On Sunday, May 7, 2017, Keith Sobraske received the Sultan and the Saint Peacemaker Award in recognition of his outstanding work in building bridges across faiths and cultures.
As an award recipient, he will be included in a national network of peacemakers working to promote peace and greater understanding across lines of religious difference, particularly Christian and Muslim relations.
Unity Productions Foundation gives this award to a Christian and a Muslim in the communities where they hold a film screening. The Muslim who received the award is Ahmad Ewais.
Keith Sobraske has been a member of Paradise Valley United Methodist Church for decades. He has served on several ministry teams, and is currently serving on the Adult Learning and Reconciling Ministry Teams. He is also coordinating our strategic initiatives and recently added a fourth to the three which already exist: “All-Embracing Church.” In January 2016, he convened a meeting inviting Christians, Muslims and Jews to form the first trifaith refugee assistance program in the Valley of the Sun to work with Refugee Focus under Lutheran Social Services. Read more about the birth of RAFT here: https://pvumc.org/2016/05/18/refugee-assistance-and-friendship-teams-raft/
Keith coined the acronym RAFT – Refugee Assistance and Friendship Teams – which has been recognized by the Desert Southwest Conference and is under the official umbrella of the Missions Ministry Team at PVUMC.
Because of Keith’s passion and faithful leadership of RAFT, the church was able to put together three Core teams and a Support team, who gathered furniture, clothing and other donations, as well as set up the refugee apartments before their arrival. The assistance the refugees have received is not only financial; Keith especially has taken the families under his wing, and praises all the team members for their love and care of the families. Keith often says that Basem is his buddy, and truly enjoys the camaraderie of all the RAFTers.
After reeiving the award, Keith said: “I am quite humbled and even a touch uncomfortable about the award because there are so many who have contributed so much to the RAFT effort, that there are a number of RAFT members who are as equally if not more deserving of the award, and I can only frame this as an acclamation of our communal efforts and the passionate, caring good work that all those associated with RAFT have done. It is not an individual accomplishment but a collective accomplishment powered by the Spirit. We and the refugees we assist are all so blessed by each other!”
RAFT continues to look for ways to help their refugee families and promote friendship between our church family and their families. The two Syrian refugee families who arrived in July are doing well, with both men employed full-time in the hospitality industry, and the women working on crochet and knitting projects which they can sell as local venues. The children are all enrolled in school and receive tutoring from team members as needed. They are adjusting well to life in the US.
Adnan Radwan recently was interviewed by the church’s Stewardship chair, JP Coughlin, to show how giving to PVUMC missions and ministries make a difference to the lives of others. His interview shows how he has been blessed, and specifically mentions how seeing Keith at the airport when they arrived in Phoenix brought him to tears. Keith often says how much he and the other RAFTers have been blessed by the collaborative efforts of our Christian, Muslim and Jewish brothers and sisters. New friendships have blossomed because of our work together. Adnan’s message is one that resonates across the spectrum of politics and religion and shows who our neighbor is and and how we can love our neighbors and welcome the stranger.
Read more on our website and watch the video –