view each human life as sacred,” Mark said.  “Conflicts produce refugees.”

Since the attack in Paris and media attention, the World Relief Spokane office has had many calls about the refugee crisis.  Most want to know how they can help. Only 10 percent are misinformed, so Mark helps them by providing accurate information on the screening process for refugees. 

“Spokane is a welcoming community. There has been an overwhelming wave of compassion,” he said.  “I value opportunities to help people understand the U.S. refugee program and to understand that refugees are fleeing for their lives from terrorism.”

More than 70 years ago, World Relief started in war-torn Europe as War Relief, the humanitarian arm of Billy Graham’s National Association of Evangelicals.

For 36 years—since receiving Vietnamese boat people—World Relief has resettled refugees in the United States.  It is one of nine organizations on contract with the State Department, resettling 10 percent of the 70,000 to 85,000 refugees the United States accepts annually.

World Relief is now the only organization in Spokane and one of five in Washington state resettling refugees.

“We resettle about 20 percent—nearly 600—of the 3,000 refugees coming to Washington State. Most are women and children,” Mark said.

There are also World Relief offices in Tri Cities and Kent.  The other four agencies in the state are Catholic Charities, Lutheran Community Services, International Refugee Committee and Hebrew Refugee Services.

In recent years, refugees arriving in Spokane are coming from Iraq, Afghanistan, Burma, Congo, Sudan, Cuba and former Soviet republics—Ukraine, Belarus, Armenia and Moldavia.  Many lived in refugee camps an average of 17 years, he said.

Most Slavic refugees coming today come through family reunions, arranged after refugees have become citizens.

While a few Cubans have come to Spokane, most are resettled in Florida and Texas.

Mark said that 6 million Congolese have been displaced over 10 years.

In 2014, he began seeing people from Syria in the Middle East and Colombia in South America.

Today, 4 million Syrians have left Syria or are internally displaced.  One in six people in Lebanon is a Syrian refugee, and one in 10 in Jordan is.

Since the attacks in Paris, many Americans began to worry that there may be terrorists among refugees, but Mark reassures that those approved for resettlement have been carefully vetted.

Mark expects that of the 10,000 Syrian refugees approved to come to the United States, perhaps two families may come to Spokane.

“Refugees are cleared by five federal agencies.  They are the most thoroughly vetted people who come to the U.S.  The process takes about two years, beginning with interviews in refugee camps,” he said. 

Of 20 million refugees in the world, the U.S. resettles less than .5 percent.

“It’s the least our country can do as a humanitarian gesture,” he said, adding that many refugees were farmers, professionals, professors, doctors and engineers.

Most experience a degree of post-traumatic stress disorder, so World Relief has help from counselors at Lutheran Community Services.

When it resettles refugees, World Relief, as the sponsor, is required to recruit volunteers and community support, including donations of furniture and funds.  Some refugees are to be employed and financially self-sufficient within six months.

“For every dollar donated to us, World Relief generates matching funds of an additional $2 for rent and other necessities.  Beyond money, we need community support, in-kind gifts and volunteers,” said Mark.

World Relief Spokane’s $2 million budget comes from private, federal and state funds.

“It’s in the state’s interest to help people be employed, so they become citizens and pay taxes. How many companies brought 528 people to Spokane in 2014 to add to the tax base and diversity in Spokane?” Mark asked rhetorically, noting that World Relief receives refugees at the airport nearly every week.

Along with empowering refugees, World Relief’s mission is “to empower local churches to serve vulnerable people around the world and to give churches the tools they need to show Jesus’ unconditional love.

“We reach out through people in a variety of churches who set aside fear and welcome strangers,” Mark said. 
They can do mission without leaving home.

More than 100 volunteers from 30 congregations are involved, welcoming refugees at the airport, teaching them English or life skills—such as how to operate a stove or how to shop.

“It’s rewarding to see refugees thankful for the kindness they experience after escaping from the persecution and trauma they experienced so much of their lives,” Mark said.  “We want them to find peace here.”

Of the World Relief Spokane staff of 35, half are former refugees, foreign born or had experience abroad.  Staff speak 25 languages.

Mark spent nine years in Albania, Kosovo and Greece, helping repatriate refugees there.

Active in a church youth group in Boise, he managed an Albertsons bakery for 21 years.  In 2002, he volunteered at the World Relief office in Boise and was hired.

He ran the World Relief office in North Carolina for three years and has been in Spokane for nearly six years.

“I am thankful every day for the love, grace, hope and mercy my Savior gives me.  My faith sustains me to allow God to work through me to love and welcome strangers,” said Mark, who attends Life Center North and often speaks at other churches. 

“I’m interested in learning about different cultures and world visions,” he said.

Born abroad, the first generation usually seeks to preserve the best of their culture. 

Born here, the second generation typically wants to fit in, so they adapt to American culture and independence, Mark said

“We encourage refugees to preserve their culture and language,” he said.

“The third generation is American,” said Mark, whose forebears were German, but he does not know the language or traditions.

“Americans are not a melting pot, but a mosaic,” he said, quoting former President Jimmy Carter.

For information, call 484-9829, email or visit

Copyright © December 2015 - The Fig Tree