05-16-2017

What It’s Like Helping a Refugee Family Resettle in America

The Saturday morning Trump signed his executive order banning refuges I spent countless hours wracking up an irritating headache as my eyes were glued to this too small smartphone. My eyes were wrecked, my brain was in upheaval, and my heart felt ripped apart.

Just ten days prior, I helped welcome a Congolese refugee family to these American soils.

Laughed with a fellow volunteer as hours before they arrived we pondered whether we should show up to the airport with shoes. Because clearly it is proper shoes…
Not food consumption, boarding planes to the unknown, or the chance of being turned around only to be told: No Entry…
that must be the biggest concern for our refugee mama after flying halfway around the world for 17 hours straight.

So that Saturday, January 28th – I couldn’t understand how one man could wield such power to turn away people clinging to threads of hope.

The last four months few words have been written on this computer, but many have been the words in my head.

Today we attempt a trek to Wal-Mart – only a few miles away but hours away when using public transportation.

Six lanes of cars flash by as I slow my steps to the gait of a woman used to carrying loads of laundry on her head.

We squat on a cracked sidewalk waiting an hour for the bus to appear.

Growing uncomfortable with the deafening silence between us, I whip out my speak & translate app – attempting to converse with a language so foreign from my own.

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The fastest way to transform your life is to serve a soul that looks, acts, or believes different than your own.

Helping a refugee family re-settle has opened my eyes to my preconceived notions and judgmental thoughts. Lifted the veil on the hardships those relying on public transportation face. Made me wonder if the ways of life I consider essential are really necessary.

It’s easy to roll up our car windows and blast the radio when we see the homeless man on the street corner, turn a blind eye to the latest Israeli/Palestine killing reports on the television, or drown out the noise of social injustice by making our schedules busier & busier so we have a convenient excuse of no time to spend with those who need us most.

Put a name with that homeless man, give a story to the 12 year old Palestine boy, and it becomes impossible to ignore social injustice.

As a wise refugee volunteer leader shared, “having a personal connection, a name & face, changes the lens of how you view the world around you.”

Six months ago, if I’d driven by a mom and a toddler sitting on the sidewalk of a busy road waiting for the bus – I’m not sure sympathy would have been my gut reaction. I had little compassion for public transport riders until our 4 mile trek took us 4 hours to complete, tried to explain landpoints to a non speaking English person because tickers don’t exist and route maps don’t show needed stops.

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Unless we consciously choose different, how we view the world is how we were taught to view the world.

Unless we consciously choose different, how we LOVE, how we LIVE, what we BELIEVE, is what we were taught as kids.

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What the refugees and the homeless and the boy down the street need is not more shoes.
More stuff we want to discard from our overstuffed homes.
Instead what they need, what we all need from each other, is simply our time.

Reach out today and spend time with someone who believes different than you, looks different than you, lives life different than you.

It’s rarely convenient. There is a good chance it requires a drive across a bridge to the other side of town. That other side of town.

Or it might be as simple as walking across your backyard and inviting the lonely widow to a meal at your house, you know – the grouchy lady who hates it when your kids’ baseball gets in her yard.

Perhaps it is as grandiose as stopping on the side of the road to help immigrant Mexican’s with their stranded car, you with your sniffling nose and tired eyes from lack of sleep.

It can be as easy as encouraging your children to befriend the kid whose skin doesn’t match their own.

Loving others who believe different, look different, live life different –
in the end, you are the one with a transformed life.

jessica

 

12-19-2016

5 Ways You Can Help A Child in Aleppo

Ya’ll, does your heart break every time you watch five minutes of the evening news?

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© UNICEF/UN044445/Al-Issa

You want to do something, anything, to help those in need but have no idea where to start?

On Normal Wednesday, you know – the day that happens after Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Giving Tuesday – that day, November 30, CNN’s headline read “Aleppo Descends to Hell: UN Emergency Meeting Called“. My eyes glossed over and I looked away because I could not stomach more.

More violence.
More trauma.
More helplessness.

We in the civilized western hemisphere are so far removed – not only in geographical miles – but also far removed from experiencing war fare, fleeing broken homes in rags, or nightly serenades of bombs exploding as you pray you wake to see another sunrise.

Wanna be a world changer but despair that your just little ‘ol you?

Here are 5 practical ways you can actually help someone in Aleppo.

  1. Preemptive Love Coalition – Jesus said to love your neighbor. He didn’t say love those who look and live just like you. This organization is the real deal.  And they even have Christmas gifts you can buy that are made from refugees.
  2. We Welcome Refugees – Sign a petition, join a movement, let your voice be heard that refugees are welcome where you live
  3. Make a Welcome Kit for a Refugee Family – Working with World Relief
  4. Lutheran Services of Carolinas – This organization welcomes refugees from all over the world. Contact them if your church would like to partner with them in welcoming a refugee family
  5. Pray – for world leaders to have wisdom on how aid can be brought to those in need – for how you can help – for our hearts to be opened deeper and wider so we might be willing to sacrifice our own comforts and have time or money for those who need our help

As my wise friend Kelly encouraged me on that Normal Wednesday,

When you feel you can’t conquer the world – give anyway, love anyway. Any time you give, any love you share WILL make a positive impact.

jessica

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© UNICEF/UN044437/Al-Issa

 

10-30-2015

When I Want to Solve The Worlds Problems but God Wants Me To Pray About Them

This week my heart has been heavy as I’ve been studying the topic of social injustice {for me, it’s the humanitarian crisis of the refugees} and what the Bible says we are to do about it.

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I guess it’s hard because as much as I get that serving those around you {your husband, your kids, your neighbors} is JUST AS IMPORTANT as serving the refugees…

I still have a tug on my heart to serve the refugees. I WANT TO DO SOMETHING.

Not just give money. Not just pray. But do something tangible.

The resounding answer though that keeps coming back time and again is PRAY.

But as a friend recently said, “I don’t want to wait. I don’t want to meditate. I don’t want patience.”

But maybe that praying part is where I am supposed to be right now.
As I study in Nehemiah, he waited. He waited for months before asking the king for help. He pondered things in his heart before attacking the problem at hand. He waited and he prayed.

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Dear God,
Help me be content to meditate and consider the problems at hand. Because as I wait and ponder, I recognize that more powerful contributions are made when problems are tackled with Godly wisdom rather than mere human knowledge. And Lord, I am trusting that one day YOU WILL call me to action. You will show me the path I need to traverse. But for now, I pray that you would help me understand and discern the problem at hand. And I pray that when the time is right, when the opportunity is right in front of me, you would make me be bold to serve.

“For I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me….
As you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” Matthew 25:36&40

jessica

 

{Day 30 of #write31days. I can’t believe how quickly this month has gone.}