January is Recognized as National Human Trafficking Awareness Month

I have been thinking this would be a good time to share some information:

  • Every year, more than 25 million men, women, and children are trafficked worldwide. 
  • Already this year we have done 10 rescues. 
  • Approximately 374 girls are commercially, sexually exploited every month in Georgia alone. 
  • The average age of introduction to sex trafficking for girls is 12-14.
  • Approximately 12,400 men pay for sex with young women each month in Georgia. 

It happens in every economic demographic and in every location in the United States. If you think it’s not happening in your community, think again.

It has been 10 years now since I have begun serving on the frontlines of this global crisis. I still remember the day in Rome, Italy when it was suggested that with my law enforcement experience I would be a good fit with a group called Schiavitù Mai Più (Slavery Never Again). Since that day WE have served continually in both the United States and Europe with Anti-Trafficking Organizations. 

The we being you my faithful supporters. Without your prayers, love, and financial support this would not be possible. I am humbled by your faithfulness and asked for your continued support. Let’s keep this going. 

If any of you would like to know what the fight against Human Trafficking looks like or if you have a group you would like addressed please contact me. I am always available and willing to share. 

If you feel God is leading you to become a supporter please follow His lead and your heart. 
You can give at:

One Collective
2155 Point Boulevard
Suite 200
Elgin, IL 60123

Or online at: give.onecollective.org

Mark Edens Account #US267

I love each and every one of you and I wish you peace and joy in 2023. 

Love Serve Trust and Obey

Ten Years and Counting

It has been more than 10 years (November 2011) since Val and I completed our orientation and entered the Mission field. At that time when I was asked where and how we would be serving my answer was “we are going to be a willing and available servants to our Lord and Savior.” I can say with confidence that we have done just that. I have learned that God want’s me to love and serve His children and to trust Him with the rest.

Our journey has taken many twist and turns but never have we lost faith or our desire to serve. We have served in Europe and here in the USA. Both venues have provided many opportunities to love and serve as Jesus taught us.

Galatians 6:9

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

Being called to serve and answering that call has been a true blessing from God. And along with that blessing has come the love, prayers and support of our family and friends. Some of you have been walking alongside of us from day one and there is just no way to express our gratitude and thankfulness. Just know you are making a difference in our life and the lives of others.

We love and appreciate each and everyone of you.

Galatians 6:2

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Today you to know that our promise to our Lord and Savior has not changed. We remain solidly committed to being “willing and available servants.”

Looking to the future with excitement and joy, trusting in God.

Psalms 136:1

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.

Carl and Grace’s Wedding 06/01/2022

Against All Odds

Unlike most of what I read or heard about 2020, not everything was negative. What should have been devastating and heartbreaking was used by our Lord and Savior to advance His will.

Opportunities for outreach increased during the early months of the shutdown. With the strip clubs closed, women were turned out by their pimps to work the streets. Most shelters and free kitchens were forced to close. Those Children of God that depend on these critical services to survive were left without options.

What did God do? He sent out His soldiers to love and serve the oppressed and abandoned. And, what did you do? You upheld His soldiers with your love, prayers, and financial support. He used all of us to accomplish some amazing things.

Out of Darkness increased their outreach commitment to meet the increased number of women working the streets by adding additional Princess Nights. 

In partnership with Proof of the Pudding, an Atlanta catering company, 500 meals a day were delivered and handed out by Out of Darkness volunteers. This was accomplished by loading up the vans and driving to all the known areas where those in need congregate. Each meal and beverages were delivered directly to the recipient along with smiles and good wishes. 

The very popular “Welcome Bag” program was expanded in 2020. These are handbags that Val makes from donated fabric samples. Then, in partnership with a group of loving and supportive friends, they are filled with a waffle-weave robe, underclothing, slippers, toiletries, snacks and a small bible with the words of Jesus in red letters. In the past these were given directly to the ladies that were assisted by me at the time of the rescue. We are now providing them to the Out of Darkness Safe House so that everyone rescued can be blessed.  

2020 In review from my perspective:

  • More Princess Night outreach in both Atlanta and Middle Georgia.
  • Involved in more rescues. With covid restriction in place fewer male rescuers were available.
  • Transportation to covid testing sites, every princess rescued had to be tested. 
  • Participation in the meal delivery program.
  • Wore out another van, replacement purchased in November.
  • Prayer Team activities.
  • Ambassador Team programs.
  • Coordinating procurement and delivery of Welcome Bags.

With all the contact I have with those I interact with, it seemed inevitable that at I would contract Covid-19 and I did. I made it all the way to December 10th before I tested positive. I have recovered completely and returned to my readily available status on the 29th. I did have to turn down two rescues while I was contagious. It was the first time I’ve said no in seven years. Fortunately, the rescues were covered by others. Val did not contract it and I have received my vaccination. 

I want to share a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

God calls and prepares all of us to serve. Some are prepared and called to serve on the front lines. Some are prepared and called to serve as support to those on the front lines. Both are equally reliant on the other as I believe He intends. 

On a personal note I want to thank all of you for your love, prayers and support. You are on my heart and in my prayers continually.

Love and prayers, Mark

Because You Care

It’s because of your generosity that passionate servants can continue to reach, rescue and restore those oppressed and enslaved in the sad, but all too real world of Human Trafficking.
I continue my commitment to answer God’s call on my life to be one of His passionate servants. 
Through my partnership with Out of Darkness I remain involved in street and motel outreach. This means going to areas and motels where there is active trafficking taking place. Making contact with those involved and then offering them a rose and a card. The rose is a means of introducing ourselves and the card provides words of hope and love as well as information about the rescue and restorative programs available. We then offer prayers and the opportunity for immediate rescue. 
Outreach to the community at large is done through the ambassador team. As member of this team I engage church and community groups providing information and encouraging involvement and support. If you would like to have me speak to a group please reach out and let me know. 
Rescues continue to be the activity I am most identified with. It is something I seemed to have spent my life preparing for and now I am called upon to provide. 
This year I was able to connect a wonderful Dentist in Woodstock and her staff that are willing to provide loving and free dental care twice a year to the residence of our safe houses. This relationship is a blessing to all involved. Thanks Dr. Hope. (Yes that is her real name.)
Through the generosity of dear friends and local businesses with caring hearts we put together tote bags for those being rescued. Some of the things included are basic hygiene items, snacks, a tee shirt, slippers and a robe. The reaction to these bags is overwhelming.
I am currently cooperating with the leadership of the One Collective team in Elgin, Illinois to bring awareness into that community of the destructive effect of trafficking. Pray for God’s guidance in this endeavor. 
I am planning to return to the Pilgrim House in Spain in the spring of 2020. I will update you as that unfolds.
It is because you care and believe in the power of our Lord and Savior that all this happens. Your prayers and financial support are needed and appreciated. If you are a current supporter I am grateful beyond words for your continued support.  If you feel God is leading you to become a supporter please follow His lead and your heart. 
You can give at:
One Collective
2155 Point Boulevard
Suite 200
Elgin, IL 60123
Or online at: give.onecollective.org
Mark Edens Account #US2677email: markedens@live.com
I love each and every one of you and I wish a Blessed and Merry Christmas and peace and joy in the New Year. 
I would like to leave you with the same ending as my last update verse from
O Holy Night,  because it still says it all. 
Truly He taught us to love one another, His law is love and His gospel is peace. 
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother. And in his name all oppression shall cease. 
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, With all our hearts we praise His holy name.

And Another Year Begins

2018 Is in the books and 2019 is full of promise.

If 2018 is any indication of what 2019 has in store than it will be another amazing year serving my Lord and Savior through service to those oppressed by sexual slavery and pilgrims in Europe.

My assignments with One Collective (formally International Teams) continue to be The Pilgrim House team in Spain and in-cooperation with Out of Darkness here in the US.

Many of you had the opportunity to hear me speak this year. I was honored to be the guest speaker at several public service organizations and churches. This is a skill I can only attribute to the Holy Spirit.

I was in Italy and Spain this year for October and November. The number of meaningful spiritual encounters I had left me feeling thankful and amazed at how God is truly The Great Coordinator. WOW.

I returned home from Spain on November 20 with a heavy heart. On the 19th my father Donald Edens Sr. went home. He was a wonderful man that lived 93 good years. He is at peace now in the presence of our Father.

Out of Darkness continues to be an important presence in the battle against human trafficking. I am now serving on the Prayer team, the Outreach team, the Rescue team, and the Ambassador team. The Ambassador team is a new commitment which involves speaking engagements sharing testimony regarding trafficking. I am looking forward to this new area of service.

If you would like to have me address a group or an organization please ask. Or even you individually. I am very passionate about sharing how the Lord has changed my life through love and service to others.

You may have heard that I had some health issues in 2018, but I want you to know all is well and I never missed a rescue due to my health. I have had a go-a-round with Lymes disease, which is under control. And I had some more sick cancer issues. That too is under control. Thanks for your prayers.

We are witnesses of an extraordinary God who works in and through ordinary people who simply trust and obey Him. As always I am humbled and grateful for the love, prayers, and financial support you bless me with. Your prayers and support are essential and effective. Thank you!

During the last five years (yes it has been five years) my financial support has declined. However I have never lost my faith and belief that God would keep me on your hearts. I am making a rare appeal this year. If you have supported my ministry in the past, would you give prayerful consideration to again becoming a financial supporter. If you are a current supporter, your continued support is most appreciated. If you feel God is leading you to become a supporter please join the team.

You can give at:

One Collective

2155 Point Boulevard

Suite 200

Elgin, IL 60123

Or online at: give.onecollective.org

Mark Edens Account #US2677

I love each and every one of you and I wish peace and joy in the New Year.

I would like to leave you with this verse from O Holy Night, it says it all.

Truly He taught us to love one another, His law is love and His gospel is peace.

Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother. And in his name all oppression shall cease.

Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, With all our hearts we praise His holy name.

Merry Christmas 2017


Through your love, prayers, and financial support each and every one of our supporters has been right there with us for the last five years as we serve the oppressed in both Georgia and Europe.

• It has been an another amazing year.

• We continue to serve in both Europe and Georgia.

• Mark was in Rome, Italy in January serving at both Il Soggiorno and Joel Nafuma Refugee Centers.

• ITeams has turned over Il Soggiorno to an Italian Church which is a big score in the mission world.

• Our new official European assignment is the Pilgrim House in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.

• To learn more check out the link. https://pilgrimhousesantiago.com/

The Pilgrim House Welcome Center is a place for pilgrims to find respite from their walk and take time to reflect. We offer a safe place to explore and engage the deeper questions concerning the love and mystery of God, life, and our resilient frailty. This time of reflection is sacred and our purpose is to foster space (physical, mental, and spiritual) for this time.

• Mark was there in February and March and again in September.

• The staff were grateful to have someone with Mark’s life experience and strength of faith serving at Pilgrim House.

• Many of the pilgrims Mark discipled to were more seasoned and connected to him in a positive way.

• In 2018, both Val and Mark will be working there for the month of May. Because of visa regulations, one half of the full-time staff has to be out of the EU for a minimum of six consecutive months during 2018. We will support this staffing need.

As we participate with Out of Darkness in street outreach to those involved in human trafficking in middle Georgia and Atlanta, YOU ARE THERE.

• Mark has been instrumental in the growth of Out of Darkness Middle Georgia having been an experienced team leader from day one.

• When Mark participated in the rescue of eight women from captive trafficking in Sandy Springs, GA YOU WERE THERE. A copy of the article is included below.

We can share this one with you because it made the news. Otherwise all the information related to our anti-trafficking is highly confidential.

Through your support, Mark is able to lead rescue teams throughout Georgia.

I can share some of the stories heard in my van during rescues and general information.

• The women rescued range in age from 17 to 56.

• I have heard about women being put out on the street as young as 13, at times by their own family.

• Substance abuse is a result of the trafficking life, not always the cause.

• One 21-year-old woman that was rescued was clutching a stuffed turtle. She had been on the streets for seven years and her turtle had been with her the whole time.

• I hear mothers cry that they haven’t seen their children in years.

When a rescue team goes out it is one male and one female.

• Most rescues are at a motels, apartments, all-night restaurants and jails.

• They are always hungry, sometimes having been denied food for days.

• After we have made a safe pick-up and are sure we are not being followed (to learn the location of the Safehouse), we stop to eat.

• I always pay for the meal thanks to the support all of you have provided. I am amazed at their appetites and the happiness they show.

• Many of those we rescue need to be taken to a hospital for detox and drug withdrawal.

• Words of kindness, encouragement and reminders that they are loved by their Heavenly Father are shared during the rescues.

• I have had women accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior during rescues.

Yet, through all this, the love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ reaches out and pulls these broken and lost souls back into His loving arms. His love shines a light in the darkness.

Your love, prayers, and continued financial support have sent us out into God’s mission field to do what we can to help those caught up in this oppressive and devastating lifestyle.

We are witnesses of an extraordinary God who works in and through ordinary people who simply trust and obey Him. Your prayers and support are essential and effective.

Thank you!


Man accused of holding 8 women captive in Sandy Springs mansion

A man has been arrested on a human trafficking charge after police said he held eight women against their will in a nearly $1 million Sandy Springs home.

Just before 8 a.m. Tuesday, officers responded to a 911 call from a woman who asked for help leaving a residence in the 100 block of Strauss Lane, Sandy Springs police Sgt. Sam Worsham said Wednesday.

“I’m in a very bad situation, and I need to get help,” the caller said.

When they got to the 6,806-square foot home, officers found eight women and helped them leave the home, Worsham said.

FBI agents and Sandy Springs investigators arrested Kenndric Roberts, 33, on charges of false imprisonment and trafficking of persons for labor, Worsham said.

Roberts is in the Fulton County Jail. It was not immediately clear how long the women had been held in the home.

“What we believe is he was luring these women to this house with promises of either modeling careers or financial assistance. We’re not 100 percent sure on that. The investigation is continuing,” Worsham said.

According to Fulton County property records, the $976,300 residence has five bedrooms, five bathrooms and one half bathroom.

Information from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution was used in this report.

Merry Christmas 

2016 End of Year Update

Saturday Night Cleanup Crew at Il Soggiorno (Photo courtesy of Val Edens)

I would like to share some of my story with you in this update.

Myth: When a person gives their life over to God and becomes involved in full time ministry, they somehow become a gifted writer and orator. 

When I began full time ministry in 2013 I had plans to go to Rome, learn the language and culture and to spread the gospel through street discipleship. My mission agency at the time, wanted me to concentrate on language and culture until I was proficient in both. Reality proven to be much different. Some of you know and some of you my not know, I am dyslexic. I have struggled with my native language, English, all of my life and learning Italian proved to be a slow and difficult task. My inability to quickly learn Italian became a stumbling block in my relationship with my mission agency and their plans for me in Rome.

During this difficult time I sought direction and guidance from my Lord and Savior and through the Holy Spirit I was guided in directions where my gifts of faithfulness, perseverance, love, and compassion for human suffering could be used in service to the Father. 

I learned the most important lesson of life. Trust and follow Jesus.

By the end of 2013 I had transitioned to International Teams and I was fully involved in ministry services to refugees and victims of human trafficking. I have evolved to where I am today by remaining faithful to God’s plan.

Where am I at today and where am I going tomorrow. 

Since January of 2014 I have been serving with International Teams. ITeams worldwide commitment and the declaration…”Therefore, we choose to stand against the status quo. We choose to see the invisible, give a voice to the voiceless, create beauty from ashes, rediscover dignity, restore hope…” has opened up opportunities for me to serve both in Europe and in the US.

In Rome I serve at the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center and at Il Soggiorno. Both offer food, clothing, personal hygiene, rest, and daytime shelter to refugees. Opportunities to pray and study the Bible are also provided. Classes are offered to learn both Italian and English. And yes I have taken the Italian classes. I have formed many lasting and meaningful relationships at both of these centers. 

I have also served with Schiavitù Mai Piu (Slavery No More) a cooperative group of missional organizations in Rome involved in street level outreach to those sexually exploited through human trafficking. 

In the US I am primarily involved in anti human trafficking ministry. I have been actively serving through ITeams with two Atlanta based organizations Out of Darkness and The City of Refuge. Both organizations are dedicated to serving sexually exploited and trafficked women, children and men. Since June of 2014 I have been involved in street outreach, prayer teams, clothing drives, serving meals and rescues. The street outreach and rescues have been my primary focus.

It is difficult to relate to you impact this ministry has had on the lives of those I have encountered. The range of emotions is as broad as I have ever experienced. I am constantly reminding myself and those I serve with, that God does not measure our success, He measures our faithfulness. Sometimes everything goes smooth and you know what you’re doing is having an effect on those you are reaching out to. Other times nothing goes right and you are left to wonder why. The only constant is trusting that God is in control and praying that His will prevails. 

The sensitivity to privacy of this ministry precludes providing details of any actual activities. There is one case in which I have been involved that has made the news in Atlanta, so I can share a link to the story without violating any privacy protocol. I rescued this young woman twice, on the first occasion she fled after we made a requested restroom stopped at a QT. On the second she was safely transported to a safe house. She was rescued a third time by Out of Darkness, before her final demise. You can read about her at http://www.wsbtv.com/news/2-investigates/from-cheerleader-to-addict-the-heroin-lifestyle-that-killed-a-mother-of-four/450662210

I don’t want to beat my own drum with statistics and numbers, but I will say this, I say yes whenever asked to go on a rescue. I have done rescues all over Georgia, and in Tennessee and Alabama. I have been on rush hour recuses, all night rescues and days with multiple rescues. Whenever asked I remember Matthew 25:40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.

Going forward I am scheduled to return to Europe for another three month term on January 17, 2017. When not in Europe I will continue my Atlanta and Middle Georgia ministry. 

As I have said in the past, I am not in this alone, nor could I continue to do this alone. All of you that have supported me with prayers, love, and financial support are deeply embedded in the DNA of this ministry. I humbly request your continued partnership. If you are currently providing financial support please continue to allow me to serve on your behalf. If you have given in the past please consider giving again. If you have never given, please consider this ministry as part of your Christian giving.  

I am not a gifted wordsmith, but I do hope that on some level I have related to you my passion for the oppressed and exploited. 

With love and a grateful heart I wish all of you a Merry Christmas and best wishes in the New Year.

Looking Back and Looking Forward 

Not a having and a resting, but a growing and a becoming.  M Arnold

Looking Back:

2015 Was a year like no other. In December I lost my brother Don. The effect this event has had and will have on me has yet to be fully realized. Thank you to all of my faithful brothers and sisters in prayer, our prayers were answered. 

My son Paul was married to Brittany in October. A lovely and welcome addition to our family, the wedding made it official, however she has been in our hearts for a long time. 

My time in Rome during 2015 was blessed with many signs and that clearly indicated God’s hand was shaping the events and using me as His willingly available servant. 

The first seven months were spent serving those being trafficked in Middle Georgia and Atlanta. I serve with and through Out of Darkness and the City of Refuge. The plight of those being trafficked is finally becoming part of the social conversation in America. I know you are hearing and reading about the extent of this sin and understand the need to continue with prayer, out-reach and rescue to the oppressed. 

Looking Forward:
What does 2016 look like? That’s a good question. I’ll try to answer the best I can. 

Looking at my life since I accepted the call to missions, I can say it has been challenging, educational, and fulfilling.

I began the journey thinking how I could serve God, what could I do. I have grown to, I am yours Father, guide me, use me. 

When Jesus Christ says “Follow Me,” He never says to where, the consequences must be left entirely to Him. We come in with our “buts,” and “supposings,” and “what will happen if I do?” (cf. Luke 9:57– 62). We have nothing to do with what will happen if we obey, we have to abandon to God’s call in unconditional surrender and smilingly wash our hands of the consequences. Oswald Chambers, from Not Knowing Whither

I believe that God’s work in me continues and that I have learned to be a servant. 

I will say thank you from the bottom of my heart to all of you that have supported me financially. Your support is an integral part of this story. Your support has affected the lives of many. Without support I could not afford the travel expenses incurred nor could I provide relief for those in need. 

Val and I often have this conversation when we discuss the hardships of being separated by my service and using our money in support of myself and other missionaries. “Which one would you choose to go without shoes?” And it’s not just shoes, it’s time and presence, meals, clothes, medicine, and more. 

As you know I am serving in both Atlanta and Rome. My financial needs here in Atlanta are not as great as in Rome which allows me to save so I can return to Rome. I began this update in the US and thanks to my faithful supporters I am sending it to you from Rome. 

Your prayers, love, and support have changed my life and the lives of others. For that I will be eternally grateful. 

I was a Stanger, and I was Welcome.

I want to share this story with you, I could never tell it as well as Rakin. As you know the JNRC is one of the two refugee centers I serve in Rome. 

My name is Rakin and I am a refugee.It is difficult for me to share my story, but I feel it’s important because I want others to understand the reality of my country and people.  We are not secure and there is no peace for millions of people like me.

Before I left Afghanistan, I was appreciated by my family, friends, and community. I had a comfortable life with a beautiful house. I had hopes of becoming a psychologist, I had published books condemning the acts of the Taliban, and I was interviewed on the radio and television about my writings. Then my life changed drastically.

I was kidnapped for money. The kidnappers called my family and threatened to kill me if my family didn’t pay them. More than ten times, the kidnappers sent pictures and videos of them beating and torturing me, to my family.  After four months, I escaped.  I was badly hurt and went to the police station. They knew I had been kidnapped because my father had reported it. The police asked me to take them to the place where I was kept. They arrested and killed many of the kidnappers. 

When my kidnappers heard that I reported this to the police, they threatened me by phone. My mother was so panicked she had a heart attack, and while I was visiting her in the hospital, my kidnappers sought revenge. They found my home and killed my father, brothers, and sisters. My mother and I tried to move to a friend’s house outside of Kabul where we would be safe. We stayed there for a long time, and then my mother asked me to leave Afghanistan. We couldn’t continue to hide in the house out of fear of being attacked.  The plan was that once I was settled in Europe, I would invite her so she could also be safe.

I never imagined that I would face such problems in Europe. I always thought of Europe as supporting human rights and equality. When I first arrived to Rome, I had to sleep in a tent outside in the park for three months during the winter. There was not good food to eat and it was cold. Now I share a room with eight other people at a reception center with other refugees. I don’t sleep well. There is no hot water. I can only wash myself every couple of days. Because of the cold water I am always sick. It is inhumane.

It is well known that money allocated for providing services to asylum seekers is being siphoned off for other purposes. Recently, a transcript released from wiretapping the Mafia Capitale revealed one member saying, “Do you have any idea how much I can make on these immigrants?  It’s a lot more profitable than drug trafficking.”  I am one of these immigrants.  So, I take cold showers as others profit from my misfortune.



Like many, before I arrived here I perceived Rome as a holy city. When I arrived as an asylum seeker, I discovered a reality that was inconsistent with my perception of being a holy or sacred place. Keep in mind that I arrived as a foreigner who was not here to vacation, but rather to save my life.  As a stranger to this city, I am misunderstood and mistreated.  Now I wonder if this a holy city.

Instead of asking about my education, about my skills, or questions to get to know me, people only ask, “Where are you from?” This is what defines me. This is what creates a barrier in my ability to form friendships and feel welcome in the community.

Fortunately, when I arrived to the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center (JNRC), I met some wonderful people. Their kindness lessened my suffering. They tried to feel what I am feeling…not having any family.  I know that this center is my home and these people are my family. I no longer feel alone. People listen to me. They helped me solve my problems with documents. They invited me into their homes and cooked delicious food for me.  They even celebrated my birthday for the first time in 8 years – and since the death of my family – that I had a birthday celebration.  They were with me during my formal interview for protection (or commission as it is called here in Italy) and when my mother died alone, and in a faraway land. The JNRC is supporting me in every possible way.

Before coming to the JNRC, I was like a dead person. I used to sit in the park alone. Psychologically I was dead. Working with the JNRC psychologists and listening to their advice brought me brought me back to life.  All refugees that experience this kind of trauma need to be welcomed, especially when they don’t have any family to support or protect them. No one can go through life without family and supporters to lead us out of the darkness and toward our goals and dreams.  The circumstances of my own trauma have changed my life plans in ways that I never imagined possible.  Still, I am hopeful that one day I will start my writings again, continue with a psychology career and feel like a respected human being.

This is why I am very thankful for this center; for what they are doing for me and for others. In this center, Muslims and Christians eat, play and work together. Everyone welcomes newcomers as human beings, not according to religion, race, or ethnicity. The situation in this center feels very different from the situation out on the streets of Rome.

Outside, I feel looked upon as an unwelcome stranger. When I’m on the bus the people next to me secure their wallets and close their purses. I don’t know how to behave to prove that I am not a thief. The refugees that I know are good people from good families.  Even if they don’t have money or beg on the street, they would never steal. This is what we face as refugees everyday in Rome.

Now, I am part of the JNRC’s Artisans Together project.  We produce handicrafts, for a suggested donation, in order to heal from our trauma and rebuild our lives in Rome. We advocate and educate about the reality of refugees. As artisans, we share profits amongst us and donate 10 percent back to the JNRC in order to help the guests who depend on the center for daily assistance, sanctuary, and support.

My work with this group has restored my sense of belonging.  We practice respect for humanity and equality amongst brothers even though we are from different countries and continents.  In this group, I am learning new skills.  I am surrounded by a community of support that gives back by welcoming other strangers who make their way to this center.

As Muslims we believe that Jesus gave life to the dead by God’s permission.  The Christians that I found at the JNRC helped make me alive when I was dead person.  Still a practicing Muslim, I underwent nothing short of a miracle, to find myself again.  I was dead, but when I found this church and center that welcomed me as a stranger, I was given life again. Alhamdulillah! Or, as you might say in English, All praise is due to God alone!


I don’t want to be identified as a refugee forever.  I hope that someday I will be treated in Italy as I was treated before the living nightmare of losing my family, my country, and my life.  I never wanted to be a refugee.  The human spirit is strong and I am learning to dream again – and this is the gift that I have been given, because I was a stranger, and I was welcomed.


Rakin, who prefers not to share his last name, is originally from Kabul, Afghanistan. He fled his country in 2010. After being denied political asylum in Norway after four years, he came to Italy where he has been granted full refugee status according to the Geneva Convention (1951).  It is rumored in the JNRC and beyond that he is an unbeatable chess player.

This story first appeared in the JNRC blog. You can read this and other stories at http://jnrc.it/stranger-welcomed/#