There are big changes ahead for Welcome Churches as Karina Martin has taken the bold decision to step down from being our CEO. Here are some reflections from her on what has brought her to this point.
It’s never easy deciding to stop doing something you love! The last five years have been incredibly exciting – firstly launching Welcome Boxes as a national project and then seeing Welcome Churches grow into a new charity. As a pioneer and innovator, I knew a time would come when I would have to step back and hand it on and yet it still came as a shock when it suddenly arrived! It came this summer when I heard the exciting news that I had been offered a scholarship to study a Masters in Social innovation at Cambridge University. If I was going to attempt to live a God-honouring, balanced life, I knew something would have to give – either my leadership role at Reach (my church) or Welcome Churches.
As I prayed and reflected on the place Welcome Churches had come to, I realised we were seeing all, or at least most of, what we had strategically planned for the development phase. The online Welcome Network was helping hundreds of refugees connect to a growing number of great Welcome Churches. Our Welcome Boxes and Welcome Holidays programmes were complete. The Trauma Hub and training had been launched. Welcome to the Word and Welcome to Leadership, our refugee discipleship and leadership courses were almost ready to be piloted with churches. The team had adapted and transitioned brilliantly through Covid-19 and found creative ways to help churches keep connected with isolated refugees. I knew there would be more innovation to come, but for me it felt like we had established a good foundation and I had done what God called me to do to help churches welcome and serve refugees.
People however are harder to leave. The team we have built at Welcome Churches includes incredibly experienced, committed, fun and passionate people. I’ve loved co-creating our projects and training with the team and the refugees and churches we aim to serve. Our journey has stretched my faith as we have trusted God for the resources to see this vision realised and seen Him come through at the last minute! I’m particularly grateful to Emily Holden, who heard God’s call and moved to start this journey with me. Our board of trustees, chaired by Mark Mumford, have generously given us their time, wisdom and experience whilst allowing us room to experiment and bring this vision into reality.
Throughout this time I have been amazed at the generosity of the wider body of Christ, whether that be other Christian organisations who have encouraged and cheered us on like CAP, the Cinnamon Network and Stewardship; churches, especially Reach, who have shared their knowledge and resources; refugees who have assisted us with training and events; Christian trusts who have invested kingdom finances and individuals who have faithfully given financially month by month. Thank you! Thank you for believing in our vision that every refugee should get a welcome from God’s people and that we should be the ones most ready to include people not like us.
I am looking forward to developing new social initiatives with Reach and watching what God does through Welcome Churches in the coming years. I feel privileged to be part of a church which includes many refugees and hope to spend more time with those who were once strangers, became friends and are now family.