Last Sunday, I worshiped with the Hanmaum Church in Durham, a Korean-American church. It's always fun to be in a church where I need an interpreter. They also fed me some great food, including kimchi, so that's a bonus. Earlier that week, I met with a Kenyan pastor. Their church wants to work with refugees from Nepal. He told me of a recent meeting he had with a Burmese pastor in Raleigh. Apparently, this Burmese pastor was trained by a Korean missionary in Thailand. It's a small world. And that is what I'm thankful for this year. I am thankful for all the unexpected and unusual connections among diverse peoples right here in Durham.
God is obviously doing things far greater and more unpredictable than we could ever imagine. Over the last few months, we've posted a series of interviews in which refugees tell us their own stories. We're so accustomed to refugees coming that we forget how amazing it is: their voices were silenced and lives threatened, and now, they are here, our neighbors, speaking to us freely. Each voice, each life, is a gift. For them, I am thankful. Here are a few other things, in no particular order, for which I am thankful:
- Our case management grant for survivors of human trafficking was renewed.
- We are exploring ways to support vulnerable immigrant populations, both with legal services and advocacy for immigration reform.
- Almost all of the refugees we've resettled this year have church volunteers or partners.
- We continue to find jobs for refugees.
- A coalition of churches and volunteers has formed in Raleigh to help us start resettling refugees there.
- The two AmeriCorps members with our office are doing amazing work.
- We started a partnership with Durham Tech's nursing school to provide refugees with more extensive health education and assistance.
- Our staff, who wonderfully guide refugees through the complex process of resettlement and demonstrate remarkable compassion throughout.
- Our volunteers: you all amaze me with your willingness to open up your lives to strangers (Matt 25).
I am thankful, most of all, for all the clear reminders that this is not "our work" but your work, the work of the local church. Every success is your success. So thanks for letting us join you in this strange work of God: "God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ" (2 Cor 5:19).