December 10, 2017
Each Sunday of Advent we are sharing a testimony from one of our Good Neighbor team members, as we prepare to form new teams as part of our Advent Gift. Good Neighbor teams partner with World Relief to provide logistical support and friendship for local Refugee families during the first few months of their transition to the United States. Tim shares a snapshot of his experience below.
RING! I startled awake and, groaning, reached for my phone.
“Hey Aimen, what’s wrong?”
“Can you come?”
It was 1 a.m., and I didn’t want to go. But he sounded scared, and I couldn’t understand him over the phone. So I went. When I arrived, Aimen was clutching his stomach. I drove him to the ER and found out he had appendicitis. They rushed him to surgery. I wondered why he hadn’t called 911, but later I learned that he had. An ambulance had taken him to the hospital. But the doctor couldn’t understand him, and his symptoms weren’t clear—so they sent him home. He was afraid to call again.
I had met Aimen and his friend Johar a year earlier while volunteering at the People’s Resource Center. At first I was their tutor, but soon we became friends. When I visited, we would sit together around injera and tsebhi and talk about our lives, cultures, and religions. Before they bought cars, I would give them rides when they needed them. I loved them, but I also found it exhausting to see so much need and feel alone in trying to help.
When they moved away, I stopped volunteering. But when Resurrection decided to organize Good Neighbor Teams, I knew I wanted to get involved. The first team I was on worked with a wonderful Burmese family. Chris Easley and I visited them on Saturday afternoons to help with everything from English to taxes to insurance. Our team also took them to Chicago and introduced them to deep-dish pizza! Currently, I’m on a team volunteering with an Eritrean refugee family. We helped set up their apartment and visit them regularly. A few of us hosted them for Thanksgiving. They’re still getting settled, so I’m not sure what all we will do.
I’ve really appreciated the support structure that these teams provide. It’s easier to find someone to help when you can’t and to brainstorm solutions. It’s wonderful to know who to talk to at World Relief when difficult situations arise. It’s relieving to know that you are not the only American that the family knows. And it’s exciting to see a family get on their feet and make this country their home. But most of all, it’s deeply meaningful to volunteer in a way that involves building relationships and showing love. Organizations can help refugees get on their feet. They have all sorts of expertise that we don’t have. But they can’t be friends. They can’t help them feel at home. They can’t be the persons you might call in a midnight emergency.
December 05, 2017
Ema Chester is a member of one of our Good Neighbor Teams. These teams partner with World Relief to provide logistical support and friendship for local Refugee families during the first few months of their transition to the United States. Ema shares her experience below.
I joined the Good Neighbor Team in 2016 after hearing about it from staff member Chris Easley. I wanted to join the team to do something tangible to help refugees given the global crisis. Also, coming from an immigrant family, I understand, in part, what it feels like to navigate a culture that isn't your own, and how helpful it is to have friends who can help. The members of the family my team befriended are Christians from Burundi. It's a gift to get to know people whose lives have been so different, and often, also filled with tremendous struggle. It reminds me of my own privilege and reorients me towards what is important.
Visits with the family are sometimes awkward, sometimes funny, sometimes long, but somehow, even when we don't speak the same language, friendship happens and it's a beautiful thing. A typical visit may consist of going to get library books or using google translate to try and communicate how to make macaroni and cheese. Often its just sitting with each other over food, or smiling and pointing to different objects to try and communicate. I might ask how something is pronounced in Kirundi, and they may ask how it’s pronounced in English (there is a lot of laughter when this happens.) With time, everyone feels more comfortable and there is more and more to “talk” about. Spending time with people from another culture and country always reminds me of the vision in Revelation of people around the throne from every tongue, tribe, and nation. I feel like I get a small taste of that image when I’m with my Burundi brothers and sisters.
Learn more about how you can welcome local refugee families as part of our Advent Gift!