This summer I have been able to interact with refugees through Memphis’ World Relief internship program. Through this internship I have done case work, which includes transporting the clients to doctors’ appointments, helping them apply for government assistance, and setting up homes for newly arrived families. I have been able to get to know many of the refugees and their stories. As a result, I have built friendships with many of them.
I have learned about God’s divine power and that He has a plan for everything. He knew the refugees who would come to Memphis, as well as all the ones that I would get to interact with this summer. He knew the connections that I would be able to make with these wonderful loving people. I have learned about God’s heart for the sojourners and the heart that Christians should have for these people.
I learned how brave and courageous these refugees are. I have heard countless stories of the challenges they have faced and continue to face. I see the hurt that they have because their families are so far away and are in harm’s way. I see the loneliness that they have from day to day. I have also seen them strive to continue to move forward no matter what challenges are before them. They want to learn the language, work hard to provide for those families back home, and be accepted here in the states.
My faith has grown considerably through watching the faith of the refugees. They “live out” a daily dependence on God which we as Christians should demonstrate in our own lives. Through watching them, I have grown to depend on Jesus more, and seen how He will provide the way. Just like God knew who would come to Memphis, He knows my future and I just need to trust him through that. I have grown to be able to share my faith with refugees in my own way while still being me. That may include praying with a refugee about a visible need or asking what I could pray for them about.
One of the most constant challenges that come with working with refugee is the language barrier. Not being able to efficiently communicate limits the depth of many conversations. The second challenge that I have is the fact that I am a task-oriented person and I like to be timely and productive. I like to have a checklist so that at the end of the day I can see what I have accomplished. When working with refugees things do not always work out that way. The idea of being on time is not a standard cultural norm for many refugees, and so we were often late for scheduled appointments. God has shown me that many of the cultures that I work with are relationship-based and just want to fellowship and have an opportunity to connect with me. They just want to show me hospitality. I have learned that I may have to wait at certain places for a considerable amount of time and feel like I’m not accomplishing anything; however, this has shown me to slow my pace and to schedule my day differently, so that I have time to just be with clients in their homes.
This summer I’ve realized that the fact that I was born in an English speaking country is a huge advantage. Things in Memphis are not set up to work under other languages and so the clients who do not speak English have a hard time just functioning throughout the city until they learn English. I never really appreciated the ability to understand what the doctor’s diagnosis is. Also, I have transportation, so I can get around to wherever I need to go. It is also a blessing that I have family close by and others in the city who are welcoming to me. Since I’m living in my first culture, I don’t have to worry about cultural misunderstandings.
Some prayer requests I have are for the refugee community here in Memphis. I pray that the public will see them as people who are trying to make a living just like everyone else. I pray for World Relief to continue to share the love of Christ with them and that their hearts will be open to at receiving what is being shared. I pray that World Relief continues to persevere with the community, no matter how long it may take. They need the love of Christ; the real love of Christ.