Podcasters Kay Burklin (left) and Carolyn Morris

Podcast Launched During COVID Lockdown Gives Insight into the Plight of Refugees

By Ben Wilkerson, Jun 14, 2022

Rebecca Deng pounded maize in a mortar to make her basic meal of posho, an African dish similar to grits as the African sun beat down on the vast array of tents and makeshift shelters in the Kakuma refugee camp. Eight years prior, Rebecca and thousands of other boys and girl fled their homes during Sudan’s long and terrible second civil war, walking hundreds or even a thousand miles to the safety of neighboring Ethiopia, Kenya, or Uganda. This life was especially difficult for Rebecca and the other “Lost Girls” of Sudan. The discrimination they experienced at home continued in refugee camps. They were seen as inferior to boys, and only fit to bear children and take care of the house. 

As Rebecca ground her posho, she heard a commotion. A large crowd gathered at her school building as a man stood above the crowd with a piece of paper in his hand. “I have just received word,” he shouted, “that the UNHCR has selected 4,000 Lost Boys to be resettled in the United States. You are going home!” 

Loud cheers erupted. As the pandemonium intensified, Rebecca pushed her way to the front of the building where a weathered bulletin board bore the list of those selected for resettlement. “Deng, Rebecca” was among them. Her heart leapt in her throat. Tears streamed down her face as she cried for joy, anticipation, and fear of the uncertainty of what lay ahead. She was finally going to find a home.

A Podcast with a Purpose

The UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) chose Rebecca and just 88 other young girls to be resettled in the United States as a part of the “Lost Boys Initiative.” Rebecca came to Christ through a church in the refugee camp; 20 years later, she published “What They Meant for Evil: How a Lost Girl of Sudan Found Healing, Peace, and Purpose in the Midst of Suffering.” Today she is sitting at her computer in Holland, Michigan, on a Zoom call with MTW’s Kay Burklin and her counterpart Carolyn Morris, the hosts of the podcast “Refugees: What You Don’t Hear on the News.” They ask Rebecca to describe her life as a young girl living in South Sudan and to tell her life story. 

“Refugees: What You Don’t Hear on the News” highlights the stories of people whose lives God’s Church touched in a refugee crisis. Kay and Carolyn interview pastors, missionaries, doctors, lawyers, authors, and many others who have seen the Lord work powerfully to save marginalized and insecure refugees. They use their amazing gifts of interviewing and storytelling to find the stories of God’s glory and sovereignty that news outlets don’t talk about—stories like Rebecca’s.

A Growing Crisis

Every two seconds, someone leaves their home to escape danger. They face political turmoil, religious persecution, armed conflicts, and even human rights violations. The number of displaced persons is now over 84 million, but out of that 84 million, 20 million are classified as true refugees by the UNHCR. Only 1% of refugees get resettled. 

Certain conflicts in the last decade sent the refugee crisis into overdrive. In 2015 incredible numbers of Syrians, Afghans, Somalians, and others crossed the Mediterranean Ocean to Greece, where they might get the chance to find sanctuary in Europe. The year 2021 saw a massive exodus of Afghans once the Taliban regained Afghanistan. And in the recent months, there have been an estimated 10 million displaced Ukrainians with 3 million refugees seeking refuge in Poland, Moldova, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, and Hungary.

From Field Ministry to Podcasting

Kay Burklin began her ministry after graduating from college, working with World Relief preparing Vietnamese, Laotian, and Cambodian children for school in America. She met her husband, Heiko, while in seminary at Gordon-Conwell and spent the next few decades involved in church planting in Berlin and youth ministry in Florida. When the European refugee crisis escalated in 2015, Kay became the refugee liaison for Europe for MTW and helped coordinate resources and counsel churches involved in the crisis. But when COVID-19 hit, Kay found herself grounded in the U.S. with no way to continue the refugee ministry that she was so passionate about. Then she met Carolyn. 

Carolyn Morris, who works remotely with a non-profit and with the 18.26 Network, the vocational missions branch of MTW, spent three months in Greece with MTW working with refugees. When she returned to college in the U.S., she decided to dedicate her life to refugee ministry. Carolyn found Kay’s biography on MTW’s website and was inspired to follow the same path as her. Like Kay, she spent time working with refugees. Carolyn was working at a community center in an urban city just as COVID-19 hit.  After networking and email exchanges, Carolyn was chosen as Kay’s intern for refugee work in Europe—on the same day all travel outside of the U.S. was grounded indefinitely due to COVID-19. In the months that followed, after brainstorming ways to engage with the refugee ministry, Kay and Carolyn started their podcast. 

Kay and Carolyn want to show their listeners how God is working in the refugee crisis through His Church. They interview a wide range of people, all with incredible stories of trial, sacrifice, and hope. The podcast usually begins with a news story and then dives into an intriguing interview. There are 28 podcasts to date. 

Kay and Carolyn include links and statistics in their show notes, hoping the podcast can lead their listeners to other encouraging resources. Through insightful questions, they find all the ways in which refugees cross paths with Christians. They highlight the incredible stories of refugees, from their exodus to the years they spend in camps to their resettlement. Throughout their journeys, refugees encounter Christians who share the same message of the gospel and offer hospitality, friendship, and aid. In addition to telling these stories, the podcast connects aid workers and church planters across the globe. Kay and Carolyn hope that the podcast will encourage churches to see that refugees as more than a statistic: they are God’s children who need the gospel and our love.

You can listen the interview with Rebecca Deng and to other insightful conversations on “Refugees: What You Don’t Hear on the News” on any podcast platform.

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