My Gramzie's journal is filled with stories of redemption, joy and love and it all centers around the refugees that came into her life. Regardless of where we fall on the debate, the truth of the matter is they are coming. Some are already here. The question I ask myself and I ask you is -- how will we receive them? What can we really do? Below is a story of two people in my life and how they loved unconditionally and made a difference for good and for eternity. It isn't a rule, it isn't a mean, it's just their story.
I can tell you that I have seen firsthand the beauty of war-torn refugees. I am the gran-daughter of two people who gave their lives and their love to SE Asian refugees beginning in the early 80's. They taught them how to speak English, how to earn money, how to buy groceries, how to parent, they took them to the doctor, they helped them with their home work, they helped young mothers, they taught young couples, they went to immigration court with them, they taught them how to drive, they helped them find their lost family members, they taught them how to read, they made a church for them and translated the Bible for them. And that is just the beginning.
When I was little, Gramzie would take me "calling" with her. I remember when the refugees first came and how their apartments were strange and smelled funny to my child senses. I remember the goiter on one of the elderly ladies and the funny holes in their earlobes. I remember them sleeping and cooking on the floor. They looked and acted different than anyone I had ever know before and I'm so thankful for the exposure to an entirely different culture from my own at such a young age. This was a culture that was thrust 200 years into the future in a such small amount if time. Our world must have seemed so strange to them too. I also got to see how over the years, those same people, with the faithful help of my grandparents, assimilated into American culture beautifully. It wasn't because my grandparents had a degree in refugee work, they didn't. They didn't even have a refugee manual. The weren't powerful politicians and they didn't have a tremendous following. They were just people who simply followed the rule "do onto others as you would have them do unto you." I saw how my grandparents cared for them, truly loved them and influenced them -- not for selfish gain, not to make them more "white", or to get them to act a certain way, but to help repair their sense of self and their sense of belonging. People want to belong. These are things that a relationship with Jesus Christ does! It helps us to give selflessly out of love because He first loved us. And it is deeply rewarding! The refugees had lost everything and what my grandparents gave back to them was invaluable. To be honest it makes my heart swell and my eyes well with tears. They were the hands and feet of Jesus.
As we move forward today, it's important to remember that not all were called to do that specific thing. Their friends and family were not, they were called to do other things. It is our differences that make up the beautiful body of Christ and we work best when we all work together. It is also good to remember that the people coming could be broken and lost. They are in need of a home, They are in need of a purpose and so much more. I think of the word dignity and how important that is to us as humans. How we love people in our families, friends, nations and elsewhere isn't always identical, but love keeps our hearts tender for the Holy Spirit to do His work. Rely on Him to be your compass. If he is calling you, answer the call. I can tell you, my grandparents received so much joy from working with their Asians.
Last night as I thumbed through Gramzie's handwritten pages, telling story after story, pouring out her heart on the matter, I am amazed. I understand that this is a totally different situation and a totally different people. But as humans we all have the same problem and we all need a savior. So what then can I do? This is what she did...
"When these people started arriving in Visalia, I listened to the exciting stories the retired missionaries had to tell, and I really wanted to do something to help. Our four children were married and really I was a little tired of keeping the house clean. But how could I help them --I couldn't speak their language. I couldn't remember their names, I couldn't even say their names! The husband and wife didn't sit together in church and I didn't know who was married to whom. And I certainly couldn't figure out who their children were. But the Lord impressed on me that I could do one thing and learn one name. The missionary told us that Muang Choy knew English the best (most of them know several languages). She had just had a baby so I decided to do one thing. I took her a baby gift. She was very happy about that and while I was there her children brought home notes from school. I read them and told their mother what they said. I really got to do two things. And that was the beginning." -Leatha Cooke (my Gramzie)
Below is the list Gramzie compiled on how she helped her refugees. (It's good stuff!!)
1. Talk to them. Speak slowly, not loud.
2. Speak to the head of house (they read body language)
3. Talk about the oral history in their language. This will give healing. See the world through their eyes.
4. Let them talk. Listen!!!
5. Hold small children.
6. Talk to the leaders of the group and share problems.
-Keep them talking. Listen!
-Discuss how we can help them solve their problems. Ask about their problems.
-Explain the importance of "hearing" English in order to solve problems.
I also have a list of questions they asked her and it is profound! Message me if you would like me to share it with you. ;)