Photo provided by Cui Cui

Cui Cui from China, top right, at her host mom Vickie Klassen’s home, with friends and family gathered for dinner. Vickie is second from left in the bottom row with her arm around her daughter Rebecca. 

I come from a small town in Northeast China.

I have been in Fresno, California, with the IVEP program since August 21, 2019. I live with my host mom and another student.

I volunteer at Fresno Interdenominational Refugee Ministries (FIRM). My position is an Intern. I’m usually at the front desk to guide the clients to find out what help they need. I also provide support for Syrian Family Literacy children once a week. In addition, I also help organize a clothing and household items give-a-way once a month.

At FIRM we “share Christ’s love to build communities of hope with New Americans.” The communities we serve include Hmong, Lao, Slavic, African and the Syrian community. We provide services for young children all the way up to seniors. FIRM is always pursuing new ways to meet the diverse need of the different groups we serve.

So far, I have experienced many different things. Sometimes my encounters are happy, sometimes sad, and sometimes surprising, but always full of encouragement and challenges.

After two weeks in Fresno, my host mom took a one month vacation. That meant, I would stay without my host mom for one month. Before she left, she made weekend plans for me. Because I’m new to Fresno, I didn’t have any friends here. When she was not in town, she didn’t want me to feel lonely . . . she cares about me. She wanted to make sure every Saturday I had activities, and every Sunday I had a ride to church. On weekdays my boss, supervisor and my coworker took turns taking me to the office. Sometimes my Chinese housemate Tina took me grocery shopping. We hang out together and we’ve become close friends. In September, I joined a Women’s Retreat at Hartland Camp. At the retreat I had a very good time. That refreshed my mind, as I learned more about God’s work. At the retreat, I made many new friends and we came to understand each other more, after sharing about our backstories and testimonies in our lives. The retreat was only a few days, but we’ve built strong relationships. It was a wonderful time.

On November 8th it was my boss Zack’s last day working at FIRM. He has taken a new job serving homeless people. He was a good and kind boss. Zack respected every worker’s ideas and opinions. He encouraged everyone. I remember, my first day of work, I was nervous and looking forward to this new experience. On the first day we spoke about simple topics such as culture and FIRM. On my first workday, my boss organized a lunch to welcome me and introduced me to my coworkers. It made me feel like they were happy to have me as a FIRM member and that I’m very important. Even though my English was not good, they tried to understand me. They used simple words and spoke slowly. So, when Zack said he would be leaving FIRM, I was very sad, but glad that he will help a new group. He was my boss, but he was also a good mentor and friend.

In the three months that I’ve been in Fresno, I’ve had many experiences. Besides work life and my home life, I had West Coast IVEPers’ Retreat, experienced our church lead pastor move to San Francisco, and experienced my host mom’s brother passing. These were hard times for me.

I know that God wants me to learn and grow in these situations. When I encounter difficulties, God always leads and guides me in his way in different times, different locations and environments. He’s guided me to meet people who can help me, give me advice and ideas. I love God, trust him and he never gives up on me. God is the Creator. My life is in his hands.

When I had difficult times, like when Vickie’s brother passed away and the lead pastor moved to a different city, the people around me took care of me and encouraged me. After that God gave me the retreat for a change of environment and the opportunity to meet different people. It made me feel relaxed and refreshed.

When my boss Zack left, FIRM’s busy season had finished, and then I had the West Coast IVEPers’ Retreat. It was a healing time. It’s the reward God gave me; like when a child completes their homework and the parents reward the child.

Maybe sometimes we will complain when we encounter difficulties, but in difficult and anxious environments, occasionally you may need to slow down and change perspective. Perhaps God has prepared a path for us that we have not seen. If you are in trouble or experiencing difficult times at this moment, never give up. Maybe God wants you to learn about something or grow up in that situation.

When I was a child I used to complain to God, “Why was I born in a Christian family in this country?!” But as an adult, I’m grateful that God chose to have me in a Christian family in my country. It is the best present in my life. My experiences in life helped form my vision and fueled my passion to share Jesus’ love to vulnerable people to help them be independent and happy.

Cui Cui from China, Intern at FIRM, Fresno, California