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.

More

A new Harriet Tubman statue sculpted by Emmy and Academy award-winner Wesley Wofford has been revealed, and its symbolism is moving to say the least.

Harriet Tubman was the best known "conductor" on the Underground Railroad, a network of safe houses that helped thousands of enslaved black Americans make their way to freedom in the north in the early-to-mid 1800s. Tubman herself escaped slavery in 1849, then kept returning to the Underground Railroad, risking her life to help lead others to freedom. She worked as a spy for the Union Army during the Civil War, and after the war dedicated her life to helping formerly enslaved people try to escape poverty.

Keep Reading Show less
Heroes

On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

Culture
via Kenneth Goldsmith / Twitter

The Hillary Clinton email scandal was a major right-wing talking point during the 2016 election that aimed to create an air of suspicion around the candidate.

The media played right into it turning Clinton — one of the most qualified candidates to ever run for the office — appear just as unworthy of the presidency as Trump, a vulgar, politically-inexperienced pathological liar.

The controversy surrounded Clinton's use of a private email account in which over 30,000 emails were sent during her time as Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013. An FBI interrogation found there were 110 confidential emails sent from her private account.

Clinton was never criminally charged, however FBI director James Comey said she was "extremely careless."

Keep Reading Show less
Democracy

Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

WE Teachers
True
Walgreens