Matthew Longhurst’s Story: Behind the scenes of welcoming refugees

By Fr. Matt Woodley

On Monday, November 24th, I had the privilege of interviewing Matthew Longhurst about his volunteer work with World Relief. Matthew has been attending Rez with his family for his entire life of 27 years. He and his mom, Nancy, both volunteer most Tuesdays and Thursdays, organizing the many donations received by World Relief. 

Fr. Matt: You came to me about six months and said, “I really want to volunteer with a local mission.” We talked about different opportunities, but in the end, you really wanted to volunteer with refugees through World Relief. Where did your desire come from to work with refugees?

Matthew: Well, it started a few years ago back when I was on a short-term mission trip overseas with YWAM (Youth with a Mission). I was just sticking my big toe into mission work, and long story short, I really loved it, and it grew my faith. I was in northern India with my dad. I shared my testimony with many people there, and we had the chance to see many people come to faith in Jesus.

Fr. Matt: You really love cross cultural work, befriending people, and sharing the good news of Jesus across different cultures. It sounds like that’s the common thread with your work at World Relief and what you did with YWAM.

Matthew: Yeah, that is basically true. When you asked me about volunteer opportunities, I asked myself: What can I do that would help support refugees, all the people coming from around the world? And then it all clicked for me.

Fr. Matt:  So tell us what you and your mom do every Tuesday and Thursday?

Matthew:  We’re in a large warehouse and I help create these welcome boxes for refugee families. World Relief gives me a list of what to pull together. So, for instance, it might be a family of six, and they need a huge bag of rice, or kitchen supplies, bath towels, a warm coat, etc. Then someone else will take that completed welcome box and bring it directly to the refugee family. It’s really good to know that this is one small step in helping the family.

Fr. Matt:  Do you meet with the families?

Matthew:  No, our work is more behind the scenes. But I was talking to one of my co-workers at World Relief who said, “Hey, did you hear about the So-and-So family that received one of the welcome kits?” I said, “No.” And he told me the following story: “The things you packed really changed the lives of a newly arriving family from Afghanistan. Both the husband/dad and wife/mom were doctors there, but when they arrived in the U.S., they had to start all over. He’s working as a bagger at Jewell Osco.” Wow, I was really sad about that. But I’m happy he has a job and that we’re helping that family get a new start here.

Fr. Matt:  That must be so gratifying to know that your work has had an impact on refugee families!

Matthew: Yeah, it really is. Our goal is to make the family who’s coming over here feel our love and hospitality. And of course, we learn stuff from these families as well. World Relief has a team of people that will stick around with these families for sometimes up to three to five years.

Fr. Matt: That’s a big commitment! Well, thanks, Matthew, for the work that you’re doing at World Relief. We’re so thankful for the good work that you’re doing to show the hospitality of Jesus to these families.

Fr. Matt Woodley
Cathedral Vicar


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// Church of the Resurrection