“We will never,” was the response Samantha and Andrew Grimsley use to say when asked if they’d ever move back to their hometown of St. Cloud. After both attending North Central University in the Twin Cities, the two found themselves nestled in the quiet suburb of St. Michael-Albertville and growing careers in ministry.

 

The Grimsleys were outwardly happy and fulfilled by their work, community, church and the lives they’d built in St. Michael-Albertville, but as the years passed, they began feeling a stir to move on in some capacity but couldn’t pinpoint what or where. Surely it wasn’t to St. Cloud, or so they thought.

 

As fate would have it, Samantha came across an article written by author Ann Voskamp regarding her travels to Iraq. Voskamp wrote of her conversations with Iraqi women and children who had described to her the reality of living in a country divided by war and violence. One Iraqi woman spoke of being forced to choose which one of her children she would bring with her to safety because there was not room for all of them.

Physically, psychologically and spiritually shaken in that very moment reading Voskamp’s work, Samantha knew she needed to act.

She began by finding an organization who was taking Americans to Iraq to offer assistance to the Iraqi people who had been displaced. The timing was serendipitous, as the organization was looking for short-term and long-term TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) instructors, of which Samantha was certified. After getting a quick approval from Andrew, she signed up to travel abroad.

Although Samantha’s trip to Iraq in 2015 was life changing, she knew it wasn’t the answer to the unwavering feeling of being needed somewhere else that she and Andrew had been trying to reconcile. During this period of reflection, the two happened to attend an event in St. Cloud.

Although the Grimsleys were somewhat aware of the tension between some St. Cloud community members and newly arrived refugees, it was a first-hand conversation at this event that prompted the couple to eventually leave their comfortable, stable life, surrounded by a network of friends they loved, in St. Michael-Albertville and make peace with the fact that, after 17 years of living outside the area, it was the St. Cloud community that needed them. This was, what some might say, “the calling” they’d been feeling.

In June 2017, Andrew and Samantha moved their family back to St. Cloud with no agenda and an enormous personal mission: To serve the Somali community of St. Cloud.

Today, the two work alongside a network of local church and ministry leaders called the St. Cloud Evangelical Network for Transformation (SENT) through Arrive Ministries to help equip local churches to bridge the gap and help meet the needs of the area’s incoming neighbors.

While Samantha is employed full-time for Arrive Ministries, an affiliate of World Relief, as the Refugee Life Ministries Director for the St. Cloud area, Andrew considers himself a glorified volunteer for the organization, but “fundraises” for their family as a licensed Insurance Producer with the Grove Agency.

Since getting connected to SENT, other like-minded individuals in St. Cloud as well as numerous Somali neighbors, the Grimsleys have felt reassured their major decision to move back to their roots was the right one, and they’re fully embracing life in St. Cloud with open arms and hearts.

Although Samantha and Andrew are quick to admit this “season of life” doesn’t allow for much travel, they get their ethnic cuisine fix by visiting local hot spots like Kohinoor and Viet-tien’s Pho as well as hosting traditional Somali dinners with refugee families they’ve come to know since returning to the area.

Candid conversations around the dinner table have led the Grimsley to believe that the people and the stories of resilience being told by their new friends is undoubtedly the greatest asset in the Greater St. Cloud community.

The couple continue to be amazed at the incredible journeys people have endured to get to St. Cloud; the same place Samantha and Andrew swore they’d never live again is the very place others dreamed of getting to because they knew life in St. Cloud would be safe, peaceful and ripe with opportunity.

These shared meals and stories of resilience have offered Samantha and Andrew a ever-evolving perspective they are grateful for and fully intend to spread far beyond their dining room table.

Photo credit:  Savannah Pierson, https://www.savvyphotage.com/