English Lessons

So Cason & I finally jumped in. After talking for almost 2 years about wanting to volunteer regularly with a refugee family, we took the plunge. It’s been the commitment factor that has stopped us in the past. Working on my MBA part-time while working full-time, I wasn’t sure if I could commit to spending a couple of hours a week with a family. I certainly did not want to let anyone down. So we put it off, waiting for a better time to come along.

I’m not sure if a better time has actually come along, but we couldn’t put it off any longer. It was one of those obedience things that we knew we were being called to and we had to follow through.

We were matched at the end of April with a young Cuban refugee named Yerandy. He is 30-years-old and lives with his sister, her husband, and their younger brother. We are specifically assigned to Yerandy, but his sister often joins us. Yerandy has been in the U.S. about 5 months and knew virtually no English.

While I’m supposed to know Spanish (it was my 2nd major in college, but based on the current condition of my abilities, I’m embarrassed to admit that), Cason only knows the handful of basic Spanish words that any American knows. It makes for an interesting time.

We try to go to his house twice a week, but that doesn’t always work out. In our short time of doing this, we are already learning some valuable lessons:

Patience is key.
After showing up to his house twice early on & him not being there, we started to get a bit frustrated. It is an hour drive round-trip & we all know how expensive gas has gotten. But we can’t let ourselves get too upset. Other cultures work differently than ours. Not everyone is as time-obsessed as we Americans. We did get his phone number after that so we can call before to drive over there. Sometimes he’s available at our scheduled times. Sometimes he’s not, and that’s okay.

Sometimes you just have to let things go.
My Spanish has gotten rusty. There are a lot of things we can’t communicate with each other. Even when I call to see if he’s home first, I don’t understand everything he says. I get the gist (are you available – yes or no) and then move on. I’m learning that I don’t always need to know every little detail and always feel in control.

We must honor our commitments, even when we don’t feel like it.
There are many days that we don’t feel like going over there. We have plenty that we need to do at home, or we are just feeling lazy. But when we push through and go, after it’s all said and done, we are very glad that we made the effort.

God can equip us for anything.
Neither one of us has ever taught English as a second language before. We don’t really know what we are doing. My Spanish is terrible, and Cason doesn’t know any. But that doesn’t stop God from using us in what He has called us to do. For that, I am very grateful.

Above all, relationships are what matter most.
Last Thursday was one of our favorite evenings with Yerandy. It wasn’t because of any great progress in his English abilities (though those are becoming more evident), but it was because we just generally had a good time with he & his sister. She kept offering us various foods & drink. We were able to chat a bit and joke around. I felt like we grew closer to them that evening. It was a great time!

So I am very glad that we did step out in obedience and finally make this commitment. I know it’s one of the things that we are supposed to be doing in this season of life. It’s an adventure and we are along for the ride.

To read my other posts about refugees & World Relief, click here.

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Serving Refugees, Post #3: How We All Can Help

As a recap, I’ve posted twice now about World Relief and how we can serve incoming refugees. You can read those here and here. You can also visit the World Relief corporate site here to see if there is an active office in your area.

World Relief helps resettle refugees into cities across the US. These are families escaping their countries due to some type of awful persecution. They are looking for a safe place to raise their families and to earn a decent living. But it is a very hard situation. Generally they leave their countries with virtually nothing and come here to a new land, to a language they don’t know, and an entirely new culture. Some come from places where they’ve never had electricity or running water. They are basically expected to move here and assimilate quickly into a new life, find jobs not knowing the language, and make a decent living for themselves and their families.

This is where World Relief comes in. They help them get an apartment here, adjust to life, and find employment. But they are only able to give them $425 per person, one time only. A family of four comes and only gets $1700 one time and that goes to pay for their deposits, rent, utilities, everything. That money does not last long. How long would $1700 cover your family of four?

And here is where volunteer and donor support comes in. Here are some simple things you can do to help:

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Serving Refugees, Post #2: A Baby Shower

This is my second post on World Relief and serving refugees. To read the first post click here.

After our group helped set up two apartments for arriving refugee families in May, Cason & I kept feeling tugged back to World Relief to do more. We both have a passion for the international community, and this finally seemed like the perfect place for us to be serving here in Nashville. We are involved in church and serving the church community (leading small groups, Cason is a deacon, etc), but it was way past time to start reaching out to those not in the church. So we went through the volunteer application process and helped with a few little things through the summer.

When fall rolled around, our church was doing another “Great Day of Service” and again our class signed up to help World Relief. It was going to be apartment set-ups again, until something changed at the last minute. With one week to go we changed courses completely and were led to host a baby shower for 5 pregnant refugee women (1 had actually just had their baby)!

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Serving Refugees, Post #1

This is probably going to be the first in a series of posts on World Relief

Last Saturday, Cason & I attended a training, run by World Relief on how to help teach English to refugees. World Relief is an organization that helps resettle refugees into the area. These are individuals/families that are escaping their homelands generally due to persecution – political, religious, ethnic, etc – or wars/conflicts. Many have faced unspeakable terror. They are looking for a place that they can be safe and where they can raise their children without fear of being attacked.

It was during our church’s annual “Great Day of Service” last May that we discovered World Relief. I had started volunteering at Siloam medical clinic a few months prior to this. They are a group of doctors and nurses that give care to the uninsured and underinsured. I came to learn that most of their patients are refugees. Every Monday they would welcome dozens of refugees who had just arrived in the US within the last 7-10 days for the first check-ups & shots. I always wanted to take off work to be there on a Monday, but never did. Once I learned though about World Relief, the organization responsible for helping the refugees in all aspects, I was excited…

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