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Baking led Mark Kadel into mission and resettling refugees

By Yvonne Lopez-Morton

The symbolism of “breaking bread” to bring people together is not lost on Mark Kadel, the new director of World Relief in Spokane, who transitioned from a job as a baker to helping refugees find a better life.

Mark Kadel
Mark Kadel, new director of World Relief

He came to Spokane early last summer from World Relief’s office in High Point, N.C.  He also supervised World Relief offices in Winston/Salem and Durham.

World Relief is the humanitarian, disaster relief, community/economic development and refugee/immigrant services arm of the National Association of Evangelicals, with 24 U.S. offices.

Staff and volunteers welcome newcomers, helping them adjust to U.S. culture, find jobs, learn English, become citizens and build their futures.

“We have resettled about 6,000 refugees in the Inland Northwest in the last 15 years.  About 96 percent of our refugees come from countries where the gospel is closed to them,” he said.

The largest groups being settled in Spokane are from Iraq, Burma, Bhutan and African countries.

“Today, there are more than 13 million refugees and more than eight million have lived in camps for more than 10 years,” he said.

Each October, the President announces the number of refugees to be admitted to the country.  It was 80,000 for 2010, less than one percent of the world’s refugees, Mark said.  As one of 10 agencies that have a contract with the State Department, World Relief resettles nine percent of the eligible refugees through its 24 offices. Each year 500 to 600 people are resettled in Spokane.

World Relief is the only evangelical agency authorized to resettle refugees in the U.S., he said.

Mark brings insights from 22 years of working his way up in a supermarket, willingness to give up everything to live in Albania as a missionary, and awareness of the destitute situations out of which many refugees he serves come.

Raised in Boise, Idaho, he was happy to return to the Northwest when longtime director Linda Unseth retired last spring.

After attending Boise State University studying business management, Mark spent 20 years as a baker with a supermarket chain in Boise—starting out frying donuts and working up to become a supervisor.

At the Stonehouse Evangelical Church, he met his wife Patricia. They married in 1980.  They taught Sunday school and led summer camps.

After a 1982 Night of Missions presentation by Youth with a Mission, that focused on the need for world missions, Mark and his wife reexamined their contributions as Christians.

“What we heard at the meeting convinced us that we needed to do more than just sit in a pew each week,” Mark said. “God put something in our hearts that night to look at foreign missions.”

With news about Albania on the front pages in the 1990s, Mark learned it was one of the last countries under communism.  He was drawn by reports of people suffering, struggling with riots and Stalinism.

In 1992, he contacted a man in Albania and learned there was demand for bread and people to work in bakeries. He sent his resume and soon went to Albania for two weeks.  Seeing that people were barely surviving, he felt overwhelmed by their poverty.

Learning that atheism was taught and all religion had been banned since 1967, he was encouraged to find young people open to embracing Christianity because they had not been as indoctrinated as their parents had been.

Mark returned to Boise convinced he wanted to help Albanians.  In June 1993, he quit his job at the supermarket.  He and his wife sold everything and moved with their children to Albania, working with Helimissions, a Swiss faith organization that provided humanitarian assistance to remote regions of Albania.

“Our home was in a remote, mountainous village of 5,000 in the mostly Muslim Shengjergj region, ” he said.“

Mark and his family, the only missionaries there, adapted despite challenging living conditions. Sometimes they went for a week or more with no electricity.

He and his wife home-schooled their sons, and learned the language.  He set up English courses, distributed Bibles and did community outreach, facing challenges of living in a country that was just rediscovering Christianity.

Many Albanians dreamed of coming to the United States and wondered why the Kadels left to come live and work with them.

“They couldn’t believe we were there because of our faith and commitment to Christianity,” Mark said.

The Kadels were evacuated by Italian marines and British troops because of increasing violence in 1997.   When it subsided in a few months, they returned.

Later that year, they moved to Swindon, England, where Mark traveled to and from Albania during the Kosovo war.  He helped repatriate refugees, who told him many horrible stories of the war.

In 2000, the Kadels moved to Greece where Mark worked for the Athens Refugee Center, driving to Albania for two years.

With three sons in the United States, Mark, Patricia and their youngest son moved back to Boise so she could finish college.  Mark began working as a case manager with World Relief. 

After she earned her degree in 2007, Mark took a job with World Relief in North Carolina before coming to Spokane.

One of his priorities is to raise awareness about World Relief here.  He seeks to empower local churches to “add value” to their ministries by welcoming and meeting needs of new refugees.

 The staff of 27 in Spokane’s World Relief office reflect the diversity of refugees who have come.  About 100 volunteers and interns from local universities support refugees as they transition to life in a new country and community.

A Refugee Simulation program, which started in 2007, reinforces the efforts.  The three-hour experience has participants step into the role of a refugee.  It helps school staff, students, churches and nonprofits be aware of and sensitive to the needs, background and cultures of refugee students and their families.

Addressing and preventing human trafficking is another priority.  Under his leadership, North Carolina’s World Relief was a leading faith-based agency on this issue.  While most Americans think there is no slavery today, he said human trafficking is slavery.

In Spokane, World Relief partners with Lutheran Community Services Northwest, because he believes collaboration and education are key to addressing trafficking.  He believes sex trafficking is increasing in Spokane as it is across the nation.

He believes his staff is up to expanding immigration services and addressing human trafficking through World Relief Spokane.

For information, call 232-2814 or email