Members of La Iglesia en Johnson Ferry had the privilege of participating in Hope Tree for the first time this year. Our goals for participating were twofold. We wanted to tangibly show God's love to families who were truly in need. Also, we wanted our congregation that is comprised of immigrants to learn more about the refugee community that is in our very own backyard!
In preparation for delivering the coat, we turned to the internet to find basic greetings and phrases in Nepali in order to try and communicated with the families from Bhutan. We were all nervous to deliver the coats, but excited about the opportunity to bless each family member and learn more about our new friends from Bhutan. "Namaste," which means both hello and goodbye, was the extent of our Nepali, yet with that simple word, doors were opened as cultural and language barriers toppled.
Through our broken English, attempts at Nepali, and the adult daughter of the family's efforts to translate the conversation, we were able to welcome a family of six to the United States. The members of our congregation started to realize the plight of this refugee family and really identified with this family, as they too are immigrants to the United States. It was incredible to hear them share their own stories: "Welcome to the U.S. We arrived here 12 years ago...4 years ago...", etc. They remember their own feelings of hope, fear, and the unknown as we wished this family peace and hope in their new life in the United States.
Our members were so interested in the different cultures in Clarkston that we stayed in the area to try different kinds of foods and learn more about the people who live there. It was a great day of learning for our members. They discovered that their own experiences are much like that of a refugee. They experienced Clarkston and some of its many cultures and people. They learned that a smile is multi-lingual. Many are asking when we can return to Clarkston! Thank you, LSG, for the opportunity to bless and to be a blessing.
For information on how you or your congregation can get involved with Refugee and Immigration Services, contact Melanie Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org.