A Heart for Refugees

Emily Bricker

For Emily Bricker, the newest addition to the Immigrant Justice Program (IJP), her heart yearns for intercultural ministry, but what that looks like continues to shift. “My degree was in Spanish and my dream was always to go overseas and be a missionary,” she says. But then she got a position teaching an evening ESL class comprised entirely of Burmese refugees.

Teaching this course profoundly affected her career goals. “I learned about their stories and just kind of became aware of the refugee populations in Indianapolis,” Emily says. She began looking for a similar, full-time position and found an opening with Exodus Refugee.

As an instructor, Emily taught 7 to 8 English classes per week. “But more like crash-course English,” she says. “Like how to survive in your new country because the refugees we were working with were in their first 90 days of being in the U.S.”

Emily loved teaching at Exodus Refugee, but in January things changed rapidly. “A week after the inauguration, the first Executive Order happened, and that’s when the ball started rolling,” she says, “We realized we were losing funding; we were losing clients in general, and we were going to be losing staff as well.” Exodus was forced to downsize drastically, and Emily lost her job in the shuffle.

The transition was abrupt. “I felt numb for awhile, just because it was happening on such a grand scale, and it was things I couldn’t change,” she says. “After that numbness went away, it started just feeling like heartbreak.” Despite her job loss and her concern for her friends and her students, Emily didn’t lose faith. “I always trust in the Lord and I never fear that I won’t be taken care of,” she says.

Prior to losing her position, Emily volunteered at the Legal Clinic during a Refugee Adjustment Day thanks to her friendship with then-IJP Manager Brandon Fitzsimmons. Brandon would soon be leaving the Clinic and mentioned to Emily that she might be a good fit for the program. “It just became really clear that this was where God wanted me to go,” says Emily. She applied for and was offered the job.

Now, as the Program Manager for IJP, Emily is acclimating to her role managing the volunteers in her program, making meaningful connections with other service providers, giving community presentations, and providing bilingual support during new client intakes. During a recent intake, she met a particularly distraught couple. “I got to just sit down and pray with them and that was really neat for me because I’ve never been in a professional setting where that’s been appropriate,” Emily says. “I’m so thankful for this agency and I’m glad to be part of it.”

To learn more about the Clinic’s Immigrant Justice Program, please visit our website.