Posts Tagged With: lovethesojourner

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.
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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
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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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One Step, Three Steps

Written by: Majid Keshavarz

The family of nine from Afghanistan came as refugees to Sacramento. Three months ago they arrived and we had the privilege of being hosted by them on a Saturday evening.

” You are so welcome. Please make yourself at home,” Massoud said, as the father of the home.
His youngest kid, Ali, welcomed us by the warm smile in his eyes. The family honoured us by standing when we got into their apartment. They offered the couches to us and some of the family sat on the floor; that was their way to pay respect to their honoured guests.

They were so ready to create a climate of understanding and tolerance. This was a kind of tolerance that wasn’t indifferent. Afghan, American, Iranian, Muslim and Christian——we were a diverse group, but this was a climate that was impartial, refusing to accept bigotry and racism.

Seven kids from age 3 to 18 enjoyed carving pumpkins. Some adults chattered over tea. Everyone ate a hearty and delicious meal together.
Having a sense of humour was a gateway to converse. The joy of the interacting could be heard by the sound of laughing. ” We haven’t had such a joyful time and uplifting moments since our arrival in America”, Masoud said.

The family was so focused on moving forward and seizing every opportunity they could to be more engaged with this society. This fellowship was kind of a way for them to spare themselves from some agonizing pains of their move to America. The interaction was a unique experience. In a way, the newly arrived was helping the established folks to be initiated into the hospitality of the Middle Eastern culture, right here on American soil. It was proof that families don’t have borders and loving one another could embrace diversity.

“Fellowship is like a bridge. It will provide a unique opportunity to practice the love for one another. If the other people take one step to cross the bridge, I will take three steps to get closer to them. I am so open to embracing the other side and ready to rejoice with them in the time of joy and  have sympathy in the time of suffering ” Masoud said.

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Past, Present, Future.

That moment when the past is suddenly related to the present. I won’t call myself prophetic by any means, but I do love to put on display the things God was doing with me 6 months ago that I couldn’t connect to anything related to my life—until now.

In April 2014, one month prior to graduation from WJU, I was sitting in the local park having some quiet time of reflection and listening. I kept hearing the word “sojourning” in my heart. There had been a measure of people speaking it directly to me combined with an attentiveness in my moment of listening that spurred my writing of one large metaphor.

It occurred to me that day that the life followers of Jesus are called to is very reflective of a sojourner’s lifestyle. That’s not to say that Jesus followers are all called to the mobile, gypsy life or can’t be planted in one physical place for a lengthy time, but it’s more to say that there’s an element of realizing this physical world–the here and now– is not our ultimate home; it’s not our ending up. Our physical life is just a journey through seasons, trials, joys, healthy and unhealthy relationships and everything in between. But the way I could grasp this best was by the thought of what an actual sojourner (traveler)’s life would look like.
[See here: https://capacityforculture.wordpress.com/2014/04/12/sojourners/ ]

One of the Afghan ladies and her daughter--2 out of a 6 person family we resettled in Sacramento.

One of the Afghan ladies and her daughter–2 out of a 6 person family we resettled in Sacramento.

What I did not know when I wrote this was where I’d be in 6 months from then. I had no idea I would have the privilege to come alongside actual physical sojourners–refugees–as they settle in a new land and a new season of life. There’s an amazing connection with them because I strongly believe I will be in their shoes someday–standing in a foreign land with a language barrier, feeling out of place, and with so much less to my name than I had in my own country. That proverb: Do unto others as you would have them do to you— it’s never felt so concrete as it does now. I doubt I’ll be a refugee, but I will be a sojourner and I will go through frustrations and culture shock and struggle hard to learn the language just so I can function on the baseline level in society.

Now I say all this and I can’t say I’ve heard the audible voice of God speak this over my life, but it seems like every time that concept begins to fade away in my mind, something arouses it back to life.

This past weekend I received one of those little reminders.

My extroverted side collaborated with my fiscally-sensitive side and decided I would bounce from one friend’s house to the next in order to save money on gas and cram all my needed social activities into one four-day time span. I think I ended up seeing 7 different friends over 100-something hours. And for those of you who have done that, you know that you’re never going to be fully satisfied with what you pack or where you sleep. There’s always something lacking somehow. The tiniest taste of this “lifestyle” reminded me that it’s okay to get away from my comforts, that humbly asking for meals or soap or borrowed clothes from friends is necessary, that I’m not going to get the best sleep or get to eat within my diet limits. It’s time to be flexible, humble, grateful and full of joy apart from circumstances–that’s just how one must thrive in that scenario.

At the end of it all I realized this was yet another small taste of the less-than-comfortable life I await in the future. I cannot wait to have the privilege to walk in faith–letting the Father lead me from season to season or dwelling place to dwelling place. Delightful will be the day that the Lord teaches me how to live with the bare minimum or at least start from that point in a foreign place where the sojourner mindset is the only attitude I know I must adopt.

By the way, shout out to my brothers and sisters in Christ–we are called to LOVE THE SOJOURNER:

Deuteronomy 10:19

19 Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.

Blessings upon your days ahead,

Amelia MaySun

 

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