Category Archives: refugees

What Is Bravery

Have you ever learned a second or third language or more? Have you ever thought about it? What were your reasons? What was your motivation?

I love language. I always have–whether it is English grammar (my daughters are not nearly as thrilled with that passion right now), learning American Sign Language in my teens, or my current endeavor of learning Arabic.

Learning ASL and working on Arabic now are valuable to me and bring me joy, but I don’t have to…I speak the language of the country I am in, the country of my birth. I could blithely go along never learning a word of any other language. I have that option. It’s not a good option, but it is a valid one–for me.

That is not always the case.

Life often moves people around, forcing them to add a second or third language to their vocabulary. And that task is rarely easy.

Imagine you have to move to another country. With just a suitcase of belongings and facing the fact you will likely never return to the place you are leaving. Imagine also this country you are going to does not speak your mother tongue. Take that further and imagine the new country will not give you any time to learn the new country, you must get a full-time job immediately, regardless of the language barrier.

This, my friends, is the experience of refugees, some immigrants, and asylum seekers in America. Other countries provide financial support for these immigrant people groups and families, for years if necessary, so they can spend some time learning the local language but America, in true pull yourself up by your boot straps fashion, offers no support or time for language learning beyond giving a list of local English classes that are hopefully near their home or apartment.

I can tell you language is hard to learn. And that isn’t helped by age. I watch kids pick up English within months when young, like 5; ASL was quite easy to learn at 15 but now, oh my word, now Arabic is just not penetrating my brain.

Now imagine doing that while supporting a family, adjusting to a new culture, and mourning the loss of what you have left behind.

As well as learning a language faster, young kids may find themselves shedding more and more of their accent while for older kids and adults, the accent may lighten but many sounds will continue to be different than a native speaker. It is normal, natural, and to be expected. But sometimes people forget that and just cop an attitude because it takes more effort to understand some of the words.

People do not typically struggle with language or an accent because they are lazy or stupid–they struggle because it is hard, the process of learning and using a new language is demoralizing. I am a college educated woman, Arabic is my third langauge and yet, at best I sound like a 2 year old after three years of studying with native speakers.

Please take just a moment to consider this next time you are talking to someone who counts English as their second (or more!!) language. A little patience will go a long way to making communication easier and enjoyable. Trust me, the effort is worth it.

“Do you know what a foreign accent is? It’s a sign of bravery.” – Amy Chua ♥️♥️♥️

CNN–Part 2

Remember when I wrote this post and I said I would be back with more?  Well, today is the day.

Immigration has been in the news so much.  I have ruined many a night’s sleep reading the news about it.  I have studied it.  I have read about it.  I have read the news.  I have let it into my heart and soul.  It is academic and personal for me.

One book I would highly recommend is The Displaced:  Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives edited by Viet Thanh Nguyen.  This book is a compilation of essays written by refugees (one of many classifications of immigrant under the USA code).  Every essay will make you think, some will break your heart, all will change you if you let them.  I have one, The Ungrateful Refugee by Dina Nayeri that comes back to me over and over.

Dina Nayeri was born in Iran.  Her family left there when she was 6.  The returned after a short time in London, England, but left permanently when she was 9.  Her family was accepted as refugees by America when she was 10 and ended up in Oklahoma.  What followed was mockery by kids who didn’t know where Iran was, then corrected mockery when the kids found out where Iran was, and a good dose of “you must be so grateful” from local do-gooders.

She spent her life and watched many other immigrants, spending their lives proving they were worthy of the fact they were allowed into the United States of America, when so many others were not.

So many others, 1/2 of 1% of those in refugee camps ever make it to a country for permanent resettlement.  That number is staggering in how small it is.  Families that are resettled leave behind family and friends who are still living in a world of destitution.  They know how “lucky” they are–they sure as hell don’t need us to tell them to be grateful.

Would you want someone asking you, or even just implying, if you are grateful enough to be born here?  People sometimes do that.  It’s uncomfortable, isn’t it?  It puts us in an awkward position; we don’t know how to respond or act when faced with that type of communication.  It stinks.

So why do we do that to others?  Why do we infer they should do something to make America better, to improve this place we call home?

People are people.  They are not valuable because of what they do.  They are valuable because they are, plain and simple.


Holding Space

Today I sat with someone who had experienced a devastating death in their family.  It isn’t my story to tell, but I had a few thoughts about it that I think are okay for me to share.

My hubby and I were just talking Sunday, before we knew of this friend’s loss, about food and how we take it to people when there is a death.  We often hear how this or that culture shows their love through food, but honestly, I think all cultures do.  Food is so central to life that it is the first thing that comes to mind when there is joy or sorrow.  My hubby pointed out how often the person who is grieving is not at all interested in food, but it is what we do, food is made, a plate is given, again and again no matter if the person has an appetite or not.

It’s what we know, it is at the core of our beings.

And suddenly, a few hours after this conversation, I was in that place of saying, “I want to bring a meal for them” when I found out about a loss.  In my offer, I found myself sitting with this family as they grieved today.  Turns out, in this particular culture, friends and family bring meals for three days and sit with the bereaved.  So I went with two other friends and brought my paultry offering of a casserole and brownies.  We ate, talked and just were, we held space.

I particularly just held space. I don’t understand the language of those I was with very much and I understand even less of the particular dialect of the mourners.  So I sat.

Today was day three, so the official time of sitting with the family is completed.  Grieving of course with not stop, really not for a lifetime, but for these three days, people came, people sat.  People held space for those who had lost someone they loved so very much.

Next time someone you know experiences a death in their family or circle of friends, pause, sit, hold space with them.  They will never forget it and you will be forever changed.


My CNN–Part 1

Back in the day, I was a newspaper reporter.  I covered the police beat in a small town.  Part of my job was to go to the local State Police Post every morning and get an update.  They called me CNN–Charity News Network.

Today I am going to revive my title for just a few moments.  I am going to try and tell a story that isn’t fully mine to tell, but needs to be said.  Needs to be said.

I read a lot of Facebook and in the news about immigration as we all do.  Sometimes I scroll past, sometimes I stop.  The times I am most likely to stop?  When someone claims to have the Bible on their side.  Yeah.  Especially when someone suggests people read the Bible to learn about immigration but are in the same post espousing things that are very un-Biblical.

The Bible does talk about immigration.  It sure does.

Exodus 22:21 (ESV)

“You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.”

Here, he was speaking to the Israelites.  They had started as refugees during the famine throughout the land.  God had put Joseph in charge of the food that had been saved in Egypt due dreams God had given Pharoah that there would be 7 good years followed by 7 years of famine.  Joseph had interpreted the dream for Pharoah and the ruler had put him in charge of getting the nation ready and through the famine.  Joseph moved his father and brothers to Egypt after they were reunited.  They lived there in peace as immigrants for many years until a new Pharoah came who didn’t give a care that Joseph had saved his nation; in the meantime, the number of Israelites had grown exponentially and the Pharoah decided to enslave them.  After many, many years, God brought the Israelites out of Egypt and the above verse is just one time God told the Israelites to treat immigrants well.

Exodus 23:9 (ESV)

“You shall not oppress a sojourner. You know the heart of a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.

He doesn’t say, treat them well if they make your life better or if everyone you know has a good job and everything they could ever need or want.  No, that isn’t in there.  He simply says not to oppress because you know what it is like.

The Old Testament is not the only place we find the plight of the immigrant addressed.  Jesus himself was a refugee.  After He was born the wise men came and told Herod they wanted to worship the newborn king.  Well, this ticked off Herod.  He didn’t want another king around.  Keeping those Israelites, who were once again being oppressed, in line was hard enough…what if they thought there was a new king for them?  So, Herod decided to kill all the baby boys 2 and under just to make sure he got this newborn king the wise men had asked about.  But, God told Jesus’ earthly [stand in] father Joseph that they should flee to Egypt, kind of ironic, huh, to keep Jesus safe.

Matthew 2:13 (ESV)

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.”

There are many more examples.  You can find them by searching sojourner in the English Standard Bible.  You’ll find them, but you won’t find, care for them IF they have valuable skills to bring to you, IF they are appreciative enough, IF they speak flawless English, IF, IF, IF…

Now, I am not advocating open borders.  A vetting process is wise.  But telling people to be patient through a 10+ year process is arrogant and ill-informed.

People do not leave their homes and everything they have ever known with little to no chance of ever returning because it sounds like a good opportunity or it seems fun.  They go because they can’t stay where they are.  The go because of bombs, chemical warfare, total economic desolation, persecution.  They go to save their children, their lives.

And most of them never get to a stable living situation.  Many never get out of a refugee camp.  Only 1/2 of 1% of people in refugee camps end up resettled in a new country.  And before any of them come they are thoroughly vetted, particularly refugees…they are vetted before they are considered for resettlement and then they are vetted another 8 times by US federal agencies if they are selected to come to the USA.  They do not choose which country they will go to and they do not know when they will be going.  There is no planning something evil, there is survival.  There is praying you are safe while you wait for a new home, there is fear, there is uncertainty.  And there is no way of knowing what life will be like when you arrive in a new home country.  There is accepting a whole new role in life.  You may have been highly educated and/or financially successful in your country of origin, but in your new country, you are starting all over.

Are they thankful to be settled in a new location, yes.  Would they rather be back home in a safe world surrounded by their loved ones, language, and culture, by and large, yes.

People are considered for immigration based on many criteria.

There are a number of classifications of immigrant within America’s legal immigration process.  There is a naturalized citizen, lawful permanent resident, conditional permanent resident, self-petitioner, special immigrant juvenile status, refugee, asylum seeker, non-immigrant temporary visas, victim of trafficking in persons, and crime victim or witness.  How, when, and where you apply is just the beginning of the process.

There is so much more to cover concerning immigrants that I think it would be best to continue this discussion another day but I would like to conclude with this thought.  Coming to the US borders, South, North, East or West and requesting asylum is 100% legal.  Having large numbers come at once may be overwhelming and difficult, but that does not make it illegal.  Not at all.  Not in the least.  So consider that the next time you want to talk about illegal immigrants.  If you are talking about a caravan coming, you are using the wrong term.  They are not illegal and are not illegal if they are allowed to come in.  If you are talking about the lady in a hijab or the gardener who speaks Bangla…you have no idea of their status.  You have no idea if their papers are all in order and carried with them everywhere just in case someone gives them a hard time or maybe they were born here.  You don’t know.  You don’t know if they are receiving public assistance.  And even if you talk to them and find out they are refugees but they don’t “sound” like they have fled a war, believe me, you won’t know until they trust you enough to tell you.

You won’t know until they trust you enough to tell you.

(Information taken from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees website, Immigration and the State Courts Initiative as well as personal interaction with refugees)








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