What am I doing here? How is this valuable? Why does it matter?
Such questions rolled repeatedly through my mind as I stood next to four Nepali refugees at the DMV office at the infinitely long line of people still waiting in front of us. Already, we had been standing in this line for two hours. By the time we ended up leaving with State IDs in hands, an additional three had passed. Five hours—standing. Somewhere in that span of hours, I remember looking up. My eyes met those of the eldest Nepali woman with whom I was waiting. She smiled. At that moment, I knew I could battle my heart’s selfish desire to leave this line, to give up halfway through, to sit down.
World Relief's manifesto is "STAND for the Vulnerable." One reoccurring theme I learned throughout my year interning with World Relief was this: standing for the vulnerable is often far more commonplace than I imagined it to be. I am quick to lose perspective, forgetting that for those who have been displaced from their own homeland, a State ID is more than just a card with their name and address. It holds dignity, personhood, stability, and belonging. Sometimes standing for the vulnerable looks like literally standing in the State ID line with refugees, knowing that even these small acts are pushing back the darkness of injustice and letting in the light of restoration and hope.
A day in the life of a World Relief intern had me running around to the homes of refugee families, transporting and accompanying clients to medical appointments, ESL classes, the grocery store, and a variety of other social services. Through my work with World Relief, I spent more time on an average day with internationals from countries in East Africa, Asia and the Middle East than with other Americans, all while living in the middle of the United States. I am abundantly grateful for the rich opportunity to be literally surrounded by the nations everyday right here in Memphis. What a unique privilege it was to be able to welcome refugees by preparing apartments before their arrival, greeting them at the airport, and forming friendships with people from so many different places who have moved in literally down the street from me.
Through my relationships with refugees, I have come to more deeply know God’s heart for the foreigner and the oppressed. Throughout the Scripture, God calls his people to care for the alien and foreigner, to defend the cause of the widow and orphan, to act justly towards the poor and oppressed. Our hearts should bend toward refugees the way God’s heart does because their stories tell the truth of our stories as well. God calls us to love the stranger and the foreigner in our land, not just because it's the right thing to do, but because we know what it was like to be a stranger, because we were estranged by God and yet He loved and called us by His grace. We are called to do justice, to love mercy, to walk humbly. By His grace and because of His grace, we are called to stand.