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Archive for the ‘Refugees’ Category

ESL teachers

ESL teachers

I can’t believe it has been three years since the Redemption church merger. Even though Redemption has never been a home church for me, I’ve been an off and on attendee since their early days. I love how God uses them to reach all areas of Arizona with the gospel with their multiple church plants. Tonight Pastor Riccardo shared many stories from the past three years of how God has been faithful and good to the church. I got to attend the service for a few reasons. Redemption likes to share God stories of how members of the congregation are being used in the community by God. Pastor Mullins interviewed my ESL director Stephanie on stage about how we are reaching the refugee community here locally in Tempe. Our students are mostly from Somalia and Redemption church oversees our teaching program. In fact, many of our volunteer teachers are members of Redemption.

Teaching ESL has been such a humbling and rewarding experience for me. My involvement came from when God called me to attend a Uzbekistan peace feast in November of 2011. Even though I had no idea why I was meant to go, God opened my eyes to the refugee community for the first time. Soon after I became an english teacher and now here I am two and half years later still teaching. Hearing the story of Redemption church tonight and my own personal story remind me of the Experiencing God study – Watch where God is working and join Him there. Trust me, do that and He will do the rest.

But my main reason I attended church tonight is because of the friend I brought. He was an old drinking buddy of mine from back in college. I haven’t seen him in 15 years, yet we are Facebook friends. He reach out to me earlier this week and mentioned life had become purposeless for him. He has been inspired by how I’ve been living my life and wanted to know what it is that kept me going these days. I laugh because I’m such a messy person, but I know it is Christ that He is seeing in me as the Spirit has really been working through my life these past couple years. He just moved to Tempe and I offered to introduce him to Redemption church because they are in the area. We had a great time catching up and I felt for him as I have been in that place of searching for significance many times in my life. I spent most of my night praying for him at church and was excited for him to hear the God-stories they were taking about from the stage. I pray that God grab a hold of him and that he becomes another God-story that will be shared to others someday.

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Teaching ESL has been a fun and interesting journey for me. It’s a lot different from teaching students or other Americans. I still remember sitting in on my first class a year ago and thinking I couldn’t do this. But then God gave me the courage to step out and do it. Plus He gave a heart for these refugees as I saw the need for these people to learn english so they can function in society. Tonight Emily and Iman hosted a special training session to help us with teaching. I know God has called me to further explore teaching ESL. I’m actually looking at the possibly of traveling to another country to teach in english camps as I have been contacted by a few organizations. But for now, it’s here in Tempe at Imagine Schools. We had a great time discussing how we can better help out the students. Not to mention we got to eat some yummy Somalian samosas and rice.

Just a few basic principles we came up with in teaching ESL to another culture:

  • Don’t tell the student what they can tell you
  • Don’t dominate the class
  • Don’t be a afraid of silence OR noise
  • Model. Demonstrate rather than explain activities
  • Lesson plans are guidelines, not rules

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Advent – Day 11

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We had a Christmas party for both the teachers and students of our ESL classes. It was a fun night of fellowship and getting to know each other outside of the classroom. We played bingo and exchanged gifts. Some of the Somalian ladies brought samosas and one of our Chinese students brought some wraps. I have really enjoyed being a part of this and thankful to the Lord for the opportunity to teach.

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Teaching

I’m really developing a passion for teaching. While the Somali organization has us instructors on hold, my friend from PCI has started her own ESL classes. So I have been helping her out lately. Emily does such an amazing job of putting material together. Her heart and passion for ESL teaching has rubbed off on me. I’m loving engaging with different cultures. Tonight I had three countries represented in my class – Somalia, Saudi Arabia and China. Talk about diversity! Is this what the Kingdom of Heaven is going to look like – all of us united? I am so incredibly thankful God for this opportunity. It’s a blessing to be with these people and I’m thankful to the Spirit for this gift to teach. You can read about one of our student’s journey with ESL here.

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The Somali Bantu community is a smaller sect of people from Somalia that reside around the Juba and Shabelle rivers in the south. After to feeling to Somalia and Tanzania, many of these refugees were located to the United States. Tucson is one of the cities that many of these refugees are now starting over in. Phoenix also has a growing Somalian Bantu community and this year I started volunteering at the Somali Bantu United Association of Greater Phoenix as an ESL instructor. The Somali people and the Somali Bantu don’t get along too well. Many have carried their years of conflict here to the U.S. as they are a large honor culture. But with the efforts of Peace Catalyst International, there has been a huge answer to prayer recently. Both cultures have decided to put aside their differences and work together. We don’t know what this looks like, but God is definitely working. We held a meeting today at a Somalian coffee shop over tea and sambosas to discuss what the future lies for the community and us instructors. Praise God!

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Even though we usually have the summer off, this week we are having a special english camp at the Somali center. Kaylee has done an awesome job of putting this week together. We are practicing filing out applications for jobs and going through the interviewing process, ordering food at a restaurant, going to the store – everyday life situations. Us teachers get to role play and walk the students through these scenarios. It feels almost like a Vacation Bible School week. Peace Catalyst International is taking some time with us in the mornings to share some of their vision for this community and how we can better engage with other cultures. It really is a great place and I’m thankful to be here.

Wanting a cross-cultural experience? You don’t have to travel to find it… there are communities from all different cultures right in our backyard. Find about refugee communities in your city and what God is doing in them. I love these clips from the movie The Visitor that gives a great picture of cross-cultural interaction.

 

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Today was the last day of class at the Somali Bantu Refugee Center. I have enjoyed teaching here the past few months. It really is an amazing God story how He brought this place into my life for me to serve at. I have had the itching to teach for some time, but I never thought I would be teaching refugees how to speak english and be prepared for citizen classes. God is doing amazing things in this community and Peace Catalyst International is doing awesome stuff in promoting peace and unity amongst them. I am thankful for Josh Prather from Redemption church for directing me here and the director Sally for believing in me. Rachel, Emily and Kaylee have been awesome trainers and I look forward to helping run english camp this summer. Today we had our last day of class celebration and the ladies cooked us samosas (a fried or baked pastry filled with potatoes, onions, peas, lentils, and ground meat) and hot Kenyan tea. I was offered my own class to teach in the Fall and I look forward to further being a part of this community.

The women in their traditional hijab headscarfs

Samosas

Our awesome teachers!

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This documentary has helped me get to know a little bit of what our Somalian students have been through.

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Today I started my first day at the Somali Bantu Center of Phoenix. It is such a God story of how this place came to me. I had attended a peace festival at a Uzbekistan restaurant back in November and was blown away by the number of refugees living here in Phoenix. Just hearing their stories really moved me. I signed up to help volunteer and Josh Prather from Redemption church contacted me a couple of months later. He got me in contact with Sally Harr (the lady in the video above) and she offered me an a choice of an admin or a teaching position. I was really having an itching to teach and wasn’t the admin type, but I never taught english before. She encouraged me to come down and check out the place and I fell in love with it. Peace Catalyst International is a big part of helping bring unity to the people in this community. Tim Ballard gave me a rundown on them and he also happens to attend my church Missio Dei. Even though overseas missions is my heart, I had been praying for something local to do here in the valley that is cultural based. This place was perfect and I began to pray if God wanted me here. I knew God would provide me with the skills to teach english, so I accepted the offer to be a teaching assistant for the remainder of the spring. Wow.. isn’t God amazing in how he works!

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I attended a dinner at the Golden Valley Restaurant in Phoenix hosted by Redemption church. This restaurant is owned and ran by Uzbekistan refugees from the Andijan Massacre of 2005. They bring the full flavors and traditions of Uzbekistan’s national dishes from family kitchens back home. In addition to eating some great food, we got to hear the stories from a couple of refugees on how they got to America. Now some of them reside here in Phoenix and have built a strong community and have started businesses to help stimulate the economy.

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I got to eat with a refugee by the name of Abdurashid. He escaped Uzbekistan in 2006 and left behind a wife and son. Now he is here in Arizona working and trying to bring his family that he hasn’t seen in so long here. He spent the evening sharing stories and pictures with me about life in Uzbekistan and how he got here. He is blessed to have strong community to bond with while here. His story touched my life and definitely put in perspective my own personal struggles in life. We ate Pilov (rice with meat and vegetables), Manti (steamed dumplings with ground beef) and chicken kabobs.

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There is an amazing website dedicated to the story of these refugees called Uzbek Justice Initiative and how you can get involved. Read about how God is using them here locally. Below is a video about the Andijan Massacre from the film Through the Looking Glass.

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