Thankful My Students Kept Me Going Last Summer

Yesterday evening was a blessing for me. I was able to talk with a young woman who was my student in a Newcomer Refugee class last summer. She is one of my Yazidi friends. Her English level has improved a lot since she was a new refugee learning words for money, shopping, and other survival English she needed to know.

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The reason last night was a blessing was because I could let her know how much she and the other students helped me last summer due to her English level having improved. It wasn’t only me helping her and the other students, her sister, her cousin, two women from Ukraine, and a young woman from Burma. Last summer was one of my more difficult ones because it was a long process of seeing doctors to find out what was wrong.

It was also a summer of being in pain, having foggy brain, and not wanting to get out of bed most days. What kept me going and getting out of bed in the morning was knowing my newcomer refugee friends needed me in class, so each morning I would go through the slow process of getting ready to go teach. Each morning I would also pray for my refugee friends and listen to worship music to prepare for my day. After class it was off to physical therapy or appointments.

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Fortunately after all of the testing and appointments what they found out was I have Celiacs Disease which is just another autoimmune issue added to my life. My students could tell something was wrong, but I never let on how serious it might have been or how may tests I was having done etc.

So last night was a blessing because as I talked with my friend, my former student, she understood what I was saying when I told her, “You, your sister and cousin, and the other students helped me keep going last summer. Last summer was difficult for me, but you and the others were the reason I got out of bed in the mornings. Thank you.”

When we go through hard times, keeping our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith is a daily, sometimes hourly, sometimes minute by minute deal. My mornings last summer consisted of me thanking Jesus for my students, praying for them, and praying for strength for the day.

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God answered my prayers by putting people in my life that he knew I would fight for by praying for them because there have been times in my life I might have given up on me, but not on people in need like my refugee friends. Refugees are so vulnerable when they first arrive and need people in their lives who will look out for them. God knows I won’t give up on them.

 

 

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A Birthday Surprise-Sort of

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Well it happened. Time marches forward. I hit my milestone birthday today. Most years I haven’t celebrated it and in fact had not for over 30 years until my birthday 10 years ago when my friends from my weekend groups at my church gave me an almost surprise party.

I love the picture from that day because it represents what my life has been about the past twenty years-sharing life with friends from many different countries. In the picture with me are friends from Belgium, Brazil, Congo, Germany, India, Japan, Korea, Ukraine and Vietnam. At that time my church had a map of the world on a wall and the room my groups were in was next to that wall.

My friends decided to throw me a surprise party in the room during our class time. They really went all out in decorating the room with Star Wars and Lord of the Rings theme, cake, balloons, and had the lights turned out. Only one problem, my friend Olivier from Congo. ๐Ÿ™‚

I had a meeting at church that morning, so I had to be there early. I asked my friend Yoshio from Japan to pick up our friends Neil and Olivier from Congo because I needed to be at church early. When I got to church, Olivier came out to meet me in the parking lot, shook my hand, and carried my laptop bag in for me. That was at 8:20 and my class started at 9, so my first thought was, “Why is Olivier here are 8:20? He came with Yoshio and Yoshio would never be this early.” So the surprise was given away. I still acted surprised when I opened the door and they shouted, “Happy Birthday.”

I guess it is customary to share some sort of wisdom when one reaches a milestone birthday. I don’t really have anything to enlighten people with that has not been said before, but one thought I have from spending so much wonderful time with people literally from all over the world.

When Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life,” he meant exactly that. God loves all people from every culture, race, ethnic group, language group etc. God LOVES US. My greatest blessing, after knowing Jesus of course, has been to experience a little of God’s great love for us as I interact with my immigrant and refugee friends. My role and what God created me for and called me to, is to show his love to those I teach, befriend, help, interact with etc.

When I was a child, I used to dream of seeing far away places that I read about in school. God has blessed me to have had the opportunity to travel to Romania seven times, Brazil twice, France and Mexico once each, and because of my trips to Romania to also visit Austria, England, Holland, Germany, and Switzerland. The reason for my trips was to share the love of Jesus.

Here in Lincoln I have met people from so many countries, I can’t list them all. They have enriched my life. They have changed me and my life. It has been through spending time with my refugee friends that I have come to understand and appreciate what Mother Teresa said when speaking of the people she helped, “each one of them is Jesus in disguise.”

We never know how many years God will give us in this life. I am actually amazed I lived this long after what I went through because of that I never made any real plans, but God led me to the life I have now, so I could show his love to diverse people. My desire is to continue to show and share his love until he takes me home to heaven.

 

 

 

 

The WWE Opened The Door to Knowing A New People Group???

Disclaimer- I don’t watch the WWE. ๐Ÿ™‚

In my life of teaching and helping refugees and immigrants, I have gotten to the point that I expect to be surprised, so surprises don’t get to me much. They are a common everyday occurrence in my life. But sometimes there are ones that I get a kick out of and ones that lead to blessings.

In 2007, we had a new people group come to Lincoln, The Karen People from Burma. The Karen People were forced to flee their homes to refugee camps in Thailand because the military dictatorship was trying to kill them off. Coming to Lincoln started with a trickle of a few families in 2007 and then it was like the gates were opened as many more came in 2008 and kept coming.

I had three Karen women in a morning class I taught. None of them were over 5 feet tall and one was maybe 4′ 10″ at best. They were sweet women, moms, and trying to figure out life in their new country America. They smiled and at times giggled as we studied. Each Friday I would ask about the weekend to help the students practice using will for the future. When I would ask, “What will you do this evening,” they would answer, “teacher- Big Show, Undertaker, Batista.” I had no idea what they were talking about, so after a few Fridays my curiosity was aroused and I googled Big Show, Undertaker, and Batista. What came up were images of WWE wrestlers. I laughed to myself over the thought of my three small, petite, and sweet-natured students being fans of the WWE.

 

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They also talked about Karen meetings for Sundays and said the word Bible. They invited me to one of their meetings. I wanted to learn more about this new group of people in my city, so I visited their meeting in an apartment. The first year and a half they were here, they had meetings in their apartments because they did not have a church home yet. My first time with them I heard their beautiful harmonizing as they sang, in a language I still don’t know, and they faith was obvious.

After that I spent time with them every Sunday and taught bible lessons through a translator for them. I had a small Hyundai at the time and would make 3 or 4 trips, taking three or four at a time,ย  on Saturday and Sunday afternoons to take them to a Asian market to buy food.

This may sound funny but when I would visit them I felt like Gandalf visiting hobbits in the Shire, not so much because of the fact that most were small in comparison with Americans, but more because of their warm hearts, their love of simple things in life, and how vulnerable they were because of not knowing what potential problems could happen in their new city. They were so much fun to be around too.

I was even given a traditional Karen robe to wear at their meetings.

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me with an elderly widow from Burma

I love my Karen friends and also their fellow refugees from Burma, The Zomi People and the Karenni People. Their music is beautiful, their clothing is colorful, their hearts are warm. I have enjoyed worshiping in the Karen church and also the Zomi church here in Lincoln.

Oh by the way, the sweet little elderly woman in the picture above is standing up ๐Ÿ™‚

You Are Safe Here Part 2- My Yazidi Student Did Great :)

There is someone that will read this who needs to know something. The person I am writing about will see it and I want her to know how PROUD I am of her. This is a message for her to know I respect and appreciate her and maybe my followers and readers will appreciate it and be inspired by her

Last week I wrote about my student who wrote about her experience as a young Yazidi woman when ISIS invaded her area of Iraq. The Yazidi people were victims of genocide and terrible atrocities at the hands of criminals.

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For me it is important to give my refugee friends a voice. I want them to know that I respect them. I want them to feel they are valued and important to me. It is SO SAD for me to think that ISIS labeled my Yazidi friends as less then human to try to “excuse” the terrible crimes committed that there is NO EXCUSE for.

I try to let my Yazidi friends know I am their friend by helping them, teaching them, and joining in on their celebrations like I did in April when I danced with them at their holiday celebration.

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Last night My student gave her presentation about what her family and people endured when ISIS came. She is such a gentle soul. She is all of, maybe, 5 feet tall. She still has a beautiful smile even though she went through an ordeal we cannot imagine. Her family lost their home. People she knew were killed.

Having experienced the love of Jesus, my desire is to show his love to people from all over the world. Jesus has blessed me with the opportunity to meet people from all over the world and the experience has left me with a strong appreciation for the value of each person, regardless of where they came from, their culture, their religion, their ethnic group etc. Each person I meet isย FULLYย a human being that God loves. Each person I meet is someone that Jesus loved so much that he died for them.

I was SO PROUDย of my student last night. She shared the reality of what her people suffered and how it affected her. She kept her poise while presenting about something that affected her so personally. She is a remarkable young woman. I am confident she will have a good future here in America. ๐Ÿ™‚

Respecting the dignity of each person is something that seems imperative for us. It is as simple as this- Jesus loves all people, so we should too.

 

 

 

 

Music Mondays- Scars to Your Beautiful By Alessia Cara and I Am No Victim by Kristene DiMarco

Last September I went to a Harvest Moon Festival at Antelope Park here in my home city Lincoln. It was put on by the Asian Community Center. In the past it would have been only groups from East Asia, but much to the Center’s credit they have included people from other parts of Asia such as the Yazidis from Iraq and Syria. There was a performance by some Yazidi girls that grabbed my attention and made me think.

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The girls, high school age, danced a routine to the song Scars to Your Beautiful by Alessia Cara. I had not heard the song before that but as I watched the girls dance and listened to the lyrics, I thought about Yazidi girls and women. When ISIS came into their area, they kidnapped girls and young women and forced them into horrors I won’t go into in this posting. The thought that these Yazidi girls were free to perform in public with no fear of being targeted hit me, so I searched for the song on youtube. So yes, I am sharing a secular song in this post because there is an important message in it.

With so much focus on outer appearance in our culture, sadly the people who struggle most are girls and women. Yet God sees beauty in all girls and women and desires for them to be his daughters.

Physical scars can also leave emotional scars. But there are also scars we cannot see that are spiritual and emotional scars from being victims of abuse, rejection, struggles with addiction etc.

There are women whose blogs I follow that I respect for how they have been willing to share about how God has brought emotional and spiritual healing into their lives.

I think of the young woman who bravely shares about how Jesus helped her overcome anorexia in her blog Beauty Beyond Bones at beautybeyondbones.com.

I think of the young woman who shares about ho God helped her overcome violence against women and speaks up for women in her blog The Voice of Peace at thevoiceofpeace18.wordpress.com.

I think of the woman who shares how God helped her overcome depression in her blog Called to Be A Writer at calledtobeawriter.wordpress.com.

I think of the woman who shares how God has helped her overcome addiction in the family in her blog A New Life atย anewlife256599767.wordpress.com.

These are excellent blogs to read. I hope you check them out. I think this is on my mind because of my courageous student who will share this evening about escaping with her family before ISIS came.

Being a victim can leave scars. Jesus still has the scars in his wrists, feet and side from when he was crucified on the cross. His scars are there for our healing. He does not want to leave us as victims though. He wants to give us freedom over the abuse, addiction, or anything else that would keep us down as victims.

I wrote about scars and how his scars can heal ours in a previous post- scars.

That brings me to the second song I would like to share, I Am No Victim by Kristene DiMarco. She sings about how we are what God says we are, so we are not victims. It is a powerful song that can bless and minister to our souls.

Hope your Monday is blessed.

Blessing Children

Thursday afternoon, I went to the elementary school where I teach English for moms who have children at the school. My class finished last Friday, but there was something important yesterday. There was a 5th Grade promotion ceremony. I went to congratulate children of my moms and other kids I often see in the halls. It seems obvious to me that we live in a day and age that children need blessings from us.

I think of Jesus when he blessed the children. His disciples tried to stop the children from coming to him thinking Jesus was too busy and important to be bothered with kids. But Jesus told them not to stop the children from coming to him and then he proceeded to bless them.

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The school where I teach is in a low-income neighborhood and each year about 50% of the kids are ELL students, English Language Learners. The kids are aware of the negativity expressed by some about refugees and immigrants. The kids are also aware of how their parents sacrifice for them. I remember how it felt for me when my parents didn’t bother to show up for my 6th Grade or my 9th Grade promotion, so I went to show up for the kids I know.

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I pray for the kids and each morning during the school year I say a quick hi in the hallway to the kids and stop and wish some of them a good day in school. A few of them I know well because their moms are my students, which has led to some interesting conversations.

One such conversation was with Brian the son of one of my moms. He saw me in the school and asked me, “Are you a teacher?” I told him yes, so his next question was, “What kind of teacher are you?” I explained that I teach moms English in the school, so his next question was, “Is my mom in your class?” I asked him who his mom is and he told me, Alicia. I told him that she is in my class and then he asked me a question I will always remember, “Is my mom doing good in your class?”

One girl Ro’aa came here as a refugee with her parents three years ago. Her aunt was in my class at the time and Ro’aa would stop and greet me in the hall every day. Sometimes she would stop at the door of my classroom to say hi. She is a sweet kid. I know her family and when I see her at special events we take a selfie and I send it to her older brother. a soon to be college student, who I am friends with on facebook.

These are just two examples of my mornings as I interact with the kids before my class. With all of the negativity some of them hear about in the media, and all of the dark things in our culture that would pull them down or pull them in a wrong direction, I feel it is important to bless children as they start their day. They need to know they are valued.

One thing I love to do is encourage the kids to be proud of their culture and first language. With the Hispanic children I like to say, “Yo pienso que es muy bueno tu puedes hablar ingles y espanol.”- I think it is very good that you can speak English and Spanish.

I have found that when I bless children, it is actually me who ends up being blessed because to see them smile is worth everything with the way the world is these days. To see Ro’aa smile, who was so shy at first because of being a new refugee, is priceless. To see Brian smile when I tell him each week that his mom is a good student makes my day.

How else can we bless children? I would love to see ideas shared.

 

 

Having The Faith of a Mustard Seed She Achieved Her Goal-My Friend Ko from Burma

Jesus compared a mustard seed to having faith in that the mustard seed is small but grows to be a tree. If we have faith, even a small amount, we can do great things.

God has blessed me with opportunities to meet and help refugees from literally all over the world. It is especially meaningful for me to see how they progress with their new lives in America. I love going to their celebrations such as weddings and birthdays and also experience their holidays. There is special significance for me in going to graduation celebrations. High School graduations are life markers for anyone, but a high school graduation for a young person who came to America as a refugee as a child with his or her parents is HUGE.

Saturday afternoon I visited the home of my friend Ko. She graduated from high school on Sunday, so she had a party with her family/extended family on Saturday.

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me with Ko

Ko came here as a child with her parents from the refugee camp in Thailand. Her parents are from Burma. Her father was in a class I taught the first several months after they came here. With everything her family has overcome through the years, Ko’s graduation is a major highlight. I have spoken with many refugee parents, who like Ko’s mother, work in places like a meat packing plant focusing on the future of their children. For Ko’s parents, her graduation makes their sacrifices worth it.

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Ko with her proud parents

Ko will go on to become a nurse. I joked with her that if she is ever my nurse to remember to bring me ice cream. Her graduation is a major achievement because it means that she learned English to be able to then study regular high school courses in her second language English to achieve her goal. She is a quiet hero in my mind. It takes courage to go to a high school where she was the only student from her language and country. Step by step she trusted in Jesus to achieve her goal. I am so proud of her.

I have had the privilege of knowing many young people from other countries who have come as refugees, gone on to graduate high school and then on to college. I know young adults who came here as refugee children who are now in medical school, nursing school, pharmacy school, and one who got her MBA and CPA and another one who graduated with her Masters Degree in Architecture.

So if you happen to meet an adult from another country with limited English, not dressed the best, living a low income life, don’t be quick to judge. Their kids might be your doctor, nurse, pharmacist, accountant etc someday. I know because I see it all the time. If you take the time to get to know a refugee family, it could be a wonderful blessing for you.

Ko has accomplished a lot in her young 18 years and will continue to accomplish a lot trusting in Jesus all the way. That is the faith of a mustard seed put into action ๐Ÿ™‚

An Avocado Salad + A Refugee Family= Me Learning Something

I have the opportunity to spend time with friends from many different countries/cultures every week, actually every day. I teach them English, help them with issues related to living in America, and spend time with them as friends. What they may not realize is that I learn from them. Sometimes I learn life lessons from them. I always enjoy learning about their cultures. Sometimes it is something that seems minor, but I appreciate it so much.

One example of something that may sound trite or silly to you, but I appreciate learning, is that I like avocados.

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All my life I assumed I didn’t like avocados because they were used to make guacamole and well whenever I looked at guacamole, it made me think of something I won’t mention because I don’t want to gross you out. So for years, I didn’t eat avocados and avoided guacamole at parties.

Then one day I went to visit a refugee family from Iran that I had been helping. They wanted me to come for dinner as a way to thank me for helping them. I love Iranian food, so I was excited to join them for dinner.

I got there and the wife/mother told me their 15 year old daughter made salad for the first time because I was coming for dinner. So I knew that I had to “like” whatever she made and let her know how much I liked it because she had never made salad before and in her mind, I was an honored guest.

We sat down for dinner and I looked at the salad and saw it had avocado, tomato, onion, and bits of cheese. No problem I told myself because I had a glass of Pepsi as back up to wash down the taste of avocado and not let it show to the girl that I didn’t like the salad. So I took a bite of the salad as she watched not wanting to disappoint her.

Lo and behold, I took my first bite of the salad and discovered something. I LIKE AVOCADOS. That may not sound like much to you, but it opened up a new culinary world for me. Now Iย  enjoy guacamole too. Another benefit for me- Avocados are healthy. I eat them with other veggies a couple of times a week. They are good with eggs too. I even make my own version of guacamole sometimes.

So she was happy to see me eat three servings of her salad and I discovered I love avocados. It was a win/win situation ๐Ÿ™‚

A slightly humorous story but one that illustrates my experience in life. As I seek to serve others, I learn and grow. My refugee friends add to my life in so many ways. My hope is that they also learn that God loves them as I help them and share life with them.

 

Saying Goodbye to My Moms for the Summer

Summertime is here, not officially on the calendar for the change of seasons, but for my morning class it is. This morning we will say goodbye for the summer.

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The last morning means taking down the calendar my moms made and also the other things they made to decorate the room, so when we leave the walls will be bare and the room will ready for summer cleaning. The calendar and decorations represent life and learningย  happening in the room.

The last day of class brings mixed emotions for me. I have to confess that I look forward to the one week I grant myself of no alarm clock next week because I am NOT a morning person, but that is the one positive aspect of saying goodbye for the summer. It is also a melancholy moment for me because it means saying goodbye to a group of moms I am so proud of.

This year has been one that I have perhaps felt more burdened to pray for my moms than previous years. This year has been one of doing a kind of quick triage each morning checking on how my moms are doing before class begins, asking one mom about her asthma, another mom about her heart, asking the two who had babies how they were doing in the months before the had their babies in March, etc.

Over the summer I will wonder about and pray for my moms such as the mom who came as a new refugee in December and started my class 2 weeks after she came here. She has been battling thyroid issues the past month. She will definitely be on my prayer list.

I will also pray for a mom from Mexico who has been a great helper for the other moms including organizing baby showers even though she has been the glue to keep her family together after her husband had a brain injury and throughout his recovery.

There is also the mom whose husband died this year who is now a single mom of four kids. She will definitely be on my prayer list.

Saying goodbye for the summer represents the commitment to learning and education my moms have made but it represents more than that. It represents relationships formed, breakthrough moments, obstacles overcome and much more.

I am writing this the night before because every year when this moment comes, I don’t feel like doing anything the rest of the day. This morning is the moment to let go and pray for them. When I come home, I will probably binge watch some shows because the emotional let down will hit. Saturday will bring a new day of opportunities to share Christ’s love.

I hope today is a blessed day for you. Thanks for reading. God Bless ๐Ÿ™‚

Over 100 Followers as of this week, so time to share a few thoughts

This week my blog went over 100 followers. SOย FIRST OF ALL-ย THANKS.ย Thank you to all of you who follow my blog!!!

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ย While other blogs have far more followers, for me the number 100 means something. I promised myself to write a post to share some things after my blog reached 100.

So I am writing this post while drinking a cup of coffee in my new coffee cup from Cuba thanks to my friend Karen from Cuba. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Something that stats do not show you but show me that I want you to know. I see countries in my stats, not who of course, but countries that people view my posts from. I am aware of the countries where being a Christian can mean danger for you. When I see one of those countries, I pray for whoever the person is who viewed my blog from the country.

I also pray for those whose blogs I have read and know a little of their struggles from reading their posts.

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I started this blog in 2009 as a way for those who had come to my Sunday morning group at church and moved away to keep in touch. But something happened along the way. I lost my creative side due to foggy brain of Celiacs. So after the first six months, I did not post much from 2010ย  until this year and I had about 25 followers. Last year I found out I have Celiacs Disease and became gluten free. A few months later, the foggy brain was gone and then one day Pastor Nat at my church preached about how we want to be a creative church. It was like God opened the window mind and my creative side emerged again. As someone who has acted, written drama scripts and directed, to go through a monotone world of not being creative for 7 years was depressing, which is why I am thrilled to be back to writing. God reminded me of a piece I wrote about the Angel Gabriel visiting the Nativity of Christ. So I rewrote it with a few changes and my church used it in our Christmas Eve service.

This is a video I made with my iPad of the Gabriel piece it you want to see it.

Other writing ideas kept coming to me and in late March this year, I began to focus more intentionly on this blog. So in 7 weeks, my blog went from 25 followers to over 100. I am so grateful to you for following my blog and to those who read it via facebook and twitter.

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One thing I have not shared is why I chose the name jesusluvsall for my blog. Jesus is my everything. I am only alive because of him after he intervened for me that night in July 1995 when I was close to death. It is because of him that I am alive to help others. He guided me to become an English Second Language teacher and to share his love with people from all over the world living here in my city Lincoln Nebraska that for most of you would be in the middle of nowhere ๐Ÿ™‚ Jesus has also led me to share him in my travels to Romania, France, Mexico and Brazil. He has blessed me to be able to join in worship with brothers and sisters in a church in Romania, a Turkish speaking church also in Romania, in a church in Lyon France, in a church in Ensenada Mexico, and in churches in Brazil through my travels, and also in Spanish speaking, Ukranian speaking, Vietnamese speaking, Karen speaking, Zomi speaking and Arabic speaking, Korean speaking, and Nuerr speaking churches in Lincoln. Jesus has blessed me to experience his love for ALL PEOPLE. So to sum it up, my blog posts are written for an audience of one- Jesus-to honor him, in hopes that it blesses those he loves- YOU.

Again THANK YOU for following my blog, reading my posts via facebook and twitter, for the likes and the comments. I love comments. I hope you have a blessed day.

Now if I could only decide whether to shave off my beard for summer or not. What do you think? ๐Ÿ™‚