Posts Tagged With: bridgebuilding

Re-Rooting

The transplant was still fresh, only 5 months old, but Hamid and Asma had friends to introduce the new soil and slowly help them re-root in it. 

From the moment a family or individual must drop their lives and flee home, their identity sharply shifts from a rooted resident to a sojourning stranger. Many find refuge on an in-between soil and there they obtain the status of “refugee”. For many, that is when a waiting game begins. A grueling game, for there is no strategy for winning and no foreseeable end in site.

When resettled in a receiving country, the new soil is supposedly permanent. The uprooted plant is given a chance to place its roots back in the ground and slowly, steadily begin finding new roots.

This past Sunday, a small group of Sacramento locals prepared a “Friendsgiving” meal for their newly-arrived friends– a family of 7 from Afghanistan who were resettled in America this past July. My parents’ house served as a geographically convenient and hospitable location so everyone could gather and eat around family-size tables and feel the familial sentiments that only homes provide.

The small group had previously spent time with the family in varying capacities, most of those being assistance in getting to appointments and helping them with the bare basics required for survival in the first several months of resettlement– language learning, enrollment, applications for programs, etc.

Like dried out roots getting re-accustomed to the feeling of soil and potential nourishment, integrating in a new country is a long-haul process. Beyond filling concrete needs, emotional support is vital as well. People, no matter their country or culture, will always need friends. For three hours, this mixed group with mixed stories got to simply dine together, muse over pretty decorations or backyard plants, listen to each other play piano, shoot some basketball hoops, and observe each other’s social tendencies. And in joy, I got to simply absorb those bounties of friendship happening around me.

Friendship does not require common culture, common faith or even a common language, but it does require a little dedicated time to slow down and simply enjoy each other’s company. There’s respect in that, there’s longevity in that, and there must be patience and excited anticipation for growth in that.

The group leader said she saw break-through that afternoon. From what I’ve learned, a key part of

encouraging newly-arrived friends to put down new roots is to share life with them.

Show them your own soil. Tell the stories of how your roots started and grew there. Let those stories and your love itself prove how the soil can be good and hope-filled when you give it a chance, some time, and proper care.

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Replenish, Not Replace

It had been a year and a half since our friendship began. We had our bumps in the road and for a while there, a cultural misunderstanding estranged me from their family; but we eventually reunited. I sat on the living room floor with my hamshira jan– “my dear sister”, as we call each other. We watched her first born show off with his sassy antics, almost always speaking only English , even with his mama. Anoosha has another son on the way and was still refurnishing the better apartment they’d recently moved into.

As we rambled on about our lives, the natural culturally appropriate questions arose, only we chose to answer with care and honesty and not just the formal response.

“How is your family?”

I spoke of my sisters, my brother, my parents and each of their contexts. She spoke of hers.
My family is within driving distance. Hers is across the world. As I listened to her acute awareness of the familial situations afar– some victories, some injustices, what she loved and

missed and what she wishes she could fix, I was reminded that family, no matter its state o

rgeographical location, is irreplaceable.

I love being called “sister”. Many whom I am not related to call me by this name. Many of those who do have been forcibly removed from most, if not all, of their family members. I eagerly soak up the honor and appreciation that comes with this title. Sometimes I feel I’ve earned it; other times, I wonder if I deserve such a name.

It is my heart’s deepest desire to provide a new family, nurture the new home of many who have been given no choice but to restart their lives here in America. Gratefully, I am joined with hundreds of others who wish to do the same. But I am humbly reminded that even when we openly share our lives and treat refugee families the way we would our own flesh and blood, we may be able to help fill a gap, but we can never fully replace what they have lost that is their own.

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Communion

Written By: Emma McHenry

Home has its meaning in every culture and every people. It is a deeply intimate term, and one that often makes its way back to the earliest memories of childhood. Some days you may step through a familiar doorway into a house you know as home; other days you may think of a land or a culture or a face far away, and you will call them home. But walking into the warm light of apartment #46 on the second floor, I began to see this simple word in a very new light. That night I found a kind of home that went far beyond a house; I found communion.

Nader and Maryam were cordial hosts, to say the least. From the moment I stepped through that door, the family thought of nothing but making me feel welcome. All of them shook hands politely to honor my own culture, and the light in their eyes showed the joy that was theirs for having us all under their roof. They laid out food while we talked, they listened carefully as I slowly spoke about my family and life through translated words , and they cooked a magnificent, rich meal—fit for royalty. Cooking, cleaning, and making sure we were all given an abundance of delicious food was their way of showing the highest honor, and though we were yet strangers they treated us like old friends.  

That night I was left in awe. All I could think of was what a beautiful culture God had blessed these people with. What fear or prejudice has kept Christians from seeking out their new neighbors? What could possibly be at risk?

When engaging other cultures, American society tends to get hung up on the apprehension that they are going to offend someone or come off as a fool. Even though that was a possibility that night, there was a greater possibility of something far more significant: making a friend. And I am glad that was something I was willing to risk!

Even more so, I ran the risk of gaining a deeper view of this world. God has made every culture intrinsically unique, and as we engage with others from different nations, it makes us aware of our own perspectives. As the diversity and beauty of two different societies joined that night, I found a window into new viewpoints and insights into both their culture and mine.

The last thing “risked” as I entered into Nader and Maryam’s apartment was this: seeing them in God’s eyes–not as foreigners, refugees, Muslims or strangers, but as my beloved neighbors. God didn’t create culture to divide people, but to build strong and lasting relationships that embrace diversity and depend on love, surpassing any weak cultural links by doing so! And it was in this love that I found a new kind of home in apartment #46. The friendships that were formed, the communion that was shared; these were a marvelous reflection of the home and belonging that may be found in Jesus. And that is what I pray all of us may find in the presence of God, our true home.

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“Other”ing

The first time I walked down the streets of the tenderloin in San Francisco, I felt significantly insecure. I was out of place and out of touch with the culture. I was supposedly there to serve and love, but only within the predefined contexts that the outreach trip had set in place. Walking down the street was a side escapade and I quickly concluded that the residents in this neighborhood and I shared no commonality. Out of underlying fear, my friendly, extroverted self bypassed them all. What if she didn’t speak English? What if they were high? What if he took my smile the wrong way? It was too risky. I was me and they were the “others”.

oth·er
ˈəT͟Hər/
verb
gerund or present participle: othering

  1. view or treat (a person or group of people) as intrinsically different from and alien to oneself.(Oxford Dictionary)

“Other”ing is something we often mindlessly do to each other. If I consider another human being as “other” because they don’t speak the same, think the same, live the same, dress the same, etc., then, likewise, I am certainly an “other” to this person.

Humanity in general seems to have a difficult time intersecting with the “other”.
And when it comes to Muslim-Christian relations, sadly, the “other”ing has often become elevated in churches out of fear of compromising doctrine or endorsing another faith system. It’s a reasonable concern, but it’s not biblical.

The world’s best example of a peace-maker and  bridge-builder was one who made himself an “other” as he lived in a time of great religious, political and interethnic conflict.

Multiple faiths. Multiple ethnicities. Multiple friends.

If you read the Bible, it is often easy to bypass the significance of the parables Jesus told and the ways He treated certain holidays and customs and interacted with people and people groups. It’s easy to assume that the specifics of these parables and stories aren’t applicable to our modern age and culture (e.g.,  the healing of the paralytic, the parables of the Good Samaritan and the repentant tax-collector, Jesus’ attitudes toward the Sabbath, his encounter with religious experts, his actions in the temple…). But were Jesus’ teaching and example limited to the age and place He lived? If no, then we must ask ourselves: who and what are these words and deeds of Jesus in relation to our lives and society today?

There were plenty of “others” then and there are plenty of “others” now. One of the “others”, I think, is our Middle-eastern Muslim community. In Sacramento, many are collaborating to do them justice. Organizations and county offices are being sure they are receiving all their benefits such as EBT cards, Social Security, ESL, and medical coverage. We have supported the establishment of their halal markets and necessary vendors. We have spoken out against segregation and unfair treatment by leasing managers, security services in department stores, and public services. That is all well, good and needed. But what if we are perpetuating them being an “other” as we go about creating space for them to naturally live amongst themselves within “our city” as we continue in our regular day to day life? What if, beyond conquering their cultural and practical needs, we chose to learn more about what it means to become engaged, loving neighbors to these who are the supposed “others?”  

When change occurs, we have two methods of handling it: keeping it at bay OR embracing it and adapting.  We must acknowledge how we are often afraid to invite “others” into our lives or be guests of them. Acknowledge the fear, the awkwardness, the discomfort or stigmas— whatever it is you feel. It’s there. It’s real. That’s alright. What you do with it will determine whether the “othering” boundaries remain firmly in place or start to come down naturally from connection over commonality.

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