“Can you imagine being in a place where you do not know how to communicate??”
That is how my friend from South America began a short presentation she will be giving as a panelist for a breakout at this year’s CBF General Assembly. My response? Well, yes, actually I can! Maybe that is why I feel so much for those who do not claim this country as their country of origin. In 1986 I went to live in France. I spoke not a word. I understood even less of the culture! Two languages and three continents later, I had a very good taste of what it felt like to be an immigrant. The main difference was that I had resources. I had direction. I had help. Many of our international friends do not.
“Move to a Country without knowing what you’re going to do, where you’re going to work, without family or friends it is difficult, without knowing the language it is much more.”
I will be honest and say that at this stage in my career, the statement above is a major hurdle for me as I contemplate future work and assignments. It is hard! And I have help! I have resources!
“My family and I moved looking for a better job opportunity for my husband. He was an expert in sales and a dealership gave him a chance to sell cars, work that would have been easier if he knew the language. But he didn’t. Imagine selling a car to a customer without knowing English well.”
I have never sold cars; but I was sent out to sell something. I was sent out to sell people on the idea that God loves them. It was simply accepted that I would acquire the tools necessary to do that. And I did. Because…I had help! I had resources!
My friend did find help in a local church. A church that provided ESL, but more importantly a church that provided loving nurturing relationships. “I was always amazed at the outstanding hospitality that the church gave to all immigrants who were going to classes. What a blessing it was to have known this church who gave us so much support so we could adapt to this culture. Now years later, I am part of the group of hand bells at church. I joined that group without knowing how to read music or ring a bell! My family and I are very pleased and grateful to be part of this congregation. I can tell you that as a foreign and immigrant I received a warm and gracious welcome, they know how to do it! I want to invite all of you to not turn anyone away because they do not speak English well, because they are not American or do not know your culture. This country is full of immigrants who come to work hard to raise our children and give them a better future and life chances.”
This year at the CBF General Assembly, the Internationals Mission Community will be hosting a breakout on Thursday afternoon at 2:45. We will have a panelist of laity and clergy from various ethnic backgrounds share from their perspective what it is like to be an immigrant. They will discuss how the church can be the hands and feet of Christ. They will share how as co-laborers we can be better partners alongside them in the Kingdom. They will share how we can help. How we can be their resource. But more than that, they will share how they can help us and be our resource!