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

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

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.

 

people men fight challenge
Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

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,Ā  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 šŸ™‚

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Celebrating Freedom- A Karen Refugee and Yazidi Refugees- Their First 4th of July

In my morning Newcomer Refugee class, I currently have a student from Burma, one of The Karen People, and some Yazidi students. They all came here as refugees seeking freedom and safety. Yesterday we talked about the 4th of July and what it means. They all understood the word Freedom.

For my Karen student, freedom means not worrying about the military dictatorship that took over Burma which caused her parents to flee to a refugee camp in Thailand. My student was born in the refugee camp and has never seen her native homeland.

For my Yazidi students, freedom means being safe from the murderous criminals who were committing genocide. It also means they are free to practice their religion without being oppressed or discriminated against.

Freedom is so precious and yet taken for granted by us Americans. We do not have to worry about government troops or police coming into our churches to arrest us, not yet anyway. We are free to practice our faith or to not practice any faith. We do not have people with weapons pointed at us telling us what we must be.

I appreciate my freedom here in America. There is another freedom I look forward to even more than the freedom I have here. It is the freedom from the effects of sin in this world. For now my citizenship is U.S. citizenship. The day will come that either I die or Jesus comes back for us that I will more fully realize what the bible says- “but our citizenship is in heaven.” Only by God’s grace, I have been granted citizenship in heaven. I do not deserve it.

As I help refugees and immigrants here in my hometown, I am constantly mindful that I have dual citizenship- U.S. and heavenly. My desire is to help my newcomer friends with their new lives here in America. My desire is to also show them the love of God, whether it be in ways such as joining them for a meal, listening to them, or teaching them English. I realize that each day I can help them in a much bigger way that is not seen. I can pray for them. I can pray for them because in God’s grace, I have been granted citizenship in heaven and with that comes the birth right to talk to God anytime.