Friday, September 16, 2011

Caring for the Poor While Living in the US: Refugees

Do you ever have moments when you learn something new, like a spark of lightening blows up loud and blinding inside your mind, and you wonder..."How did I not know this?  How have I lived this long and never come face to face with this truth?"  That was me when I found out about the plight of refugees living in the United States.  I had a Truman Show moment where I realized that the world is bigger and more complex than I thought it was one week ago.

"According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services refugees are persons living outside their country of origin who cannot return to their homes due to fear of persecution based on their race, religion, or membership in a particular social/political group." (from Multicultural Refugee Coalition)

I never asked to be introduced to the truth about refugees.  I stumbled upon their existence by accident.  I asked a friend for a book to read last year.  She loaned me Strength in What Remains. At night I'd crawl into bed and open this book that would open my eyes to a whole new world of desperation, sadness, and hope back home in my own country.  I could not believe that large numbers of immigrants end up in the United States every year who have been offered asylum from war-torn and famine stricken countries.  These people have lived lives of terror, have experienced pain and abuse, seen scenes too horrific for any movie screen, and they are living right inside our borders.  Most show up not speaking our language.  They have no idea how to live in the developing world.  They need help and healing from witnessing their homes burnt to the ground, their loved ones brutally murdered, and their children starving to death.  Some of these people are brilliant individuals, well-respected, educated citizens in their own countries, but because they have very little help integrating into US life, they are living in poverty in slums in America. 

I began reading about refugees on The Big Picture website by the Boston Globe.  After reading Strength in What Remains, I ended up reading a fictional book (based on a true story) called Little Bee.  I was deeply moved by both books.

While in the United States this summer, I asked two people to write up guest posts about the plight of the refugee in our country and how others could be involved.  Both of these ladies are deeply connected to refugees in their communities and have graciously agreed to educate all of us about how we can love and serve this hidden group of people in our country.

But the stranger who dwells with you shall be to you as one born among you; and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God. -- Leviticus 19:34

Other posts in this series on "Caring for the Poor While Living in the US":

Caring for the Poor While Living in the Good ol' U-S of A?

Who Are the Poor?

Looking for the Poor 

Hi, My Name is Heather and I'm a Modern Day Slave Owner

Helpful Links

Barn Burning 

First, The Purging 

The Better World Shopping Guide 

More Really Great Shopping Resources 

Running Hard After Redemption 

Seeko Sandals 

Batik Boutique 

Be Informed 


Shop for Clean Clothes

Guest Post, Wrestling with Poverty in the US, part one

Guest Post, Wrestling with Poverty in the US, part two 

Guest Post, Wrestling with Poverty in the US, part three


Flower Patch Farmgirl said...

Do you know that I have been thinking about you off and on almost ALL day? Does that creep you out? I keep sending you pretend text messages. One liners like, "I'm scared out of my britches." and "Did you ever worry about things like having a yard?"

I read Little Bee this Summer and I finished it, but I lost interest after the group of refugee girls exited the story. I really just wanted to keep reading about them.


Brooke said...

a classmate in college was officially a refuge. he came here as an exchange student and while he was here war broke out in his homeland. thankfully his circumstances allowed him to not be the classic kind of refuge you see described here, but i can't imagine how hard it would be - no matter the circumstance - to leave home for what you think is a year, only to see big away over a decade later.

Anonymous said...

I have the privelage of volunteering at a school full of refugee children, and our church just adopted the school to help with school supplies, read with the kids, do work projects, etc. It's been awesome. A book that I read that had a big impact on me in regard to the plight of refugees in America is The Middle of Everywhere: Helping Refugees Enter the American Community by Mary Pipher. Thanks for the other recommendations and for the series of blog articles about helping the poor in America.

Melda said...

Here is something I didn't realize:

Here in Guam, people from the outer islands come here seeking the "American Dream"

They also don't speak English, they usually have large families, never have money for a car - and then have trouble finding work for that very reason.

They can't go home - not because "home" is war-torn, but because they saved every extra dime to get here and the money is gone.

Their way of life is not ours, but our "system" expects them to immediate conform to our "system"
to make a long story short, and avoid ranting my frustration with the system on your blog..... their kids in up in foster care.

I wonder if the same is true about the children of some of these families that you have read about?
Not because they are bad parents, but because we (American system) doesn't provide them a learning curve about what is expected in our culture.

It's eye opening for sure.

Melda said...

Early Sat. morning.....we don't (not doesn't) I did pass high school English. :)

Susan, wife of 1, mother of 4 said...

Sounds GREAT, Heather! I can't wait to learn more. You are AMAZING to know all of these things!

Anonymous said...

If anyone's interested, there's a fair-trade shopping event tomorrow in NW Houston. Find more details here:

Jenn @ Spejory said...

I once knew a man who had a PhD in electrical engineering in his own country (can't remember where he was from since it was nearly 20yrs ago) but was working as a dishwasher here in the US. This post makes me wonder what ever happened to him. I can always count on your posts to bring these situations to light.

Singing Pilgrim said...

One of my best friends from college was a Bosnian refugee. She's now a citizen. She and her family were actually able to come over because a small church in our area prayed and decided to sponsor a refugee family. I thought that was pretty amazing and so if any of you are touched by that maybe your church or your family could find out how to do that, and sponsor an individual or families new life here in the states. She is from a muslim background. She's not a muslim anymore, but she's not found Christ either. She was very, very close in college. I was fasting and praying, and she was so close she was borrowing her Christian roommate's devotional... but then she studied abroad and when she came back she was back to being very secular. She's now married to another Bosnian refugee who is a practicing muslim, and lives many states away. I still lift her up in prayer and would feel blessed if some of you would as well, not just her but her husband as well. As I said, she was very close to finding Christ in college, so me and her other Christian friends try to hold on to hope that He'll draw her near once again, this time forever.

Marla Taviano said...

Thanks so much for this. We have a huge refugee population here in Columbus (OH). Somalis, Eritreans, lots more. Just this year I've gotten involved in serving them in several capacities, and it's been amazing. And yet, goodness, there's so much more to do.