Posts Tagged With: community

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.

Categories: General, Raft Amad | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Categories: General, Raft Amad | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Racism Rhythm

The amount of unfair treatment that happens on America soil is immeasurable, even in the most liberal and diverse cities. Though I have personally never been displaced, persecuted for my ethnicity or religion, or truly impoverished, I thought I knew what marginalization felt like by way of other avenues. My experiences may count as a mere thread of the ugly tapestry called discrimination.

I took a dear friend of mine, whom we will call Ameena, to morning coffee and to enjoy the long delayed rays of sunshine last Friday. We were long overdue for some one-on-one fellowship. Ameena is about the age of my own mom and is, like Mom, a mother of four. We met through my friendship with her outgoing,  youngest daughter right here in our apartment complex. We are neighbors. Ameena is an educated, swift, loving, resilient woman. She sought asylum here in America with her two daughters when conditions back home in Afghanistan became too dangerous to return to. Here she remained with no governmental support and, for a long time, no ability to apply for local identification, formal work, a driving permit, nothing. She managed life with her daughters until she was granted asylum and now works with an attorney to be reunited her husband and two sons who remain abroad. I knew she had endured much and was working hard for her rights to be respected in the community and at her on-call job as a translator. Nothing was being handed to her on a silver platter or any platter for that matter.

It hit me the other day that though I’ve heard many a story from my Muslim refugee friends about their lives since they’ve arrived here, there will never reach a point where it is time to stop asking for their stories. No, I racism_011bwill likely never be able to personally relate to what they’ve been through and are going through. Their stories from back home can be hard on the open ears and even more painful to the soft heart. Many of our refugee neighbors are willing to share their stories from a distant country, but not all are eagerly talking about the injustices facing them right here.

As Ameena and I talked, I told her that instead of speculating and speaking on behalf of much of the Afghan community in Sacramento, I wanted to hear from a first person perspective. I asked her what it was like to be in her skin, what trials and joys she experienced in this city, what it felt like to identify as a Muslim or an Afghan or both. She recounted many good experiences and expressed gratitude for several benefits of living in Sacramento, but it was the not-so-few and far between stories of racism that shocked me and hopefully shock you.

These stories will be  exposed in three parts in coming weeks.
Stay connected.
-<>-

We will look at how racism sparks negative reactions– real life stories about hate, threats, & ignorance. And we will hear real stories about how it can spur on positive establishments like being educated in the matter, standing  in genuine solidarity and experiencing trusting community.
** Stories will specifically reference Muslim immigrant racism, but concepts will apply to and regard all forms of racism occurring across the country.

“From this moment on, it’s going to be America First.
Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families.”

Who are the ones regarded as “American” here?

Choose a Route
<–>

Whether you look upon the new presidency with support or disdain, there is a choice to be made.
Do you exist and live for the benefit of yourself? Timeless teachers, prophets, geniuses, social advocates, martyrs, neurological scientists and figures of all kind teach time and time again that selflessness is the essence of joy and putting self first is the quickest path to your own mental and emotional ruin.

racism_handsBeside considering the consequences of your choices for our own sake, perhaps we also ought to consider Jesus’ verdict on the matter. He said that our treatment of the widow, the orphan, the shelterless or the immigrant parallels our treatment of Him. What we do for them, we do for Him. When we neglect them, mistreat them, and ridicule them, we neglect Jesus, mistreat Jesus, and ridicule Jesus. (Matt. 25:27-46)

These stories are not about causing permanent division. But on some matters, knowing both perspectives, choosing a side and following it with utter conviction is the first step of action. Concern yourself with your own thoughts, beliefs and measures of action first.
Out of love, hear stories. Out of love, know the facts. Out of love, model your convictions.
Truth speaks for itself.

Categories: General, Raft Amad | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Year to Be Welcomed

As refugees have poured into United States by the thousands and into Sacramento by the hundreds each month, anyone with a voice of advocacy for the immigrant or refugee has begun to speak up and raise their voices, almost in a demanding manner: “Welcome them! Welcome them!”. Politically and sociologically, this could mean one thing, but “Welcome the stranger/sojourner” should mean something far beyond that for the follower of the Jesus.

“Welcome the stranger”, we’ve been saying repetitively for the past few years. And indeed we should and will continue to. But what if first the stranger welcomes us? What then?

Kay and Kevin and their three girls were anticipating delivering a Christmas tree and bringing Christmas gifts to a newly arrived refugee family coming from Turkey. The family img_9299already had a tree, but was so excited for the opportunity to host guests, that the two families came together anyway. Though the language barrier was evident, the families enjoyed tea and fruit together and asked simple questions of each other. Soon enough, the girls became friends with the family’s daughter and went off to play as Ramin, the host father, immediately asked Kay and Kevin if he could tell them his story with the help of a translating friend. Following Ramin’s heart-felt story of recovery from addiction and then journey to America, he and his wife Elika led a time of singing img_9307in their native tongue and playing guitar. Ramin and his son shared their wonderful skills of guitar playing with their new friends as if they had known each other for years. Kay and Kevin expressed their joy and gratitude with words and smiles and told Ramin and Elika how they will never forget this night. It was evident that they were so welcomed in the newer family’s home and that a very mutual blessing was taking place. Their fellowship lasted several hours as they eventually ate a meal together. Upon departure, Kay and Kevin invited Elika and Ramin’s family over to their home the following week. They wholeheartedly accepted.

In Western society, we have a tendency to assume the role of giver. When generosity is a factor, we would generally wish to be on the giving side rather than the receiving side, if given a choice in the matter. Sometimes there is even a sense of shame in receiving the generosity of others.

As a caseworker, transportation assistant, neighbor or just a friend, I’ve been in and out of the homes of local refugees, particularly Afghan refugees, for more than 2 years now and if there is one word that best describes their culture, it is HOSPITALITY.  Whether they arrived on American soil within the past 4 days or established themselves here 10 years ago, you can always anticipate being treated as an honored guest when entering the home of an Afghan.

img_9256img_9281

 

This Christmas, Raft Amad and StudentReach asked American families to do more than just deliver a Christmas tree to some refugee families. Instead of the role of Santa Claus, with a jolly posture of giving and going, we asked people if they’d presume the role of recipient, preparing to be welcomed by the family and visit for a while. As we watched these fellowships take place, story after story came back to us about how easy of a connection was made and the gift it was to the American family to be so warmly welcomed in by their refugee neighbors. Seems reversed doesn’t it? Yet this is so very natural.

As we step into 2017, I want to challenge myself and challenge YOU to be willing to be welcomed first. Whether you are the one to initiate or not, regardless of your comparative assets, no matter whose home you are in, will you receive the blessing of hospitality and welcome from your refugee neighbor?
“Welcome! Make yourself at home in this new country” is the unspoken message you send by gratefully receiving their natural gift of hospitality to you. To receive is the best gift you can give anyway.

 

Categories: General, Raft Amad | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Community in Practice

It was Saturday afternoon. My apartment had been given the royal treatment. Candles were burning to create the aura I desired, though I knew that appetite-stirring aromas would soon dominate the room as valued guests found themselves in my home, bearing dinner dishes that properly represented their country of origin.
It is an honor to open up my apartment and my arms.

There are a handful of varying activities or places that bring me sweet joy. Those include everything from hiking mountains to attain glorious views to tasting the intricate flavors in a vast array of coffee beans. But no matter the experience, it is almost always enjoyed more when shared with a friend.

On a broad scale, there are few things I enjoy more in life than COMMUNITY.

IMG_5412

Here is a perfect representation of just that!

This past Saturday night, I had the privilege of co-hosting a group of Intervarsity college students who opted to spend their weekend away from Sonoma State and in Sacramento. They wanted to try out the flavors of our domain here , particularly the ever-growing refugee community.

IMG_5389

Food + Folks = Fellowship

So we collaborated…my refugee friends and I. Sometimes I forget how recent their transition to the states took place because it feels like we’ve been friends for years.  Fatemeh, Rustam and their son Arsalan are from Afghanistan. Bahram, Arezoo and their son David are from Iran.

I’ll admit.. collaboration was a stretch. It’s not within the cultural/societal norms in Afghanistan nor Iran to ask a friend to help you host other guests in your own home. You are either a guest or a host and culturally-speaking, you would never ask a guest to share in the work load. But I was brave enough to ask and they were brave enough to give it a shot. Together, we all understood our unified purpose of representing our city and community to the students through an enthusiastic presence and some authentic food!

IMG_5391

Learning from each other.

The evening was lovely. There were 14 of us in total, gathering around a suffra (An Afghan-style mat for eating on) on my living room floor, dishing out delicious dinner onto each other’s plates with little to no self-control. We each told where we were born, our names, and if we could travel anywhere in the world where we would go. I loved the diversity, but I particularly loved the bravery of my sweet friend, Dida. She is 12 years old and her family is from Iraq. We made friends here in my apartment complex a few weeks back. She heard about my dinner and wanted to come; I invited her and so she came! Sweet girl was the only one her age in the room and while Fatemeh and Arezoo could converse in their mutual language of Farsi (Dari in Afghanistan), Dida could only participate in English. She was ecstatic to share with the group where she would love to travel when she is older.

I was especially proud of the ladies.
Arezoo and Fatemeh made such a grand effort to engage the women students, even while they are still improving their own knowledge of the English language.
The men engaged swiftly as well, swapping stories of their favorites philosophers and theological teachers.

Differing culture, different faiths, differing paradigms, philosophies, and perspectives.
Isn’t this what the Honorable Jesus did while He dwelled on earth?

I had many reasons this night to be proud of the community I am surrounded by. We were accomplishing exactly what I know I’m commissioned by God to do here… connection, stories, community.
We were creating Raft Amad.

 


 

Categories: General, Raft Amad | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Parable of the Trees

“People do not seem to realize that their opinion of the world is also a true confession of their character” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’ve only lived on this earth for 22 years. That used to sound like such an old age. When I was a teenager I had expected to have found a spouse and figured out my long time pursuit in life by the time I was this age. I wasn’t opposed to have already been living that adult life that I watched my parents live by age 22. But here I am and with every day passing it occurs to me how truly young I actually am.

It seems to me I’ve met quite a wide variety of people in these 22 years, but that variety just continues to increase and as I get to know a vaster and vaster array of peoples, my perspective of the world continues to shift. Sure, I have filters in what I absorb and pillars that I hold to that not everyone agrees with, but I find it so immeasurably important to absorb at least one thing about this life here on earth from each individual that I have the privilege of getting to know. And on occasion, you may find an individual on your path whose story and experience is extremely different from your own. The temptation is to walk away and commune solely with those who share more commonalities with yourself, but there can be something very beneficial to coming alongside an individual with such difference.

So let me tell you a story. There were once two trees in an orchard—two very different trees. An olive tree and a lemon tree. These trees couldn’t grow within the same environment; they needed different kinds of care, different kinds of watering. Their growth season was different, their harvest season was different. In fact, the same workers couldn’t care for and harvest the fruit from both the trees because their individual needs were very different. There were few things that made sense about their placement in the same orchard.

The olive tree and lemon tree both saw the benefits of warmth and the consequences of frost, but the lemon tree needed much more sun exposure than the olive. The lemon tree expected a completely different bounty from the olive tree and at very different production rates. And there was a specific reason why each of these trees were so consumed by the ways they were cared for and what fruit they produced. Their tree peers hardly counted the gainstwo-trees-at-hill-72 and losses of their environment and care because they figured what was going to come would come and they knew their main uses. The olive trees would be harvested and used mostly for delicious eating and the production of olive oil. The lemon tree would be used for consumption of lemons in the grocery stores or often extracted for cleaning product. But the two special trees were on a mission and they were able to stay grounded in the same orchard because of it. While each tree knew their fruit wouldn’t go to waste- they shared a passion, a strong desire to see their fruit used for something greater. They both wanted the fruit specifically harvested from their tree to end up producing an expensive incense—a beautifully refined and delightful incense that was only used on the finest of occasions and bought by wealthy individuals. They knew that their fruit alone couldn’t make this incense but, if the trees could produce some of the best of the best fruit, it could contribute to this rare delicacy.

It wasn’t easy to produce the best fruit. The utmost sacrifice and intentionality had to be poured into the trees. The environment was never perfect and sacrifice was required from the other trees and the workers as well to accomplish this mission. Growing side by side had its give and take for each tree—they could have been uprooted and placed in their perfect growing environment, but they knew that the challenge of growing alongside each other just increased each tree’s stamina and with time their fruit became better and better.

It certainly didn’t take one or a couple seasons to produce fruit of this quality; no, it took seasons upon seasons of sacrifice and growing pains to produce such a fruit, but their unified mission drove these trees to success. Their fruits would never merge into one product—it would make very different incenses, affecting different individuals and attracting different consumers. Though this was all foreseeable, the trees opted for the time being to endure their locational challenges. One tree thrived during some seasons while the other felt the pain; other seasons proved to be a fruit-bearing year for one tree while the other tree had barely any fruit extracted. Some things just could not be helped, but those two very different trees knew they were learning a lot from watching how the other thrived and failed and eventually bore fruit and they were determined to see each other accomplish their specific mission.

In this life, I find it is far too easy to sidestep the challenges of growing alongside those individuals who constantly challenge your perspective, the way you think, how you see the world and how you react to various circumstances in life. It’s completely appealing to hang around those who will affirm you, agree with you and admire you more often than not. Every now and again in life you’ll find a curveball of a relationship has been thrown. There are options. You can choose to dodge it and risk a strike out or you can take your best swing.

A dear word to my fellow millennials—We are young and while we often embrace the risks and adventures of life in this phase of life more than any other, I believe we tend to embrace those risks and adventures within our comfort zones—as contradictory as that may sound. Start the class you think you’ll fail. Befriend the person that weirds you out. Try your hand at an art you’ve never explored. Stick it out if you’re used to quitting early or give yourself a break if you’re the one that never rests.  I highly encourage us to look beyond and find those opportunities the Lord has waiting to grow and stretch and teach us at our young, moldable age.

 

Categories: General | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: