This church has held non-stop services for a month to save a refugee family from deportation.

Bethel Church in the Netherlands has held non-stop, round-the-clock services since October 28.

For more than a month, Bethel Church in The Hague has held church services all day and all night. Hour after hour, pastors take turns leading worship, bringing in choirs and bands, and never allowing a break in the continual services.

According to Dutch law, authorities are not allowed to enter a place of worship while services are being held. The ministry of Bethel Church is utilizing that law in the hopes of buying time for an Armenian refugee family facing deportation.


The family, who were granted political asylum after fleeing to the Netherlands nine years ago, had their case overturned.

Sasun​ and Anoushce Tamrazyan fled Armenia nine years ago with their three children, Hayarpi, Warduhi and Seyran. Sasun said he faced death threats in his home country for his political activism. According to the CBC, the family had previously been granted asylum, but that decision was recently overturned on appeal by the government. That means the family who has lived in the Netherlands for nine years faces deportation.

Bethel Church stepped in, offering sanctuary to the Tamrazyans. The family has been living in the church for more than a month while the continuous services have been held. The hope is to convince the government to allow the family to stay under a provision in Dutch law known as a "children's pardon," which allows families with children who have lived in the Netherland for more than five years to stay.

While most applications are denied, the law is in place to protect children's well being. Martine Goeman, a legal adviser at Defense for Children in the Netherlands, told CNN, "There is a lot of scientific research done which shows that after 5 years, a child cannot be deported without significant damage to their development."

More than 400 pastors from around the country have pitched in to keep the services going.

Bethel Church pastor Derk Stegemen told CBC Radio that the plan to hold the services was hatched in secret. He also said the Tamrazyans have graciously told church officials that they don't need to go to so much trouble for them.

But Stegmen told the family that they weren't doing it just for them. "For us," he told CBC, "we are doing it to show to ourselves and to our community, to our government, that civilization and love in life and civilization, it's not by expelling people, expelling children. So we are trying to prove that it can be different."

The services have grown into a full-blown movement, with hundreds of pastors from around the country coming to Bethel to help with the 24/7 church services. They bring with them worshippers, singers, musicians, and a dedication to humanity.

"For us, it's a big job," Stegeman told CBC, "but it's also a fruitful experience and there's a lot of joy and a lot of people are meeting one another. But for the family, it's really heavy, all the uncertainly about the future."

The act is as much a spiritual statement as a political one.

The ministry involved in the services have made it clear that providing sanctuary for the Tamrazyans is about living the teachings of their faith.

Theo Hettema, chairman of the General Council of Protestant Ministers in the Netherlands, told CNN, "We want to love God and our neighbor. And we thought that this was a clear opportunity to put the love for our neighbor into reality." He said the services will continue to be held for "as long as it's necessary."

Hayarpi, the Tamrazyan's 21-year-old daughter, has publicly expressed gratitude to all of the church volunteers via Twitter. On November 29, she published a poem in English that sums up the hope inherent in this act of goodwill toward her family. It begins:

In these difficult times

Of darkness and grief

I lift up my head

And feel Your love in my heart.

In these difficult times

Of desperation, of anger

I lift up my hands

And praise You in my heart

In these difficult times

While I seem to be paralysed

I feel Your peace in my soul

And open my eyes to see Your grace

Who knows if the church's actions will make an impact and if this refugee family will be granted asylum. But when man-made borders and laws result in human suffering, it's at refreshing to see humanity step up to try to remedy it.

via Emily Bierman / Facebook

Dogs can be a tremendous help to people experiencing grief. They provide unconditional love, always listen, and are so attuned to feelings they're known to comfort people when they're feeling sad.

Six-year-old Raelynn Nast must have known this when she reached out to a stranger and her dog during one of the hardest moments of her young life.

Emily Beineman of Arkansas was jogging with her dog, Blue, recently when she heard a young voice call to her from the steps of a funeral home. "May I pet your puppy?" Raelynn asked. Emily said she could as long as she asked her parents first.

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via Emily Bierman / Facebook

Dogs can be a tremendous help to people experiencing grief. They provide unconditional love, always listen, and are so attuned to feelings they're known to comfort people when they're feeling sad.

Six-year-old Raelynn Nast must have known this when she reached out to a stranger and her dog during one of the hardest moments of her young life.

Emily Beineman of Arkansas was jogging with her dog, Blue, recently when she heard a young voice call to her from the steps of a funeral home. "May I pet your puppy?" Raelynn asked. Emily said she could as long as she asked her parents first.

Keep Reading Show less
True

Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer β€” most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving β€” and for longer β€” than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval β€” an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases β€” something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."