Jack Lamar Story

Spoiler alert: Reading Circle is awesome.

When I first began volunteering two hours of my week to teach refugee students English literacy skills, I was excited about the opportunity to make a positive impact in the kid’s lives. I was going to be the superhero mentor who would see his student climb the literacy ladder every week and go home with a sense of accomplishment knowing that, at least for those two hours, I was making a difference.

Now, don’t get me wrong, a lot of that is good and has happened through my time in Reading Circle. God has designed us to find fulfillment in serving his image-bearers. However, Reading Circle has been so much more than that for me and my student, Pujan.

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Alysa Marx
Cassie Henley Story

Every Wednesday, my five kids and I eat breakfast, finish a quick homeschool lesson and load up the car with crayons and playdoh and stickers and sensory box supplies and head a few miles down the road to Vickery Meadow.  We say hello to the eager faces already playing at Refugee Resources and prepare the tables with activities and art supplies as we wait for the rest of our preschoolers to arrive.  As each child walks in the door, we greet them by name and give hugs and high-fives to those awake enough to know where they are.  We spend our time together playing and moving, scooping and pouring, coloring and painting, singing and reading.  We leave exhausted but completely overwhelmed with joy.  These 17 preschoolers have become some of our dearest friends and we can’t imagine not knowing them and loving them.  But...

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Alysa Marx
Vanessa Burbano Story

Meet Aimerance.  She is a sweet and spunky eight year old little girl.  Aimerance is from Congo and has ---- siblings.  I began working with Aimerance this spring and right away I was surprised by her ability to move up the different reading levels.  She is a fast learner! 

I have been serving in Reading Circle for a little over three years now.  What began for me as merely a way of “volunteering” to help students learn to read once or twice a month has now become an integral part of my life.  I heard about Reading Circle through my church and I was immediately drawn to this ministry.  For a long time, I had been looking for a ministry that focused on showing God’s love to children by addressing the needs of students in a sustainable way.  Thus, is the case of Reading Circle which focuses on meeting the English literacy needs of refugee children.   However, Reading Circle is much more than that.  It is showing God’s love to these students by developing a personal relationship with them and spending time with them.

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Alysa Marx
Morgan Vandever Story

I grew up in a Christian bubble. I’ve always pushed that idea away in my brain because I just don’t want to admit it, but it’s true. Now, don’t hear me wrong- I am not complaining. Being in that bubble taught me the name of the Lord and the love He has for me since before I can remember. I was surrounded by people who truly and deeply desired for me to know God personally, and who prayed for me by name. Growing up it seemed to me that everyone I knew went to church, knew about the Lord, and lived a fairly similar life as I did. I took in what I heard at church, truly believed it, but thought “Okay, what do I do with this now? Everyone around me is hearing the same thing.” Hence the bubble: I never felt the need to learn to share what I believed and why I believed it because I was surrounded by others who looked and thought like me.

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Alysa Marx
Carolyn Hill Story

Over the past few months, I’ve been learning a lot about hospitality.  I mostly hear about people having the “gift of hospitality” because they love to host people or are particularly good at welcoming in new people to their circle of friends. While both of these descriptors of hospitality are fruitful and will ultimately glorify God, the Bible talks explicitly about hospitality in light of the foreigner or stranger in our life. Deuteronomy 10:18-19 talks about God’s heart for the foreigner and His command to the Israelites. It says, “He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.”

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Alysa Marx
Mark Miller Story

My name is Mark and I have worked with Bali for about a year and a half. Bali is one of the coolest kids I’ve ever met. He’s ten years old and thin as a rail. He is full of energy and joy that is infectious. He carries a soccer ball with him everywhere he goes. He’s a good kid. And his life is the stuff of boyhood dreams: biking down to the creek with his brother, playing soccer in the street with his closest mates, skinning knees, smiling and laughing nearly all the time, and of course playing marbles (something I still find a bit puzzling). He lives in a tiny apartment with four adults and three other kids. I imagine the money is tight, but you’d never know it.

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Alysa Marx
Nikki Pham Story

On the first night of reading circle, about a year and a half ago, I was introduced to this timid girl from Burma. Juliana warmed up throughout the night, telling story after story about her life between each reading activity. Over time, she has not changed; she remains an excellent storyteller. Each week, every Tuesday night, I look forward to hearing tales from the past week whether it is a story about school, her family, or something funny that happened to her and her friends.

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Alysa Marx
Megan McGraw Story

Rewind the clock back almost three years, and my life looked a lot different. I had just heard about the Reading Circle, a program that served the refugee students in Vickery Meadows through a literacy mentorship program. I was excited to use my education background and share the love of Christ with my refugee neighbors. What I didn’t realize at the time, was the cost of my comfort, time, and energy. Yet I also didn’t realize how much my life would be radically transformed for the best by the relationships I’ve formed.

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Ekow Ankumah Story

Rain is one of the happiest, friendliest kids you will ever meet.  Every Monday I get the opportunity to spend time with him and it is one of the highlights of my week.  Without fail when I arrive at Reading Circle, Rain will rush towards me and want to play games, show me his art, or see how far I can lift him.  It is such a joy to be Rain's mentor. You would never tell by these interactions that Rain is actually a refugee from Myanmar - formerly Burma, that has come to the US with the hope of a better life for him and his family.

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Alysa Marx
Anne Edelen Story

Watching the news a few years ago, I was ashamed when I watched a local story about some angry people planning to head to DFW Airport to protest against a few refugee families being brought by the federal government to settle here as part of a larger resettlement program. Many who had already traveled through multiple unwelcoming countries in their search for a peaceful refuge from their war-torn countries had settled in cities to our north. I was stunned. I thought the story was going to focus on welcoming them after all they’d been through. My heart broke when I imagined that instead of open arms and kind faces, they would experience more of what they were already escaping.

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Alysa Marx
Leah Mendes Story

For the past two and a half years, I’ve had the gift of serving as a mentor in the Reading Circle program through Refugee Resources Inc. The organization is set in Vickery Meadow, a beautifully diverse refugee community in Dallas. While it’s only a few minutes away from my apartment, it feels like another part of the world. The neighborhood is made of people from many different ethnicities, cultures and backgrounds, and it has a sense of community that is rare to find.

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Alysa Marx
Hunter Goodroe Story

My favorite characteristic about Tika is that he is a kid. Not only in age, but in excitement and character.

Tika and his family are from Bhutan and came to the United States for a better life through a refugee resettlement organization. Tika was naturally guarded when first meeting him. Any question I asked was quickly responded with an “I don’t know” in a way to shrug off an interaction. The spark of being a 5th-grade boy was missing. He was compliant and quiet, most likely attending because of his parent’s hope for his literacy to improve.

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Alysa Marx
Maria King Story

I will always remember the evening I was introduced to my quiet and wide-eyed mentee. He was a small little boy who seemed to be shy, although after moving from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the United States, a young child like himself had every reason to be watchful as he learned the ropes in this new place. Maybe it was because he hadn’t ever interacted closely with a white adult female, maybe he had a traumatic past haunting him, or maybe it was just because he only knew a few words in English. Coincidentally, I had just moved to the new, shiny, fast-paced Dallas, TX (although my move was not as much of a culture shock as his) and I was grateful for my new little friend.

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Alysa Marx
Kaitlyn Kirkhart Story

Hey family and friends! I want to introduce you to my new friend Snow White. (Or as I call her, Snow!) But first, here’s a little bit of a backstory for ya! 

My friend Rebekah Yates told me about a ministry she served with called Reading Circle. She explained that volunteers are paired with a refugee student to read with them to help them become literate in English and share the love of Christ. At first I was unsure, but little did I know that God had an awesome plan up his sleeve. After praying and thinking about it for a few months, I was ready to jump into what the Lord had planned!

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Alysa Marx
Zach Lind Story

It’s Tuesday night in Dallas.

The Mavericks are playing at the AAC, there’s a concert in Deep Ellum, Uptown is hopping, and lives are being transformed at the corner of Holly Hill and Pineland in Vickery Meadow.

About forty people have gathered together in the same room, but nothing could be more different about this group. We’re from different hemispheres, we speak different languages, but we all look forward to Reading Circle.

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Alysa Marx
Tracey Beckett Story

I have been serving with Reading Circle since May 2015. I think most people who meet Alysa Marx end up serving in some capacity, because her passion for the refugee community and her resolve to partner with them is magnetic and hard to resist. It’s easy to see that she’s a part of something bigger than herself and that she wants to bring you into that as well. I loved Reading Circle for a variety of reasons – it checked so many of my boxes I had when looking for volunteer opportunities.

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Alysa Marx
Emily Walter Story

Over two years ago, I felt distant and disconnected from the people and places in Africa I love and longed for. I had always wanted and planned to live serve in east Africa. A series of health problems and complications rendered this impossible for me. I was heart broken. 

Sick and stuck in Dallas, I started searching for pocket of the world in my neighborhood that I could give my heart to. 

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Alysa Marx